If you had eight weeks to travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? For 2016 graduate of Marlington High School, Alyssa Powers, the answer to that question was Nairobi, Kenya.

From Rural Stark County to Poverty-Stricken City  

“Since I was a young girl, I had always known of the extreme poverty that existed in many parts of Africa, and I had a passion to do something about it,” Powers explained.

Passion coupled with the desire to travel led her to find a way to grow and expand herself. She heard about an opportunity to serve in Kenya, an opportunity to serve in a place home to the third poorest slum in the world, and she decided that this was her chance to expand her horizons. Her goal was not to change the world or change every life in the Mathare Valley Slums but to have a positive impact on just one life. That impact would make the whole experience worth it for her.

After finishing her freshman year of college as a psychology major at the University of Akron, Powers left to spend eight weeks of her summer serving with Missions of Hope International (MOHI), an organization whose mission is to bring hope and transformation to the specific area of the Mathare Valley Slums. Their ministry focuses on the long-term development of Kenya with a holistic method that surpasses simple temporary aid. This continuing work includes: child sponsorship, education, health care, community health evangelism, discipleship, church planting, social work, Microfinance loans, and more. During a week of work in Nairobi, Powers worked with social workers three days a week and helped distribute Microfinance loans to community members two days of the week.

While Powers felt joy helping the people of Mathare Valley, the adjustment to being halfway across the world was not a perfectly paved street. Powers shared that at times it was difficult to fit into a new culture and lifestyle because it ccould feel strange and uncomfortable when it was not something she did every day. Her biggest challenge, however, was leaving friends and family behind. She overcame these hardships, though, reminding herself that the work she was doing was important. She focused on the fact that she had a short amount of time to provide as much help as she could to the people of Mathare Valley. She perceives that attitude of focusing on the present as her greatest aid in making her situation seem more natural.

Working in Kenya, Powers felt that she could establish true lifelong friendships with the people there, and she views working and spending time with them as a privilege. She enjoyed experiencing a different way of life while immersed in the Kenyan culture and seeing the lives of the people whom she helped changing for the better. Building stronger communities in the Mathare Valley Slums with the guidance of MOHI caused her to feel her own heart changing for the better.

A Story Behind the Travels

Powers could tell a large variety of stories from her time in Kenya, but the most inspiring to her was one of the creation of MOHI. It’s founder, Mary Kamau, grew up in poverty in a rural area of Kenya. After achieving highly in school, she was given a scholarship to attend Kenyatta University in the capitol of Kenya, Nairobi. Upon moving to the city, she experienced extreme poverty like she had never seen. This motivated her to, upon graduating college, begin a nonprofit organization to provide education for the children living in the slums. She started out with just her and one other woman in a one room school house teaching children. In just 17 years, her organization has grown to where there are currently 14,000 kids in school, 20 different centers throughout Mathare Valley, each with its own school and church, and close to 900 Kenyan employees.

This story showed Powers that one person can truly make an impact on many lives. “Despite your current situation or lack of resources, if you have a God-given passion or dream, you are capable of creating change.”

Join the Mission

Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, Christian Missionary Fellowship International (CMF) is an organization that advocates short and long-term missions all around the world. Specifically, Alyssa joined the Reach Internship Program, a subdivision of CMF, that allowed her to spend her summer as part of a mission of her choosing. While Nairobi, Kenya was her destination of choice, she encourages others to find the place in the world that needs their help and to give of themselves. For more information on CMF or to apply to become an intern like Alyssa, you can visit cmfi.org to get started. If you would like to talk to Alyssa regarding her travels, mission, and experience in Kenya, you may email her at alyssapowers14@gmail.com. You can also watch a developing series of vlogs about her travels to Nairobi on her boyfriend’s YouTube channel.

Krystal Scheetz Photography specializes in senior photography in Stark and Summit County, Ohio. Alyssa was one of our 2016 seniors with an epic story of her life after high school changing the world one community at a time.

[Author: Evelyn Aaron]