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Why I go to Kenya every year

  • David Baum of Peterborough is blessed in the remote Masaai community of Osinitoy on one of his trips to Kenya.

    David Baum of Peterborough is blessed in the remote Masaai community of Osinitoy on one of his trips to Kenya.

  • David Baum of Peterborough with a Massai friend, after David is given a Masaai name.

    David Baum of Peterborough with a Massai friend, after David is given a Masaai name.

  • David Baum of Peterborough is blessed in the remote Masaai community of Osinitoy on one of his trips to Kenya.
  • David Baum of Peterborough with a Massai friend, after David is given a Masaai name.

Every year, I lead a trip to Kenya with my Canadian colleague, Kathy Karn. When my eyes first see the land, or the never-ending smiles of the Kenyan people, it always feels so familiar. Maybe that’s because many believe we all come from there, or that the savannah landscape is one that triggers a feeling of safety and abundance. Whatever the reason, it does feel like home.

My goal is to connect people from different parts of North America with remote communities in Kenya. The purpose for each trip is the same — a better world through life-changing experiences for all. Ten to 14 days in length, this cross-cultural program combines meetings with rural community leaders, visits to development projects, such as schools and health centers, and personal adventures like one-on-one walks in the Mara with a Maasai warrior and, of course, a safari.

What makes this all possible is a deep and long-standing connection I have with an organization called Free The Children (www.freethechildren.com), the largest youth empowerment network in the world. Free the Children has spent the last 20 years building partnerships with rural Kenyan communities, and this is our entry point, allowing a special one-of-a-kind access most Westerners rarely get.

I have been to Kenya many times over the years. I am often asked why I keep going back. Part of the answer is my connection to the people and place. Part is that my kids live and work in Kenya for Free The Children, and part is that, as of now, six members of Peterborough have gone on our trip, including my wife Terry, so we are slowly building a global village. But the real answer can be found in a favorite story of mine from the region. “When I first saw you,” it goes, “I thought you were an animal. Then you came closer and I saw you were a human being. Then you came closer and I knew you were my friend.”

When I return to Kenya, I am reminded of my never-ending connection to our larger human family, and the greater responsibility I have to this world. The result is immediate and tangible and can best be seen through the eyes of friends who, when they look at photos of me upon return, almost always say the same thing, “You look so happy.” And that I suppose is the best reason to go.

If you are interested in our next trip in October 2014, or our inaugural trip to India this coming February, check out my website at www.davidbaum.com.

The cost for either trip is around $6,000 before travel. Our staff at Me To We trips are happy to arrange travel plans.

David Baum is a consultant living in Peterborough. He travels the world talking, writing and consulting on issues of large-scale change.

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