30 Oct Laila: A Renewed Sense of Connection
For her entire adult life, Unstoppable donor Ann Fyfe was focused on two things: family and career. She seemed to balance the two effortlessly, succeeding as a high-powered healthcare executive, and a dedicated wife and supermom of two. Now, after a successful career, and children grown and gone from the nest, Ann is adding another focus to the list: giving back.
–The Unstoppable Team
The inspiration for this next chapter in my life actually began nearly 40 years ago while on a trip to Kenya. I felt an instant connection to the people, and a strong appreciation for their culture and deep-rooted traditions. Although burdened by extreme poverty, there was a light that emanated from the members of the Maasai Mara tribes – from the wisdom of and respect for the elders, to the bond that exists between warriors, to the way the entire community comes together to help nurture their young and care for one another. I have carried that connection with me throughout my life.
Recently, I had an opportunity to reconnect with the people of the Maasai Mara when I returned to Kenya as a humanitarian with the Unstoppable Foundation. The poverty I witnessed was still present in many areas (too many). But there were a few exceptions: the Unstoppable communities. One community in particular, Laila, really made an impression on me.
As we gathered for the Laila community welcome ceremony, a feeling of elation radiated through the crowd. I stood hand-in-hand with two young school girls, maybe 9 or 10 years old. As they gripped my hands, we looked at one another, grinning in anticipation. We did not speak the same language so couldn’t communicate on a verbal level, but we didn’t need to. We all knew what this moment meant and why we were there – we were there to celebrate their futures. And celebrate we did.
I had a similar experience with one of the mamas in Laila – May. She was probably about my age and part of a women’s group that was formed a year ago to focus on agri-business and livestock development training. May gently took my hand and lead me to a small farm she and several other women had developed.
May beamed with pride as she showed me the animals she cared for. Motioning with her hands, she demonstrated some of the husbandry techniques she used to raise the livestock and cultivate crops. Though I am not an expert, I could see that this was beyond just basic farming – these women were learning how to skillfully manage and conserve their resources.
She was clearly so proud of what she and the other women had accomplished, and I couldn’t help but feel proud along with her. Although our lives are no doubt different, coming from the business world as a woman, I understood this pride. I think it is so important for women to help lift each other up and to celebrate each other’s accomplishments, particularly when it comes to business. I loved seeing women forming groups and collaborating. I felt lucky to have been able to share in this moment with her – and without the use of verbal communication – to look into her eyes and understand how she felt.
Moments like these are what I think of as I reflect on this visit to Laila – being present in the moment with these young girls and women–connected to one another. That connection reminded me of how I felt on that first visit to Kenya so long ago and the reason why I came back. Connection like this transcends language, social status, and privilege – and I thank the girls and women of Laila for reminding me that this type of connection can exist.
To learn more about how young girls and women are finding empowerment through education, as well as the transformation that is occurring in Laila, read our 2-year Impact Report.
Ann Fyfe is an unstoppable supporter and friend of the Foundation. She is passionate about empowering young girls and women to fulfill their dreams.