Keep the Passion Alive

by Ashley Joslin, SUNY Cortland, April 15, 2008

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Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to Keela Dates present a lecture in Jacobus Lounge titled, “The Power of Passion.” This event was made possible due to NeoVox, Africana Studies, and the TransAfrica Project sponsors.

When I first heard about this event I was extremely excited because it touched home for me. Keela was coming to Cortland to discuss her volunteer experience in Jambo Jipya School in Mtwapa, Kenya. I had just studied abroad in Kenya in 2006 and I knew this lecture would be one that I never would forget.

As soon as I entered the room to sit down I knew that Keela and I would share something that many people never have experienced in their lives. We did not have the same exact experiences in Kenya but we could understand one another just from a simple glance, facial expression, or even a word. As she mentioned her favorite food in Kenya, called a chapatti, we both chuckled in remembrance of the great taste, as both of our mouths watered. We both had experienced the “power of passion!”

Going abroad and experiencing a new culture can bring two complete strangers together as if they had known each other their whole lives. Throughout her lecture I was almost brought to tears as I thought about how much I missed Kenya and the common generosity among Kenyans. She explained how she flew to Kenya to diversify her teaching and just so happened to run into a woman by the name of Christine Mwende, the founder of this school. From then on she volunteered there and fell in love with the children and Kenya itself.

She explained how the “power of passion” within her drove her to volunteer and help these children who were living in indescribable conditions with not many options for their future. Keela, just 23 years old, is back in the United States to try and raise enough money to buy more land to expand this school. As of February 2008 the school was only 70 by 70 feet with over 185 students. If Keela raises enough money she will be able to purchase ten more acres of land for the children in Mtwapa, Kenya. Having more land will allow more children to have brighter futures.

Keela discussed throughout her lecture that everyone in the world has some type of passion that makes them wake up in the morning and feel amazing. This is her passion in life and hopefully from her experience and talking with others around the world, other individuals will be able to “come alive” and live out their passions as well. Not only was Keela’s lecture full of hope and inspiration but it also reminded me of what my passion was. Not long ago I was determined to find a way to help young children in Kenya and this was one opportunity that I could fulfill my passion. Therefore, I will be doing just that by keeping in touch and fundraising as much as I can for these amazing, grateful, and kind children in Kenya who do not have the same opportunities as many of us here in the United States. If you would like to help Keela in her cause please feel free to view her website at www.reason2smile.org and keep the passion alive.

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