Skip to navigation Skip to content

Emily traveled to Kenya to teach, but instead became the student.

I joined the Wesleyan University chapter of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) my freshman year. The summer after that first year, I participated in a program where college students volunteer to teach at SHOFCO’s Kibera School for Girls (KSG) so that their Kenyan teachers can take a month to work on curriculum and development. Working with girls at school every day was life-changing. They have gone through so much, yet fill every room with their spirit, love of learning, and enthusiasm for life. 

At KSG, two other volunteers, Max Perel-Slater and Nathan Mackenzie, had the idea to make a music video to the Nas song “I Can.” I loved the idea and wrote lyrics one night at the dinner table – it was easy because of how inspiring the girls are. When you ask a girl at KSG what she wants to be when she grows up, she will have an answer for you (even if this answer changes every day or every seven minutes). The girls can be really sassy, and the song allowed them to sing loudly, shake their hips, and really get into their sassy selves:

I know I can 
Be what I wanna be 
If I work hard at it 
I’ll be where I wanna be.  

I didn’t think anything would come out of our idea, but thanks to a wonderful video production company, NeueStudios, we were able to make the video happen. When I saw the final product, I was beyond excited. There is nothing like being at KSG and feeling the energy that exists within its walls. But the video does an incredible job of showing that environment to the online world. The girls in the video seem happy, enthusiastic, excited, and determined – exactly what they are like in real life. 

Hope is a powerful thing. But it’s not tangible; it’s hard to really see where hope is or what hope looks like. I have never witnessed more hope than in each individual at this school. The students are learning, as the song says, that they can. The “I Can” attitude at KSG can be an inspiration to the rest of the world. These girls can overcome the daily struggles of life in Kibera. These girls can walk to school in the morning excited for the day to come, and leave school at the end of the day with that same enthusiasm. These girls can smile and sing and be sassy. With all their hope, they can, as the song says, “be what they wanna be.”

View All Stories

We Support