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Lucy Gill-Simmen and her family travelled to Kenya with Audley to experience a Me to We community project. Here she recalls their experience and the impact it had on them.

Vacation comes from the Latin word vacare, meaning to be vacant or empty — essentially free from responsibilities. More often than not we use this vacation time to visit another country. We visit, we leave, we return home, but we know nothing of the country we have left behind. We know nothing of its people. Enter Me to We.

Me to We afforded us the chance to leave the beaten track and to discover something truly special for ourselves. So rare and unique was this opportunity that even after a year of travelling around the world by myself, never had I been offered such an insight into the culture and lives of local people as this experience afforded me.

The Gill-Simmen family working on a project in Kenya
The Gill-Simmen family working on a project in Kenya

We all dream at some point about changing the world or changing lives, but changing the world is usually something you just read about — you’re really a spectator in that world. Me to We enables you to lose the observer’s lens and become a participant; to make a difference, no matter how small.

For example, we spent two days working on a building site for a new surgical wing at a village medical centre in Kenya. To know that what we were doing was contributing to a project that meant women would no longer need to travel up to 100 kilometres for surgery was everything. The project was due for completion in a year’s time, but even then it was a chance to see change actually happening before our eyes.

Me to We enabled us to experience Kenya at a grassroots level, a place where you can feel the culture, see the people and be close to them.

A helping hand

It’s difficult to describe how it felt to see local people fetching clean water or the feeling of walking through a medical centre knowing that the patients are going to receive the care they need. It’s the feeling in your heart when local villagers run to the side of the road to greet you. You simply can’t describe what it’s like to dance with the local school children, to shiver when they sing, to high-five the girls playing a football match and see the local people going about their business at the market.

Even entering the dining hall at camp and wondering what delicious food the chefs had prepared for you that day had a role to play. The sense of belonging you felt when you sat down to dinner and shared your experiences at the end of a long day is something I won’t forget. 

Lucy and the Gill-Simmen family in Kenya on a Me to We project
Lucy and the Gill-Simmen family in Kenya on a Me to We project

Afterwards, the crackling of the fire as we sat around listening to tales of the Maasai tribe reminded me that this was an experience truly out of the ordinary. It’s a world that Me to We allows you to not only be part of but feel welcome in.

We felt a part of something extremely special, as if we had the key for just a short time to a whole other world. It’s worth remembering, though, that you can always go and get this key back — the Kenyan people will always be waiting with a smile.

To explore, to learn, to experience. Me to We reveals your sixth, seventh and eighth senses. Go and see for yourself.

Cottage, Bogani Lodge and Tented Camp
Cottage, Bogani Lodge and Tented Camp

Include Me to We as part of your trip

Me to We is a fundraising division of Free the Children, our 2016 charity of the year. Including a Me to We initiative as part of your trip provides a fascinating insight into a local community and gives you the chance to get involved with projects set up by the charity. Through employment, education, sanitation and basic healthcare, the initiatives help support communities in becoming self-sufficient. We can include one of these rewarding experiences as part of a trip to India, Kenya or Ecuador.

Monkeys, Amazon

Learn about life in the Amazon with 'Me to We'

A stay at the Minga Lodge offers a unique opportunity to get to grips with what life is really like in the Amazon. Culturally, this is far more in-depth, interactive and rewarding than a regular Amazon visit and allows you to spend time with the local community during your stay.

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