Information provided by North Shore Country Day School.
In November, North Shore Country Day School Academic Integrator Katie Kirsch traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, to volunteer with children. She went as part of a team affiliated with Be Free Revolution, a non-profit that sells Kenyan-made craft products to benefit communities in Kenya. The funds provide counseling for victims of rape and violence and supply local mentors for children in need.
“This organization spoke to me because they partner with schools. As a teacher, that was really important to me,” said Kirsch, who worked at Chicago Quest, Highland Park Public Library, and Lake Bluff Middle School before coming to North Shore Country Day. “They help support the teachers, work on providing self-empowerment counseling for both girls and boys, and they work with women in the community to echo what they’re teaching the kids.”
While there, Kirsch volunteered to spend her time with teenage girls. She participated in small group sessions, talking with girls about how to make good choices in regards to their bodies, friends and schoolwork. Those conversations are what she hopes will have a lasting impact.
“As much as it’s helpful to go and bring paper and pencils, that doesn’t necessarily help break the cycle,” said Kirsch. “Be Free has established relationships. They have a strong belief that education is key to moving out of the cycle. They are working on both the education piece and the empowerment piece.”
In addition to working with teenagers, Kirsch’s team also put together a field day for a school in Kibera. The entire student body was able to ride a bus to a local park.
“That was huge for those kids on a number of levels,” said Kirsch. “Many had never been on a bus, the majority had never been out of the slum, and for others it was the first time they were able to run in a wide open space or see grass… it was very much like a field day here at North Shore.”
Now adjusting back to life in Illinois, Kirsch feels humbled by the experience and hopes to share what she’s learned with students at North Shore.
“One thing that was eye-opening for me was that school there is such a privilege and an opportunity,” said Kirsch. “Kids are excited and feel so lucky to attend school. They don’t have running water or electricity, some students don’t have pencils, they fashion their notebooks from scraps of paper… but they are excited every day to go to school and learn.”