Making Change in Nairobi

By Cassandra Heikkila

Cassandra is a Junior at American University majoring in Film and Media studies and student contributor to our blog.  

Arriving in Nairobi’s airport alone at midnight, tired and jetlagged, I felt a rush of adrenaline as I searched the crowd of taxi drivers for the one holding the sign with my name; I realized that I was really on my own in Kenya. As my eyes met the “Cassandra Heikkila” written on cardboard, a wave of ease drifted over my body. The ride to where I’d be staying was spent with a fellow student from my program. We made small talk as we both gawked at the sights from our window. After passing through several security guard protected areas, we made it to our new home for the next month: Sadili Oval Sports Academy. And after climbing six flights of stairs, waking up my new roommate in the middle of the night, throwing my stuff on the floor, I finally was able to sleep.  Little would I know of the life changing experience the next month would be, no matter how cliché that sounds.

The program that provided this experience is Actuality Media. Their slogan is: Make Movies. Change the World. And that’s exactly what I felt I was doing on this trip. Twelve students were in attendance, three crews of four, a director, cinematographer, producer, and editor. With this crew you were assigned to make a documentary on a given changemaker in the Nairobi community. A changemaker is exactly as it sounds, someone or something that is changing the community around them for the better. My crew was assigned Sadili Oval, the very place we were staying at. Sadili is a sports academy that provides education for kids who would have otherwise not been able to. Sports are able to give these kids the door to education and Sadili is able to open it. Throughout the rest of the trip my crew worked hard to produce the best documentary we could about Sadili. And in the process we grew close not only to the other students on the trip but also the locals around us, the students at the school, and those featured in our documentaries. I became apart of this family at Sadili, one that I became quite attached to very quickly.

We had some outrageous moments in Kenya. And not only did we film but we were able to go on safaris, go to nightclubs, and explore the city. And while everything did not always go according to plan, at all, everything about this trip was perfect and I would absolutely do it again, a million times over. When first applying to this trip I didn’t think it was going to be possible because of the cost. I used to raise the money by creating a mission, and was surprised at hoe many people donated to my cause. With the help of friends, and family, and Goennounce, I was able to see a different world and broaden my own.

See Cassandra’s completed movie here.

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