It has been over two weeks since I Ianded at the Yaya Village in Sululta, Ethiopia. The Yaya Girls are to arrive in less than two days and we have been eagerly preparing for their arrival.
I have had numerous first impressions of the incredible Yaya Village but since I love things in threes (see my post about the three Ls of learning, loving, and living), I will distill my initial reflections into three areas.
1. Culture of Kindness:
Since the moment I arrived in the middle of the night and Xavier, the executive director program, picked me up from the airport, many people have gone out of their way to make me feel at home. The culture of kindness starts with Joseph Kibur, the Yaya Village Hotel’s founder, who works hard to foster an environment of generosity. Joseph was kind enough to take me on a beautiful run in the surrounding forest that is in Yaya’s backyard (see picture of Joseph leading me on a run). The kindness continues to the Yaya Staff. I live in the staff quarters and have been touched by how the Yaya employees are always offering me a genuine hello or a piece of their breakfast.
2. Respect of Running:
In the United States there is currently a running boom — millions of people are running half marathons and marathons. It brings me joy to see people being active, but I have found that unless Americans understand the physiology behind training, few comprehend what it means to run a fast 1500 meter or 5 kilometer time. At the Yaya Village, people get it. The workers here respect the discipline and hard work required to pursue one’s running dreams. They understand that going on a second afternoon run is not crazy, but necessary for one’s purposeful training. People here are supportive of my training, often asking me where I went running and for how long. Although just a handful of the 100+ workers at the Yaya Village run and train, the respect for running runs deep.
3. Collaborative Community:
The Yaya Village feels like a big family that knows how to effectively work together. Whether it be when the electricity is out and people offer flashlights to one another, or when people are there to lend a hang while the new room for Yaya Girls is being built, Yaya employees work together in creating a tight-knit, collaborative community.
I am excited to see how the Yaya Girls will grow from the culture of kindness, uphold respect for running and for each other, and integrate into this collaborative community!