Life in Bungoma - Sierra

I haven’t showered in many days. My skin is layered with dirt and sunlight, and quite honestly I couldn’t be happier. It might sound gross but my skin is like a book of memories here. I can see how the sun has encouraged the melanin in my skin, I can see the scratch I got from teaching in a field one day. I can still feel the hugs shared with each girl after our special days together. Could be sentimentality that keeps me from showering, could be the fact that I’m a dirt bag. It’s probably both. 

As we drove home from the first day of our workshop at Muyundi primary school, I found myself in a moment of deep reflection. What had been a very grey, overcast day had suddenly warmed to a very pink sunset, that dyed each town in its warm hue as we drove home to Bungoma. We have spent two weeks here already, and though time has flown by it also feels as though we’ve lived an entirely new life. Sometimes it’s hard to remember anything before Kenya. I am so used to waking up in our pale blue bedroom, our mattresses neatly lining the walls in two rows on the floor. The symphony of cows and roosters and alarms clocks. I wonder how I’m going to manage waking up without Melissa calling out “ 6:45” and then “ 7:00” and then “7:15”. I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. The drive to and from each school is becoming dotted with more and more familiar landmarks.  At the end of the day when we pull up to the gate in front of our compound we are greeted by our beloved gaggle of neighbourhood kids all screaming and running to give us high fives and share a song. Sometimes their faces are painted with pink and black and white makeup, sometimes they are holding giant homemade popsicles. But they are always filled with joy and excitement at the sight of their new friends. 

Sometimes when we are out in town on our days off, or when ever we drive past a group of school girls in uniform I quickly scan faces to see if I recognize our divas. I wonder about them often. After our workshop, has anything changed for them? Do their parents see their daughters gaining confidence? Do they interact differently with each other? I want so desperately to see the effects of our short time with each of them. The perfectionist in me is screaming “ DID I DO A GOOD JOB?”  

“IS IT WORKING?”. The imposter syndrome is whispering “ you aren’t right for this job.” “ are you sure you actually want to be here?” But when I look into the eyes of each girl we meet I know I’m exactly where I should be. I know that our spirits were destined for each other, there is no denying it. 

I won’t pretend that  this trip has been easy, we have been hit with sickness, and lack of running water, power outages, and of course having our container filled with all of our DivaCups, Diva Day handbooks, food, and sleeping bags be held at the boarder in Mombasa. The fact that our community reached across the ocean to hold us tightly and tell us it would be okay, has given me a new understanding of gratitude. To have raised over $12,000 in 19 hours is beyond humbling. I cannot tell you what waking up the next morning and seeing that we had reached our goal felt like. I have so much love for our community, and I truly believe that together absolutely anything is possible. 

I have been stretched more in my short time here in Kenya, than I have in the last year and a half of my life. As we got closer to leaving back in July people would always ask with such joy in their eyes “ You’re leaving so soon! Are you excited?” I felt as though I was letting them down because honestly excitement was not the sentiment that came to mind. But I think when you know your life is about to change forever in just five weeks it is almost as if you are bracing for impact. The moments of joy here have been BIG but so have the moments of doubt, and frustration and vulnerability. But becoming the best version of yourself is not an easy feat. 

Our life here is simple. It feels good to get home at the end of the day feeling the kind of tired that only ever follows truly meaningful work. Our bond not just as a team, but as best friends gets stronger each day. I can say without a doubt that this is the best thing I have ever done in my life. And when I close my eyes at night I see a carousel of the faces of our girls. Girls who have changed our lives forever simply by being themselves. I hope they can feel our love radiating from across the ocean. 

Love always,


Malindi Ayienga