The teen has created a library for the students of one Kenyan community, and it has earned her the Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouts.
Mackenzie Beach feels a special connection to the people of Kenya, especially its youngest children in the orphanages and the students who are appreciative despite having so little.
“The kindness and loving attitude of everyone we encountered has given me a love for the people of Kenya,” Beach said.
The West Orange High School senior spent two weeks each in summer 2016 and again this summer as part of a mission team with her church, First Baptist Windermere. The group, led by Ray Lloyd, worked in Nakuru, Kenya, a rural community three hours outside of Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi.
“After being in Kenya two years in a row, I developed a friendship with the students,” she said.
Part of Beach’s mission purpose was to work with schools and orphanages in Nakuru, where many people live in poverty and students often walk miles to school, she said.
“While there, our contact showed us the ‘library’ at Mema Secondary School, Beach said. “Here the students come to pick up textbooks on the way to class. Reading is one of my favorite hobbies, and I was saddened by the lack of books to read for pleasure.”
During her first trip, Beach helped care for and play with the babies at His Cherished Ones orphanage. The team provided blankets and clothing, as well.
They spoke to students at Hyrax Primary School and Mema Secondary School about their faith and shared their testimonies. And they held a field day for students at Tumaini School.
Beach said she had been interested in taking a mission trip for years.
“When this opportunity came up, my mom and I couldn't say no,” she said. “I wanted to experience a completely different culture and have the chance to share my faith with others.”
It was a trip she will never forget. And it stirred in her a longing to return to the people she had met.
ALL BOOKED UP
“I never imagined I would be able to return to Nakuru, but in 2017, I was given that opportunity,” Beach said. “I then realized I could make a difference in the lives of the students I met the previous year.”
One statement that has stayed with Beach was made last summer by their group’s contact, Jacob Mwainaina, who said his greatest desire for the students was to have “books to read for fun.”
Beach worked to bring his dream to fruition once she learned he was building an addition onto his home to serve as a community reading center. She reached out to family members and friends, schools and scouts and her church.
“The response was amazing,” Beach said. “I ended up with more books and teacher resources than I imagined, and my project grew larger than originally planned.”
She partnered with her church to help with shipping and sent 2,000 pounds of reading and teaching materials in a container to a school in Burundi, Africa. On her second trip to Nakuru, the mission team took 17 suitcases of books.
In all, 1,240 books were donated to create a mobile library for Mema Secondary School and Hyrax Primary School and to stock the shelves of the new reading center.
Beach created a card catalog for checking out and tracking the books and was able to teach the librarian and principal this process.
She talked to students at Mema about her project and told them they were her inspiration.
“Jacob wanted me to focus on encouraging them that even a teenager can make an impact in the world if they set a goal and work to achieve it,” Beach said. “At the grand opening of the library, I checked out books to 20 students. It made all of the hard work worth every minute when I saw how excited they were to have books in their hands.”
Books, toys and hygiene kits were donated to Springs of Hope orphanage, as well.
“Having the opportunity to serve students in this poverty-stricken area impacted me in a significant way,” she said. “It opened my eyes to how fortunate I am to have access to basic needs and education. Having the opportunity to attend worship services, I was impacted by the gratitude they had to God despite the fact that they have so little.
“This challenged me in my own faith personally to always be grateful to God for all that He has provided me,” the teen said.
“Hopefully I will have the opportunity to return to Kenya on a mission trip in the future,” Beach said.
Beach has turned her mission trips into a scouting honor: the Girl Scout Gold Award. Her project was building the library at the local youth leader’s home for the community’s students to use.
She went recently before the scout board with her final presentation and will attend a ceremony next year called In Her Honor to official recognize all the girls who completed their Gold Award, Girl Scouts’s highest achievement.
“Along the way, there were challenges I had to overcome to meet my goal,” Beach said. “The approval process for my Gold Award project through Girl Scouts was arduous and initially frustrating. The logistics of how to get the books from Orlando to Nairobi and then into the rural area of Nakuru was not easy. Fear of speaking in public was a hurdle I had to jump so I could encourage the students at Mema School.
“Through this process I learned self-confidence, perseverance, leadership and problem-solving,” Beach said.
“Through this project I am able to say my view of ‘my community’ is now altered,” she said. “My community is now global and includes the students and teachers I worked hard to serve in Nakuru, Kenya.”