top of page



In the summer of 2018, along with sixty-three other Ismaili teens from eighteen countries, I volunteered for one month through Global Encounters, a service-leadership camp. This experience transformed my worldview and the way I understand my place in the international community.


While I was in Mombasa, Kenya, I volunteered at Mvita Primary School (a low-income public school), where we built a playground, painted the canteen and classrooms, and helped teachers incorporate technology into their lessons. I was charged with mentoring teenagers in the community, many of whom skipped school regularly to steal chocolates from the market. Concerned with this pattern, I explained to them that, although one bar of chocolate might bring instant gratification, it was only through gaining an education that they could pursue their dreams of becoming doctors, teachers, lawyers, security guards—all careers that would allow them to buy enough chocolates to last them the rest of their lives. My mentoring resonated with them so much that the students would chant my name every day at the end of our sessions.


Though I felt a great sense of pride about my work at Mvita Primary, the most meaningful part of my experience was learning about the cultures of the local people. I saw first-hand how the lifestyles and priorities of the Mombasans I was working with differed from my own. Matters that seemed important to me, such as the quality of tap water and methods of trash disposal, they viewed as trivial compared to other problems.


I made it my priority to have conversation after conversation with as many people as I could. I spoke with locals about serious topics, like Trump’s effect on U.S-Africa relations, and frivolous matters, like whether one should put cereal or milk into a bowl first. Even amongst my Ismaili peers, hailing from countries ranging from Syria to the Netherlands, we had our own country-specific customs. But, regardless of our differences, it turns out all of us are perfectionists when it comes to creating preschool classroom decorations.


After four weeks, I felt like I had a new global family. In an experience such as this, I expected to encounter differences—different cultures, customs, and languages. Surprisingly, however, the most profound discovery was not our differences but, in fact, our similarities. Even if the daily habits we use are different, all humans crave the same intangibles—love, purpose, and security—and are connected by our shared humanity.



bottom of page