Blessings of Many Kinds in Kakamega

Saturday, the 13th of July, began with a blessing and the blessings have been in abundance since. The day began with an early but short flight to Kisumu followed by a pleasant one hour drive to Kakamega. Travelers are always grateful for a smooth journey! Once we arrived to the hotel, we were greeted by Claire and Stella, members of the Women in Water and Natural Conservancy team, who welcomed us with warm and friendly smiles and banter. Our group quickly settled in and hit the ground running with our first workshop, and I mean literally. The first workshop on our itinerary was the running workshop and began with a welcoming and some opening remarks by Tamarra followed by the candle blessing, a WGC immersion trip tradition. Then the group along with the two WWANC ladies began with a warm up and light stretching before doing a one mile run/walk around the perimeter of the hotel. The goal of the workshop was to plant a seed in the women and encourage them to begin thinking of starting their own running chapter in Kakamega of 261 Fearless, which was founded by Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, whose mission is to increase the empowerment and social support of women. Thankfully, it began raining during our run which felt cool and refreshing after getting our endorphins up!


Sunday was the group’s rest day; however, we did anything but rest. Brandylynn Weitzel joined Stella at morning church service while Tamarra Mencey and myself took a trip to the neighborhood market. There will be more to come from Brandy on her inspiring and humbling experience at church. I’ll just say that she certainly has a home away from home as we are all beginning to feel here in Kakamega. In the late afternoon, Claire accompanied the group to Kakamega Forest for a five-mile hike through the tropical jungle. Our guide, Jonah, was a very friendly local with a deep love and respect for the land he calls home. Native to Kakamega, Jonah guided us through the breathtaking and green lush rainforest identifying the flora and fauna of the area and the healing properties of its many trees. Out on the main road, he pointed out a colony of ants that make their home high up the bark of a tree, expressing the sentiment that nature is important to all walks of life.


As we walked deeper and deeper into the forest, each of us made time to connect with our mystical surroundings and with one another. Our guide passed a few words of wisdom along and spoke to us of the realities of life as we climbed to the highest peak of Buyangu Hill, giving us a breathtaking view of the forest. The forest is a mere one-tenth of its natural size due to the destruction of man and remains to be the only piece of a massive tropical rainforest that once spanned across Central Africa. The area was also very close to being occupied by Uganda. I asked Jonah why this was, but sometimes stories are too long to be repeated. Fortunately, what remains is being protected and preserved. Another highlight of our hike was entering a bat cave on our descent, which was not for the faint of heart, but worth it to see these beautiful creatures up close in their natural habitat. Going down the mountain was just as grueling as it was going up but we thank Jonah for being our guide, our helping hand, and leading us down paths of gratitude and wonder and left me reflecting on how much we are all blessed with one another.



Written by:

Monica D. Hernandez, University of Incarnate Word PhD student


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