Karina Stanley shares a special moment with one of the students she worked with at Mwangaza, Kenya. PHOTO SUBMITTED
A love for children and a heart dedicated to helping people around the world who do not have access to health care and education is propelling Karina Stanley into a life of community service.
Back home in Winsloe over the Christmas season, the Mount Allison University student was still bursting with enthusiasm over her summer adventure of volunteering to help build a school for students in Kenya with Me to We.
“We dug out trenches. We mixed the cement, laid the foundation and laid the brick. By the end of our three-week stay we had almost finished a classroom.
“It was great to have a hand in it from the very beginning,” says Stanley, 18, the lone Prince Edward Islander in her group of 30 who shared a tent with four girls during the volunteer trip to Mwangaza.
Living in a camp and working as a labourer at a construction site were both motivational and challenging.
“The work I did for them was nothing like I had ever done before, like pick axing, shovelling and things like that. It made me really feel like I was really helping,” she says.
In addition, Stanley had hands-on time with the students.
“That was my favourite part because I love working with kids. It’s my passion. So being able to spend time with them and interact with them was special,” says the first-year science student, who also recalls the friendships she made.
“On our second last day, they had an event where the children sang and the parents gave speeches. Afterwards, organizers told the children to find their friend.
“The two little girls who I had spent the most time with ran over to me, took me by the hand and took me over to the field to play. It was the most incredible feeling ever,” says Stanley, with emotion in her voice.
Other days, the team travelled to other locales to explore the different elements of Me to We, a Free the Children program, which includes education, agriculture and alternative income and water.
“We learned that Kenyan women carry Geri cans filled with 20 litres of water on their heads. So we put scarves around our heads and went on a water walk. We carried water for a kilometre. People found it hard,” says Stanley, adding the awareness she received about the value of water was life-changing.
At the Me To We office in Toronto, co-ordinator Brianne Klassen was impressed with the dedication Stanley brings to volunteering.
“Karina was determined to carry the water just as the Mwangaza women do, despite the evident physical challenge. Karina is tenacious and always up for a challenge,” says Klassen during an Internet interview.
The program co-ordinator was also impressed with her character.
“Karina is one of the kindest, gentlest, most thoughtful young ladies I have met in a long time. She demonstrated amazing listening skills, empathy and compassion. She has an amazingly positive attitude and an open heart and spirit. You can see that there is a great deal of strength to her character as she has overcome adversity and faces every day with optimism and enthusiasm.
“She also demonstrated leadership and her desire to share peace with her fellow trip participants by leading sunrise yoga sessions,” says Klassen.
Currently at home, during the current Mount Allison University strike, Stanley is preparing for her next volunteer trip.
Along with students from her school, she is going to Honduras with Global Brigade later this month.
“This time I’ll be working in medical and dental. It falls in line with my career goals,” says Stanley, whose hopes have been pinned on medical school, after deciding to become a pediatrician in Grade 4.
“There are doctors coming with us, so I hope I will be able to shadow a doctor from another country.”
In the meantime, she is busy fundraising and gathering supplies for her trip.
“I’m excited to be doing it during my first year (of university) so I can really get involved. As a student organization, we’ll open a clinic, have four days to do the work. On top of that we’re packaging all the medications,” she says.
While she waits, she’s eager to give advice to others, gleaned from the things she’s learned.
“Go with an open mind, without expectation because everything is going to be completely different when you get there.
“Take an opportunity to learn from people about the life, their culture. That’s because everything is so different over there. Also, anyone who wants to should do it.”
AT A GLANCE
Up close and personal with Karina Stanley
Parents: Daughter of Ann Bolger and Roderick Stanley.
Recent honour: Selected to attend We Day Atlantic Canada with a delegation from Mount Allison University in November.
Favourite food: Vegetables and spicy food.
Favourite CD: Passenger.
Favourite novel: “I really like Nicholas Sparks’ books.”
Favourite saying: “I know that I can’t change the world in just one day, but as long as I can do something, I will.” - Chris Tse.
Five things to take on a volunteer mission trip: journal, photos of people from home, snacks, open mind, water bottle.