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Two humanitarians bring hope to promising students in Kenya

A photo of Chelsey Goldberg and a promising young Kenyan student, Sammuel

Fifth-year human services major Chelsey Goldberg embarked on a 10-day humanitarian trip to Kenya, which was motivated by her long-standing passion for global service and helping others.

On the final after­noon of their 10-​​day human­i­tarian mis­sion to Kenya, Chelsey Gold­berg and Alexa Arm­strong recon­nected with a boy named Sam­muel and then took him to the optometrist. Sam­muel, 10, strug­gled to see, and expo­sure to the sun burned his eyes some­thing fierce.

We were well-​​versed on his con­di­tion,” said Gold­berg, a fifth-​​year human ser­vices major at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, “and we knew that we could poten­tially save him from becoming blind by taking him to the eye doctor.”

In short order, the optometrist gave Sam­muel a rou­tine exam and con­cluded that he was suf­fering from aller­gies, which were dam­aging his lenses. To alle­viate his pain, he pre­scribed an antibi­otic and pro­vided him a pair of anti-​​glare pre­scrip­tion glasses.

Gold­berg and Arm­strong doled out $75 for the ser­vice, which com­prised the exam, the med­ica­tion, and the specs, and Sam­muel beamed with joy. Finally, he could see.

I’m feeling great!” Sam­muel told Gold­berg, after posing for a photo in his new glasses. Gold­berg, for her part, could not con­tain her glee. “To change this kid’s life,” she noted in a recent phone inter­view, “was one of the best feel­ings in the world.”

Care for Kenya

Sammuel’s story is but one of sev­eral uplifting anec­dotes that Gold­berg shared, a single tale amid a handful of hopeful nar­ra­tives derived from the young humanitarian’s life-​​changing expe­ri­ences in Kenya.

Gold­berg, SSH’16, and Arm­strong, S’16, departed for the East African country on July 3, intent on deliv­ering school sup­plies and other essen­tial goods to some five-​​dozen impov­er­ished yet promising stu­dents in two cities: Eldoret and Nakuru.

The duo vol­un­teered under the aus­pices of True Start Ath­letics’ Care for Kenya project, which seeks to pro­vide par­tic­u­larly needy stu­dents with the tools to suc­ceed in the class­room. They divided their time in each city equally, first donating back­packs, sto­ry­books, and ency­clo­pe­dias to stu­dents in Eldoret, and then doling out sup­plies to sim­i­larly stu­dious kids in Nakuru.

The altru­istic expe­di­tion, Gold­berg explained, dove­tailed with her long­standing interest in global ser­vice. “The human ser­vices field is all about helping people,” she said, “and giving back to the com­mu­nity is one of my biggest passions.”

Gold­berg and Arm­strong raised more than $2,000 for their human­i­tarian mis­sion through the North­eastern Fund’s Cat­a­lyst pro­gram, which makes it easy to follow, con­nect with, and sup­port the university’s most inspiring stu­dent projects. And they har­nessed the power of their posi­tions on Northeastern’s Student-​​Athlete Advi­sory Committee—Goldberg is the pres­i­dent, Arm­strong the vice-president—to launch a school sup­plies drive, wherein student-​​athletes donated pen­cils, tennis balls, and flying discs to the youngsters.

We wanted to do our part to bring as many sup­plies to Kenya as we could,” said Gold­berg, a former for­ward on the women’s hockey team, “and the drive sounded like the per­fect idea to get a lot of ath­letes involved.”

Photo of Goldberg and Armstrong with Kenyan students wearing Northeastern Athletics t-shirts Goldberg, foreground, and Armstrong, background, delivered school supplies—and Northeastern t-shirts— to some five-dozen impoverished yet promising students in two cities: Eldoret and Nakuru. Photos courtesy of Chelsey Goldberg.

Family ties

Gold­berg and Arm­strong inter­viewed scores of stu­dents at each of the six schools they vis­ited, taking notes on their mate­rial needs, their home lives, and their hob­bies. After col­lecting the data and donating some items, they trav­eled into town via safari van to pur­chase more clothing, sports equip­ment, and edu­ca­tional books for the kids, whose ages ranged from 5 to 15. One stu­dious teen named Bryan, an eighth-​​grader at the Kelewet pri­mary school in Nakuru, where the North­eastern human­i­tar­ians first met Sam­muel, asked for a test prac­tice book with which to pre­pare for his upcoming sec­ondary school exam.

