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A Bucket List Adventure Proves Life-Changing

  Going to Africa was always on my bucket list. It was never a matter of "if" but more about "when." That "when" came in November 2011. I had moved to NYC 10 years prior to attend college to land my dream job of working in the music industry. After 6.5 years working in a big company, the day to day grind was wearing on me and I knew I wanted to find a job where I could give back to the world...sounds clichéd, but it was something that had always been gnawing at me from as early as I can remember.   On August 23, 2011, I was laid off from my job. There was no fear or panic, but relief and excitement for what was next. I was offered a job the very next day and thought to myself "is this what I want?" I called my wiser, older sister who said "If you could do anything right now, don't think of money or what's responsible...what would you do?" And immediately, "Go to Africa" was the answer.   I found African Impact online with very positive reviews. They were organised, responsive and really wanted to make sure their program was the best fit for me. They answered all my questions (a million of them -- I am American after all!) and made me feel comfortable and that I could really do this!   I went embarked on my 4 week trip to the beautiful Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe on November 6, 2011. It was a 15 hour direct flight (eeeesh!), but as soon as I landed on that African soil, I knew I had made it "home."I was a Community Volunteer which included working at an orphanage, teaching at at a grade school and helping garden with the local community members.   The experience was absolutely life changing. I got to see some of the most gorgeous places in the world, eat some of the craziest foods and made friendships that are for a lifetime and more like family! The people were the happiest, most genuine people I've ever met. They had so little and yet provided me with such pure bliss that describing it in words doesn't do it justice. I have said often, I felt more in my own skin in Africa than I do in the places I have lived my whole life.   As I traveled back to NYC, I knew things would be different, but didn't realise how much the experience would change things for me. I struggled with finding work until a friend of mine hooked me up with a job in the non-profit world to make some cash. I did that for about a year and a half, but with always the goal of finding a job where I would be giving back and making a difference to the children of Africa.   I am so honored to say that I am the new Donor & Events Administrator with the Kenya Education Fund (KEF).  In Kenya, both public and private high schools cost hundreds of dollars in tuition, boarding, and supplies each year. This means roughly three-quarters all of Kenyans – many of them girls – cannot complete high school because they are poor. The KEF currently sponsors 630 students in over 240 boarding high schools, colleges, and universities across all eight provinces of Kenya.  I am so excited to have joined the team and can't wait to use my skills and experiences to do some good for these deserving students.   If you would like to learn more, please feel free to visit our website, www.KenyaEducationFund.org, or reach out to me directly at elizabeth@kenyaeducationfund.org!     I’d like to end off with one of my favourite quotes: "The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa…for he has so much to look forward to” – anonymous About the Author: Elizabeth Wilkinson was born and raised in Warwick, Rhode Island, the smallest state in the USA!  She has lived in New York City for the past 12 years and holds a B.A. in Communication Arts from Marymount Manhattan College. She is a self proclaimed pop culture expert, loves stand up comedy (or any comedy for that matter), Broadway shows, cuddling with my adorable pug Coco, dancing, The Cosby Show, music, TV, magic and a good #hashtag! On her volunteer trip to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, she immediately fell in love with the people and culture and knew her heart belonged to the continent of Africa.

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