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The Journey to Kenya: Two North Texas teachers prepare to serve children on their summer break

Editor’s note:
Project GO! is a short-term mission trip opportunity through Buckner International for college students and young adults. During their time, participants will help transform lives through hands-on ministry by serving the most vulnerable orphans, children and families in one of many countries where Buckner serves. Buckner Today is following Brittani and Melanie’s journey to Kenya through Project GO! in summer 2013. This story is the first in a four-series. You can also follow them online at kenyalovesjesustoo.wordpress.com.

Brittani Cirinna and Melanie Miller are ready for the summer of a lifetime. As elementary school teachers in Mansfield, Texas, the pair typically looks forward to their long vacations and breaks away from the kids. But this year, they’re heading to a foreign country – where neither have ever been – to minister to orphans and young children who are surrounded by poverty and disease.


[caption id="attachment_6246" align="alignright" width="200"] Melanie Miller in a church in El Salvador where she served on a mission team from Walnut Ridge Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas.[/caption]

Both served overseas last summer and said that was the driving force behind going to Kenya this year. Brittani went to China for a month and taught elementary education. Melanie went to El Salvador on a mission trip with her church, Walnut Ridge Baptist Church. When they got back, they became roommates and couldn’t stop talking about their experiences – and the desire to do it again.

“I loved El Salvador and I didn’t want to come back,” Melanie said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Africa. So after Brittani told me about the possibility of going to Kenya, I was so pumped … She told me like two weeks before we went to meet with Ashley (the Buckner Project GO! coordinator) and every day, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I’m so excited, we get to go to Kenya!’”

One of those ‘random things’

The pair stumbled upon Buckner via a Facebook post. Brittani read up on Buckner and filed it away in her mental bank as a possibility for missions. But about a week later, on Facebook again, she saw that her former youth leader, Ashley Marble, worked at Buckner. And then it all clicked.

“I saw that she worked at Buckner and I thought, ‘no way.’ So I called her and said, ‘I’m interested in doing something. I had no idea you worked for Buckner,’” Brittani said.

They talked on the phone about the possibility of serving in Kenya. Marble suggested Project GO! and both girls knew it would the perfect fit.

“It was just a series of ‘random’ things … You know how that happens,” Brittani said.


[caption id="attachment_6244" align="alignright" width="200"] Mansfield teacher Brittani Cirinna peeks into the mixing bowl at the batter for cake pops. She and her roommate, Melanie Miller, make cake pops and truffles to raise money for their trip to Kenya as Project GO! interns in July 2013.[/caption]

Brittani and Melanie applied to volunteer in Kenya for the second session – although they would’ve gone for the whole summer if school let our earlier – and were accepted in December. Since then, they’ve found some very creative ways to raise money to pay for the trip.

Even before they were formally accepted to the program, the pair began brainstorming ways to raise money for the trip. Their biggest money-maker has been their homemade cake balls and truffles. They stayed up until 1 a.m. several nights during the holiday season filling orders. The word has spread on their delicious treats and they now get an average of one order per day.

They’ve planned a “vendor show” in February at their house in Mansfield, which will showcase different companies like Scentsy, Silpada Jewelry and Pampered Chef, and proceeds from sales will benefit their trip. They’ll also have a large two-day garage sale.

“I’ve been places before for a week or so and the fee then is high but it’ll be about $4,500 each and that’s not a small amount of money,” Brittani said. “That’s not just something we have lying around. So we have to be planners to get it all done.”

Excitement builds

While the girls are busy raising money for the trip, they haven’t stopped thinking about what Kenya will be like when they get there. Neither of them is nervous or scared; they can barely wait to get on the plane.

As elementary school teachers, both said they’re excited to work with the kids and have conversations with their families. They’re looking forward to laughing a lot.


[caption id="attachment_6243" align="alignright" width="200"] Brittani Cirinna at the Shanghai Healing Home (an orphanage for kids with facial deformities)[/caption]

Brittani is looking forward to getting to know the people of Kenya and experiencing the simplicity of life without stress and without a cell phone. She said they’re not sure how they’ll handle the poverty they’ll encounter because it’s a different kind of poverty than they see in the U.S.

“The thing that amazed me in El Salvador was how happy everyone is,” Melanie said. “They have nothing. It’s like here in America, we’re just so focused on the things and everyone is unhappy. It’s so nice to be in that kind of environment where you’re not focused on materialistic things and you’re just focused on the people around you and building relationships with them.

“I feel like we’re not going to want to leave. That’s the part I’m most nervous about, actually – leaving Kenya. I feel like we’ll definitely build relationships with those kids and not want to leave them.”

“It’s hard to say goodbye not really knowing what’s going to happen,” Brittani said. “Kids … they just get to me."

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