I Had a Dream…
Okay, I know that kind of sounds MLK-esque, which isn’t by design … it’s just the fact. I did, indeed, have a dream. At the beginning of the dream, I found myself in my parents’ house, but it wasn’t *really* their house, you know? I mean, I intuitively knew it was supposed to be their house, but it wasn’t any house that I had ever been in. In this house, there were some pretty well-vaulted ceilings–very, very high. My mom was … I dunno. Floating? Hanging? She was suspended in the air well above the floor, and she was doing something really important. I couldn’t tell if she was spackling, painting, or what it was she was doing, but it was clear that she was super-focused on whatever it was she was doing.
All of a sudden, I was standing in a mall, watching all these different backgrounds of people walk around.There were kids; there were adults. There were tall and short people. There were people from all kinds of backgrounds and nationalities. They all seemed genuinely happy, but they were just wandering around aimlessly because none of the shops were selling anything. They were all open and displaying merchandise, but there wasn’t a single sales person to help you get what you needed.
As I wandered around the mall, I found a set of stairs that looked like the descended into a basement. Out of curiosity, I wandered down these stairs and stumbled across a room full of people who looked hurt and angry. I have no idea why they were burdened such, but I felt like their troubles became my troubles. I *wanted* them to be happy! I NEEDED them to be happy! In my dream, I found myself becoming incredibly anxious and scared for them. And then I woke myself up …
I literally woke up my wife from semi-screaming this.
And that was my night. I woke up at 1:30 in the morning, and I could not go back to sleep. I was relieved to learn that that entire basement full of sad people weren’t real. I was kind of startled by my solution to their moribund melancholy, yet I wasn’t.
See, Kenya is just that kind of place. You really can’t be unhappy while you’re over there. Not truly, anyway. Even if you’re in the deepest throes of despair before going over, the service you perform and the service you receive (and indeed, you will know what I mean when you come on an expedition) leave you without choice BUT to be happy. You interact with a whole new culture. You gain a perspective on life that is simply impossible to achieve over here. You witness first-hand how our projects and work transform not only the lives of those who are within our focus, but (and, arguably, more importantly) you witness a transformation within yourself.
There is a peace in Kenya that simply cannot be replicated here. There is joy in service. I hope you’ll all accept our invitation to come on an expedition and see what changes take place in your life and the lives of those you serve.
What is the Power of 100 People? Volunteer in Kenya
I have always loved to volunteer for anything and everything. In high school I volunteered to create posters in the shape of Monopoly cards for every high school in Arizona that included all of their stats, so that we could hang them on the walls at the Arizona State Student Council Convention. My high school was hosting it that year. There were hundreds of schools. To this day I can probably tell you some of their mascots and colors without thinking too hard about it.
In college I continued my poster painting skills and volunteered to be the Publicity Coordinator on my dorm’s activity council. I became really good at giant posters advertising dances and movie nights. In fact, our director told me that I really should go into Marketing or Public Relations, because I really loved to talk. Nonstop. To anyone. About everything.
I was born this way.
After the shower scene, I got to work. I started the Facebook group 100 Humanitarians, and started inviting people to join it. That was back when people didn’t yell at you for adding them to a group. I didn’t really care, though, because most of the people I added are world-changers, and I was definitely out to change the world. Or at least volunteer in a very small area of Kenya. I kept asking the question, “Why 100 Humanitarians?” Finally the ultimate question that drives me daily came into my mind.
What is the power of 100 people working together on any project in the world to create positive change?
Now, that was a question I could really sink my teeth (and life) into. This was about mid-July 2015. I knew that I needed to go back to Kenya to do a scouting trip and see if I could figure out what to work on, so I tentatively started planning one for November. I emailed Moses, and let him know that I was hoping to do more work in Kenya, and that my goal was to bring families and work with families. He began giving me a few ideas, but said that we could scout out some places. At that point, I really had no idea who would even come with me to volunteer, but I decided if I at least planned out something interesting, that people would show up. They definitely showed up.
