By Cherry Truong
For the past eleven months, the excitement has been bubbling in anticipation for this once in a lifetime opportunity. An opportunity that would not only give me a new perspective on life, but also shed a whole new light on a passion of mine; autism. As I entered those office doors in Brooklyn, NY to begin my journey, the sense of adventure set in, with a slight feeling of “what the heck am I doing here.” It’s now or never I told myself… and also probably too late for me to back out. Besides everyone back home may still think ‘Cherry’s going to see Kanye.’ After more then 15 hours of flying, the SkillCorps team arrived in Kenya! It’s time for the real adventure to begin.
Day 1: Greeted by bright ambitious faces, the team heads out for the day to explore the alluring organize land that is Nairobi. Our first stop was the elephant orphanage. Most if not all of these elephants are under the age of 3, and many of them were abandoned when their mothers died due to poaching. They each have their own story, personality and quirks. There’s something special to be said when people from all different backgrounds cross paths, and become a family. I believe the same could be said for these elephants. As the day continued we continued to explore, but deep down inside, I had never wished for a Monday to come sooner.
Day 2: There is truly no greater joy then seeing bright-eyed children, with their uplifting smiles dancing and singing their hearts out. Being at the center today was everything I expected and more. I loved seeing each therapist work with their children, and the bond they’ve created. Being able to observe and embrace the greatness that surrounded us was inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to the staff, getting to know them and learning how their passions have led them in this direction.
Understanding that feeling that keeps them coming back every day to work with these amazing children. I love how we are all so culturally different, yet our drive to see growth and development in these children brings us together. The thing I loved most about today was when both teams got together and talked about the highlight of the day, and each person’s response was about the kids and their accomplishments. It really shows that we are exactly where should be. There isn’t a single complaint about the day, nor is there any other place I rather be at the moment.
Day 3: It only seems to be better. Now that everyone is somewhat acquainted, the work begins. It’s every ABA nerd’s dream to start their day with some ABA banter, throw ideas around, and discuss strategies. Don’t get me wrong, being in the office with these insanely intelligent people was beyond incredible, but the icing on the cake for me was being able to spend time with the kids. Watching a little man perfectly sandwich himself between the three girls at lunch, to hearing contagious giggles, to throwing sand around just because it’s fun to. These are the moments I live for!
Day 4: Today I reflected back on why I wanted to join SkillCorps. At first I thought it would be a neat opportunity to take what I do in Canada abroad. But in the past week I’ve learned so much about the Global Autism Project and the collaborations with their partners. I have also learned plenty about myself already. My goal going into this trip was to be more creative and start thinking outside the box, but in all honesty, it’s been difficult. It’s hard for me to flip a switch on my brain, and think of ideas that are doable for the staff with the structure already in place. I’m so use to having access to whatever it is I need for my clients that my first thought isn’t ‘is this doable or feasible?” With that being said, the process of being creative, and brainstorming new ideas has definitely been a challenge, but in the famous words of Barney Stinson, “Challenge accepted!” Until next week…