Kayla Lyman, 17, recently journeyed from South Jordan to Africa in order to deliver 370 books to the Sean Michels School in Kenya. Kayla spent 14 days in a rural village where she had the opportunity to teach students—and she learned some things from them too.
Kayla has been involved in Girl Scouts for more than 10 years. She has received both her Bronze and Silver Awards, and she planned the service trip in order to obtain her Gold Award, which is the most prestigious award in Girl Scouts and requires around 80 hours of service.
Kayla’s mother Brenda Lyman has five other children—four girls and a boy— and all of her girls have received their Gold Award.
“Anybody that decides to be a lifelong learner or someone who is civically engaged is someone who developed skills when they were little to be able to see outside themselves . . . [My daughters] have developed those skills and learned that the world and life is not just about them, it’s about what they can do for others,” Brenda Lyman said.
However, getting to Kenya was no easy feat. She had to work 30 to 35 hours a week at two jobs for the past year and half while also attending school. Kayla is now a senior at Bingham High School.
Knowing she wanted to travel to the Sean Michels School, Kayla first contacted Nancy and Steve Littlefield because they go to Kenya every summer for the Koins for Kenya program. Both were excited to have Kayla join their group, and Nancy Littlefield even agreed to be her Girl Scout adviser.
Kayla contacted book publishers and had them donate new books to her cause. She also asked people in her community to donate used books. She focused on finding books that would be culturally relevant and appropriate for the Kenyan people, and she also worked hard to find books that included characters with certain disabilities so that disabled students would have a book character that they could relate to.
“Her big effort was to try to get books that had kids that had different disabilities, so those who were at the school with no contact with anybody else in the rest of the world would know that there were others like them,” Brenda Lyman said.
One scare happened the day after Kayla’s flight departed. Her parents got word online that the U.S. Embassy in Kenya was sending all U.S. citizens out of the country due to a possible terrorist attack.
“When our U.S. Embassy is sending all our U.S. citizens out, I’m sending my daughter over there, and I was like ‘Holy crap, what am I doing?’ But she ended up having armed guards with her and the group the entire time, and she made it back. So, it was all good,” Brenda Lyman said.
The Kenyan children especially enjoyed the books Kayla brought because most had never seen any before.
“It was incredible to see the kids’ reactions [to the books]. A lot of their jaws just like dropped, and their smiles were so big—it was so cute,” she said.
Even though it wasn’t necessarily part of her project, once she was over there, Kayla also had the opportunity to teach lessons to students in five different public schools.
“My favorite part personally was actually going to the school and working with the kids because the Kenyan people over there have a whole different spirit about them. They have nothing, but they are totally content and so happy,” Kayla said.
Kayla doesn’t start college for a year, but she plans on studying international relations with her eyes eventually set on law school.
“You hear about the people in Africa who literally have nothing, but it’s a whole different thing to hear that and then to actually go over there and appreciate it,” she said.