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