The following month, in early August, I was asked to speak at a homeschool conference run by Tom and Tresta Neil. I spent some time with Tresta talking about Kenya, and she connected me with Stephen and Amy Story, two friends of hers who had a nonprofit that they weren’t actively working on. It turned out that what I was feeling led to do aligned with their nonprofit’s mission, so 100 Humanitarians launched as a DBA under the 7 Pillars Foundation. The 7 Pillars Foundation had a training program to help people shift from focusing on the negative to focusing on the positive. I was able to train in the 7 Pillars, with a goal of teaching it in Kenya. Stephen and Amy were hugely supportive of 100 Humanitarians, and it was a relief to be able to allow people to make tax-deductible donations, just in time for the event that came to my mind as a fun launch event.
Every good idea starts in the shower.
When people ask me why I went to Kenya in the first place I smile and say, “Peer pressure.” Before I got on the plane in March of 2015, I had no desire to go to anywhere in Africa. In fact, there was a list of about 50 countries that I planned to visit BEFORE ever setting foot on the continent. However, I had a group of friends who had been to Kenya a couple of times and after listening to them ramble on about it for about two years, I decided it might make a fun girls trip.
I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.
I remember the first day in Western Kenya when we went to visit families after attending an Anglican church on the property of the guest house where we were staying. The music had pierced me to the core, so I was already in a reflective and contemplative mood. Walking down the road I said to my friend, “I just…I don’t even know how to explain what I am feeling about all of this.” She said, “I know. They don’t need us. We need them.”
That phrase has stuck with me ever since, and is often said in different variations by the people who have since gone to Kenya with me. When I returned from Kenya with my DNA completely rearranged, I made it a matter of intense prayer and reflection and kept asking, “What am I supposed to do now?”
Then one Sunday a few months later I was getting ready for church and literally a voice that I can still remember today said, “Go start a group on Facebook called 100 Humanitarians. I’ll let you know why later.” So I did. Right then, on my phone, with no clear picture of what it was supposed to be. I invited some friends who I thought might sort of be interested in it. Turns out that it wasn’t my friends who were interested, but strangers. By the end of 2016 I will have taken over 50 people to Kenya, and I only knew 6 of them prior to all of this starting.
The voice has never come back, but inspiration and direction and nudges have replaced it. When the ideas come, they come fast and furious, and are always bigger than I could possibly imagine. Each trip has a completely different feel, and it’s never like I am learning something for the first time, but more like I am remembering that it is what I am here to do. Many people who have come with me feel the same way. It’s like we are finding each other and combining efforts. Some people have come and gone. Some have taken on the projects that have called to them in Kenya and are running with them at the same rapid pace. The collaboration has brought unbelievable miracles.
Every. Single. Day.
Now, we have over 1300 people in the 100 Humanitarians Facebook group. We have a list of over 100 people who are already planning on going to Kenya with us, and more contact me daily. We have built out a core program that we call “Business Boxes for Families” that provide a cow, a goat, 5 chickens, 3 garden boxes, 10 trees, Days for Girls reusable hygiene kits, and mentoring and education on how to turn it all into a sustainable business.
We are in the process of building the Emparnat Cultural Center on the Maasai Mara with guest houses to provide opportunities for people around world to be a part of our Families Mentoring Families program, where we teach what we know, and learn what the Maasai know, to build a bridge between the cultures.
But most of all, we have built a culture around 100 Humanitarians that is rooted in Love, Trust, and Voluntary Cooperation. Everyone who is a part of what we are doing is there because they choose in and find what it is that calls to them, whether they are on the team in the U.S. or in Kenya.
As 100 Humanitarians expands, we focus as much as possible on two things: mentoring and sustainable economic development. It’s about people, not projects. It’s about connection, not coercion. And it’s working.
The Story of 100 Humanitarians International
by Heidi Totten