The first member of her family to travel outside the U.S., Alaiziah Caddell boarded the flight to Kenya last summer with a few fears she wanted to overcome and an unwavering belief that the trip would change her life. That she often uses the word “joy” to describe the experience suggests that she wasn’t disappointed.
“I was surprised what the media doesn’t show about the most beautiful places of Africa,” says Caddell, a Macomb social work major . “And, the joy and welcoming spirit you get from everyone is one of the things I enjoyed most.”
The study abroad trip to Kenya, an African country with dramatic landscapes and great poverty, was organized by Rochelle Zaranek, Macomb social work professor. Students stayed in dormitories and assisted volunteers and staff at three orphanages that shelter and educate children who have lost their parents to violent deaths or disease, or whose parents are without the means to take care of them.
“Just to see how joyful and optimistic about life these children are even though faced with adversities and tragedies was incredibly uplifting,” says Caddell, shown here with children at one of the orphanages. “It shifted my thinking about most things that I have worried about in my life.”
The students from Macomb engaged their young charges in play and helped document their stories, the latter sometimes bringing tears to the volunteers’ eyes. But the mood was quickly lightened when the children took to a makeshift stage to entertain their guests with songs and skits.
“The children in each (orphanage) were very talented,” relates Caddell. “Their voices were angelic. I never felt so much joy in my life as I did when seeing their faces light up and their beautiful smiles.”
In addition to three credits in directed study, Caddell also gained the confidence to climb up an untrailed mountain despite a fear of heights and to continue on her chosen career path.
“My interest was first sparked as a child volunteering with my mom at women’s shelters, but once getting to Macomb my desire to be a social worker strengthened. Professor Zaranek was my first professor at Macomb and she has been a joy during my journey,” says Caddell, who intends to transfer to Wayne State and earn bachelor and master degrees in social work. “I hope to become a social justice advocate in Michigan, but I also have the desire to work in the international social work field, especially after my experience in Kenya.”