Carmel Valley's Anisha Mudaliar, a junior at Pacific Ridge School, spent three weeks of her summer building schoolhouses in the Kenyan communities of Oloosiyoi and Salabwek with the Free the Children organization.
During the last school year, Anisha worked with Pacific Ridge's service learning group Otesha, which means 'a reason to dream'. Through various fundraisers, the group raised $9,000 toward Free the Children, which went toward a new school house
Along with 23 other students from the United States and Canada, Anisha was immersed in the Kenyan lifestyle, sleeping on a stick bed, interacting with village children and students and taking a safari to see elephants, hippos and zebras.
Anisha said she was most touched by the smiles and welcome of the children, who would rush to them, clamoring to hold their hands. The children were the reason they were there, to help improve their run-down schoolhouses.
When she and her Pacific Ridge classmate Tiffany Chu saw the schoolhouse, they said they were shocked.
"It was dusty and dark inside, there were holes in the wall and the heat was unbearable," Anisha said.
Anisha and the other volunteers worked hard to build new classrooms for the Kenya children, mixing cement and laying brick.
"It was cool to see the passion and how hard they work in school just to reach their goals," Anisha said, noting one student read the dictionary for fun and aimed to become a pilot.
In addition to her service project, Anisha said she learned a lot about the life of Kenyan women.
Anisha accompanied the young women on their water walks - they have to walk a mile and carry 10-liter jugs back to their village.
It was hard carrying the water, Anisha said, but the children made it better by singing songs. Their favorite was "A Boom Chicka Boom."
Anisha's water walk was nothing compared to what the village mothers do - they have to walk seven miles with 88-pound jugs, sometimes three times a day.
Anisha said she learned a lot from the kindness of the Kenyans and the happy way they live even with the limited resources they have.
"Smile at someone every day, leave a place better than you found it," Anisha said. "It was so much more than a volunteer trip, it brought perspective to our lives."