Via Cairo and Abu Dhabi on the upper deck of a beautiful Etihad A380, I reached JFK in the United States on 28 April. That gave me three solid months in Kenya, the majority of which I spent in the village working on the Umoja Centre. I'd like to take a look back at that experience, as well as a look forward at what's to come.
After spending the better part of the last year and change in India, I reached Nairobi, Kenya late on 27 February, just in time for Chinese New Year and the start of a new lunar cycle—and with that, a new personal chapter of life.
About a month has past since then and now a little more than six weeks remains to continue preliminary work on the center.
On 30 January, Malezi Centre students, parents, and teachers were joined by community members and volunteers to celebrate the third anniversary of the center's grand relaunch in 2014.
The festive occasion afforded the opportunity to recount the many accomplishments of the past year, present day challenges, and share dreams about the future. It also gave students from each grade level the opportunity to perform various inspirational songs, dances, and poems that they had been practicing for the weeks leading up to the event.
If we were to meet in person for the first time and get on the topic of what I do, I would likely tell you a story about living a life of sadhana (spiritual practice) and seva (service). Though I write more about the latter here via project updates, sadhana comes first for me—it is the trunk of the tree that has naturally motivated my various activities over the years.
Spiritual practice is highly personal and so, by in large, I do not cover the ins and outs of that process. However, between October, 2015 and January, 2017, I spent a cumulative total of 13 months living in India on the campus of a prestigious NGO — which more closely resembles an ashram — called ESI (Environmental Sanitation Institute) engaged in fairly rigorous sadhana. Despite the significant role this space plays in my life, I never really discussed it, as the topic never seemed to fit into my Dream Class or leprosy community updates and because of that, something always felt missing.
This year's Dream Class meets in what is referred to as the "Tuition Room." It's a sizable space towards the rear of the Gandhi Leprosy Seva Sangh that is typically occupied by a number of kids during the week who receive private tuition after school.
"Let's beautify this room," I said to the girls during a lesson on the value of service. Since Dream Class is ostensibly about realizing dreams, I figured working on a project like this would also be a good way for everybody to witness the process of how ideas in our heads translate into things you can see, touch, and feel.