He is a very smart young man, who has dreams to become an engi­neer,” Gold­berg blogged, explaining Bryan’s story. “He cannot afford sec­ondary school, but he is such a bril­liant stu­dent that truly enjoys school. Hope­fully we will be able to get him to where he would like to go.”

Gold­berg and Arm­strong also donated money to par­tic­u­larly needy fam­i­lies in behalf of True Start Ath­letics. Two cousins from the Bwayi School in Eldoret—a 14 year-​​old named Matthew and a 15 year-​​old named Peter—received $220. Peter, whose par­ents died in tribal clashes, and Matthew, whose father makes 50 cents per day chop­ping and selling fire­wood, live in a small mud hut, whose cramped space is filled with 10 other family mem­bers. It’s not uncommon for them to eat leaves for dinner, and when Gold­berg and Arm­strong showed up and handed them the money, Matthew’s mom and dad started crying.

It was prob­ably the most emo­tional and rewarding expe­ri­ence of my life,” Gold­berg recalled. “They were speech­less and I didn’t know what to say because I had never been exposed to some­thing like this.”

A rel­a­tively small amount of money goes a long way in Kenya—a can of coke is 58 cents, a dozen eggs $1.57—and the dona­tion, Gold­berg noted, will help keep the family afloat for more than a year.

A new life for Edda

One of the most heartrending sto­ries Gold­berg told me focused on Edda, an under­nour­ished 14 year-​​old girl who loves school and dreams of becoming a nurse.

Gold­berg and Edda struck up a friend­ship some two weeks ago, when the former met the latter during her visit to the Park View pri­mary school in Nakuru. Edda, Gold­berg learned, was on the verge of being sold off into mar­riage by her alco­holic father, who last year sold her 15 year-​​old sister for $240. The only way to pro­tect Edda from suf­fering the same fate, Gold­berg explained, was to remove her from her home, and then enroll her in the local boarding school. After get­ting per­mis­sion from Edda’s mother, Gold­berg and Arm­strong did just that, paying for the tuition for her first term, which she began ear­lier this week.

I can’t believe you’re here,” Edda told Gold­berg in Swahili, after her new friend had taken her shop­ping for her boarding school uni­form. Noted Gold­berg: “It means so much knowing that we could change her life.”

A photo of Edda in her new boarding school uniform Gold­berg and Arm­strong took Edda shop­ping for her boarding school uniform.

Future dreams

There’s no doubt that Gold­berg and Armstrong’s work in Kenya made a dis­tinctly pos­i­tive impact on scores of stu­dious kids and their fam­i­lies. What’s also without debate is the mission’s life-​​changing effect on the young human­i­tar­ians themselves.

Gold­berg has long dreamed of becoming a moti­va­tional speaker. She once pic­tured her­self atop a stage, looking out before a sea of hap­less ath­letes, down on their luck men and women who’d strug­gled to over­come injuries and dis­ap­pointing per­for­mances. She could relate to them, she thought, she could tell them how she broke both her legs playing hockey, under­went mul­tiple surg­eries, and then con­sid­ered quit­ting the sport she loved. And she could inspire them too, sharing how she har­nessed her opti­mism, how she rehabbed like crazy, how she over­came adversity—and the fear of re-​​injury— to go on to play 90 games for the Huskies.

But then she vis­ited Kenya, and the scope of her career dreams expanded. Wit­nessing the living con­di­tions of the vast majority of Kenyans, she said, many of whom live in mud huts or in tarps on the road­side, put her life in per­spec­tive and com­pelled her to recon­sider the scale of her pro­fes­sional aspirations.

We have been born into oppor­tu­nity,” Gold­berg explained. “When people here start having trouble with their jobs or ques­tioning their future path, they should realize that they don’t have it so badly.” No longer, she told me, does she want to limit her­self to an audi­ence of ath­letes. Now, she said, she wants to target “all people who are feeling down for what­ever reason and work with them to over­come their negativity.”

Gold­berg will put her moti­va­tional speaking skills to work this fall, when she begins a co-​​op with Dale Carnegie Training, the nation’s leader in pro­fes­sional and cor­po­rate devel­op­ment. Her focus, her man­ager told her, will be the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion, mem­bers of Gen­er­a­tion Y for whom she will give inspi­ra­tional pre­sen­ta­tions. “He thinks I have the power to moti­vate and inspire people in my gen­er­a­tion to keep suc­ceeding and devel­oping,” Gold­berg said.

-By Jason Kornwitz

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