When I was told “please write a Blog about the experience” I had to really hold back and not start typing right away. What I was going through was so special that I needed to get back to “normality” and reflect about the experience taking some distance and perspective.
We left St Martins a week ago and since then I have had plenty of things in my mind, including business travels, meetings, family reunions, our daughters birthday and even the Football World Cup…. Yet, St Martins is occupying a big portion of my brain and heart. I knew back in Nairobi that I would remember for a long time but I hoped that “normality” would not distract me too much from the “reality” I had seen at Saint Martins.
Having sponsored two girls in secondary school at St Martins, Caroline and Jacqueline, and trusting Miguel and Kelli’s instincts, it was easy for us to agree to join the Salesforce team on their annual volunteering trip to St Martins. Our daughters were happy to join as well. We thought it would be “cool and interesting”. The reality was that we did not know what an special and transformational experience this would turn out to be for all of us. We all loved it (and to some extent also suffered it equally)
Speaking for myself, having enjoyed more than my fair share of fortune and success over the years, this was a sobering reminder that “luck and fortune” as well as circumstances played a huge role in my life (I have met some fabulous people in Nairobi who have done extremely well out of their poor circumstances…. Huge respect for them ! Specially Leia who taught me a lesson in fighting and building business that any CEO should listen to).
We met our two sponsee girls, Caroline and Jacqueline, and I must admit, they quickly became real; until that day they “existed somewhere” and all we had to do was send money over. When we met them and heard about their circumstances and struggles as well as their dreams and ambitions, the whole family fell in love with them ! Add to this, some kids that we met, with whom we connected and strongly felt that we wanted to add them to the “extended Hernandez Byrne Clan”. The experiences came in one after the other, playing football with kids and teachers, walking the slums and seeing how they live (or should I say “survive” ?), to try to share new ideas to help the Sisters who run the school (if Saints exist they must look like them), meeting other great like minded people and making new friends, seeing how teenagers took it on and fully engaged and the sobering experience of feeding 2000 children one day….
I get it, you are probably thinking that you can’t solve all these problems. You are right. We can’t. But we can make a difference to many of this people. To their safety, their education, their dreams and this will pay off 100000000%
We can only be grateful to Miguel, Kelli and the big Salesforce team for giving us a chance to learn and help. We are in !
Our new extended Clan: