Alumni Spotlight: Brett Weiss

First tell us a little about yourself and your trip.

Brett: I live in Naperville, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. I am 60 years old and while I am back into teaching now, I spent most of my life selling software. I am married and have two adult children.

In July/August of 2009 I spent a bit over 2 weeks in Dago, Kenya. In July of 2011 I spent 5 days with the Maasai people in Kenya and 10 days in Dago. (I also spent 8 days in Rwanda in 2011...a trip that was not officially sponsored by VV, but they were very helpful in getting me the contacts to set this up.)

Why did you decide to volunteer with Village Volunteers in Kenya?

Brett: I planned my first trip to Kenya in the summer of 2009 during the last half of 2008. I found about 10 organizations on the internet who could help me in getting the kind of volunteer trip I was looking for. I did a lot of investigations into each of them and picked three to look further into. Each of the three I contacted by email and by phone and asked for references from each. From this I chose Village Volunteers and it could not have been a better choice. During this process they were always helpful and always responded quickly. I never felt "pushed" in any way by them as they always made me feel comfortable.

boy in Kenya

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Brett: I went to Kenya a second time in 2011 thru VV again. My day to day activities were many. I am a teacher and I spent a lot of my time at the Dago Primary School working with teachers and students. I worked on many lessons with students in a variety of subjects. I also worked a lot the teachers sharing things that I do in the United States as a teacher, answering their questions on education (of which there were always many!) and learning from them. I also did a lot of work with the children of the community after school hours and on weekends both in terms of schooling and other activities. I did many home visits meeting with many parents and their children. I was asked to talk to parents about the importance of education and doing everything they could to make sure their children get as much education as possible. In my 2011 trip to Kenya, before I went to Dago, I spent the first five days with the Maasai people and did similar worth at the school and in homes.

I also spent one day volunteering at the local medical facility. During my first trip I helped to plan and kick off the first ever "Kick It For Kenya" tournament involving soccer and netball games. The main purpose though was to gather people to get tested for AIDS and provide various medicines for children.

One of my purposes in going was to pick a child that I would sponsor. I chose a young man named Victor who is now in 8th grade and I am in my second year of sponsoring. From this I began a foundation to sponsor other Dago Children to go to high school. This past January we chose a boy and girl form the 8th grade Dago Class who are now in high school thanks to this foundation. We will sponsor them for all four years and hope to sponsor more as we raise more money.

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Brett: This entire experience has dramatically impacted my life and made me a better person and teacher. My students love that I incorporate much of what I have learned in Kenya into my classroom teaching. My teaching involves much more of a worldly perspective now and since I teach social studies at the high school level this is very important. I am in regular contact with the people back in Dago, Kenya and thru my students we have helped them in many ways. My students have raised money to buy things like 100 new pairs of shoes, 100 backpacks, 100 school uniforms, two cows, and 31 water filters. My students have learned a great deal from this and have had experiences that will shape their lives forever.