In between concerts and filming her new show, Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, singer and actress Olivia Holt took a trip to Kenya with the WE Movement, an organization committed to creating positive social change around the world. Here, she shares how her week in Africa changed her perspective.
This year was a busy one for me. I’ve spent a lot of time promoting my music and working on all of my projects, so I decided early on in the year that I wanted to do something for somebody else. Whether it was helping out in my community in L.A. or taking a trip abroad, I didn’t know.
Coincidentally, the same week that I was talking to one of my friends about what I wanted to do, the WE Movement team reached out to me and asked if I wanted to go to Africa with them. I was actually just about to leave for a few months to shoot on location, but my gut and my heart and my mind were all on the same page, so I knew I wanted to make it happen.
I learned about the WE Movement two years ago when I participated in WE Day, one of the events that they do every year. Their mission is amazing because they work to make an impact both locally and globally in communities that need to have a voice. It was there that I found out about the trips that they go on every year to three different villages—one in Ecuador, one in India, and the one in Kenya that I visited called Maasai Mara.
Our group was small—just me, my friend, and a couple of faculty that work at WE—but we were able to accomplish so much on our trip. In one week, we helped build wells for clean, filtered water, as well as some buildings for a girl’s school called Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School.
Courtesy Juozas Cernius
While we were there, we got a tour of the campus, which was one of my favorite parts. The girls showed us the cafeteria and the lab rooms and all of the things that they have been learning. It was incredible to see everything that they’ve soaked up by being at that school. Probably 99 percent of the girls said that they now dream of going to a university one day because of it.
I was able to meet so many amazing people, who openly welcomed me into their village. They taught me what it was like to hunt for food back in the day, and how to make rafikis, the beaded bracelets that the mamas create to make a living.
I gained so much perspective from being around them. There are a lot of things I feel like we take for granted, and that could be something big, like our education, our health, the air that we breathe, the water we drink, or it could be something small, like the shoes that we wear or the clothes on our back.
When we first arrived, there were all of these little kids that were running after the vehicle we were in and they were grinning from ear to ear, with these massive smiles on their faces, saying, “Jambo!”, which is hello in Swahili. They had no shoes on their feet, and very little clothing. During the night, it gets cold there and there isn’t a lot of shelter. So it was an eye opener for me.
Courtesy Juozas Cernius
It definitely made an impact on the way that I cope with things in my life now because I know that there's so much more going on in the world than the challenges that I struggle with.
It sounds cliché to say the trip was life-changing, but it’s true. I remember thinking, I'm going to help these people and I'm going to make a change for them, not realizing that they were going to help me and make such a change in my life.
—As told to Jennifer Ferrise.
To see more snaps from Holt’s trip, keep reading. And for more information on the WE Movement, visit we.org.