Local teen sees life in a whole new way after trip to Africa

Traveling to Africa for a three-week stay gave Ally Weegar a whole new perspective on life.
“It’s definitely a life-changing experience,” she said. “It makes you value what you have here a lot more than you usually would.”
The local teen was part of a “Me to We” trip to Nairobi, Kenya this past July, where she lived and worked alongside the village’s inhabitants.
One of the activities Weegar participated in was a “water walk,” where the women of the village travel to the nearest water source to collect water, which they then cart back home. The jerry cans contain 20 litres of water and the women make the 3.5-kilometre trek five times a day carrying the heavy cans.
“It was possibly the hardest thing I’ve done,” Weegar said, adding that she had the luxury of sharing the water-carrying duty with another volunteer, whereas the women of the village don’t normally have help.
The water, which is gathered from the local river is then boiled, as the water source is polluted, Weegar said, describing the many animal species gathered there to drink.
Weegar made Rafiki bracelets there, as well.
“We beaded them ourselves and I gave mine to my mom as a gift. Rafiki means friend,” she said.
Unlike the average “Me to We” tour group, Weegar said she was fortunate to be in Nairobi in July, as it happened to be the same time that “Me to We” co-founder Craig Kielburger visited the camp.
“It was probably the most inspiring speech I’ve ever heard,” she said. “It was really great to hear him speak.”
In addition to Kielburger, the young volunteers also met Spencer West, another popular “Me to We” spokeperson. West lost both his legs from his pelvis down when he was five years old. He shared his story with Weegar’s group, which included his recent climb, and summit, of Mount Kilimanjaro. Weegar said West raised roughly $50,000.
“We were lucky to have them on our trip because not everybody does,” she said.
Much of Weegar’s time was spent working at the building sites for the primary school.
“We got a lot of progress done,” she said. The youth volunteers moved and smashed rocks and mixed cement by hand. They were able to finish the foundation and make a good start on the wall before leaving.
Weegar spent a lot of time with the school children, which she said was one of the things she liked best about the trip.
“The kids were amazing,” she said. “The were super happy all the time. I’ve probably never seen such happy children in my life.”
In addition to working, Weegar and her fellow volunteers were taken on a two-night safari where they stayed in bomas, “short, but long” huts made from a mud base and straw roof. Aside from an excursion to see the local wildlife, the volunteers participated in a “day in the life” simulation (role play), where the boys were treated the way boys native to the area would be treated and the girls were treated the way the local girls were treated. In fact, Weegar said, the girls had to get up 45 minutes earlier than the boys because it was the girls who had to collect firewood, do the laundry, make breakfast and then serve it to the boys. The boys, however, were able to get up and go to class, where they were invited to sit inside the classroom, while the girls were made to stand outside to listen to the lesson.
The simulation included a lesson about world trade where volunteers were given different rights to different resources depending on the country they were from. With those resources they were expected to trade with other countries to obtain the things they needed to survive.
“I didn’t eat dinner that day,” Weegar said, as she wasn’t overly fond of the final product. “It was a really eye-opening experience that day, to be honest. That’s the meal they would have and we’re sitting there like ‘this is gross.’”
The safari trip also included a goat giving ceremony with the local tribe, which included the slaughtering of two animals before dining as a large group.
During the safari, Weegar said the group was lucky to have seen two of the “big five” animals, which include elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions, and water buffalo. Although she really wanted to see an elephant, Weegar said she saw a female lion and lots of water buffalo. Her group also traveled to a “hippo pool,” where they ate lunch. There were also lots of warthogs, zebras, gazelles, giraffes, and hyenas, she said.
The “Me to We” group visited a local farm with greenhouses where five employees worked to feed roughly 10,000 people each day.
Weegar said visiting the local market was crazy because it felt like there were a million people there. The students were given 500 shillings at the market, which is equivalent to $5 Canadian, Weegar said. The task was to then barter for what they needed.
“It was actually really hard,” Weegar said.
A visit to the health clinic was also part of the trip. Local residents could pay a small one-time fee for lifelong healthcare, but although all the men in the area had jobs, Weegar said they didn’t make much at all. One young man with a two-month-old baby had to spend three weeks away from his family for work.
“It’s a different lifestyle from us. For some, it was really difficult,” she said.
Her favourite part of the trip?
The kids.
“I love kids. It was amazing getting to meet them and interact with them on a personal level,” Weegar said.
One of the older girls she met said she wants to be a neurosurgeon.
“She loves school. She voluntarily gets up at 4 a.m. to start studying,” Weegar said. “They value education so much.”
In addition to making friends who live in Africa, Weegar also became really good friends with some of her fellow volunteers, only one of whom lives in Ontario. The other three live in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.
The trip was amazing, she said, pointing out that in addition to the many once-in-a-lifetime experiences she had, she learned a lot.
“It’s just so scary to think we overuse so much stuff and they live with practically nothing and they’re still the happiest people,” Weegar said, pointing out that it all comes down to perspective. “They are genuinely happy people and they live with nothing.”

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