Seventeen people from across The United Church of Canada participated in the Mission & Service Global Pilgrimage to Kenya, from March 25 to April 4, 2017. The pilgrimage visited Mission & Service partners throughout the region. This series of blog posts shares the story of their journey. 

It was Wednesday morning at 5:30 am when four pilgrims from The United Church of Canada, Joanna, Karen, Michael and Ross, along with Timothy, from our Mission & Service partner KAACR (Kenya Alliance for the Advancement of Children), boarded a plane from Nairobi to Kisumu, Kenya. Upon arrival, we were greeted by John, the local representative in Kisumu from KAACR. During our three days in Kisumu, we travelled roads to many different schools where we witnessed how KAACR is giving youth an opportunity to be a part of a program that teaches them about their rights. Child rights such as an education, food, and clean water but more importantly an opportunity to learn how to believe in themselves. Each of the schools we visited, we were greeted by a Child Rights Club. Each club consisted of a president, vice, secretary, treasurer and anywhere from 15 – 25 youth. Our team listened to stories of their successes, their hardships, their dreams and how they truly believe that they can make a difference in their schools and communities.

Each of the three days we were able to spend time with a group of Youth Ambassadors. Each youth have come through the Child Rights program, graduated from high school and are now Ambassadors for this program. Our first day with the youth we were able to listen to them tell of the road they travelled to get to where they are today. We heard from Javan, who at the age of eleven lost both of his parents, leaving him to look after his younger brother. He shared that at this time he had to leave to school to sell mangos and oranges to raise money to keep his younger brother in school. It was a year later that he heard about the Child Rights program, he took it upon himself to seek out what this program was about, he worked to get himself enrolled in this program, offered by KAACR and quickly found himself back in school. With KAACR and the support of the United Church of Canada’s Mission & Service funding, Javan and his brother we able to continue their education. Javan has now graduated from high school, is enrolled in university, studying to become a laboratory technician and his brother is now in high school.

On day three we met with the Ambassadors at a Detention Centre for Youth where they volunteer once a month. Giving back to the community is part of their program.

Although the roads travelled have not been easy for the youth, with the support of KAACR and the United Church of Canada’s Mission & Service, many more Kenyan youth will have an opportunity to believe in themselves and know that they too have rights.

 —M. Ross Sherwood, Maritime Conference