With grace and love in her heart, Sarah Markwardt has traveled to Hekima Place, a sanctuary for orphaned girls in Kenya, for one month of every year since 2008. In that time, the girls who call Hekima Place home have grown to cherish their time with the woman who always promises to return.
Since graduating from Waynesburg University in May, the Biblical and Ministry Studies (BMS) alumna from Ohio Pyle, Pa., has taken on a new, full-time role within Hekima Place. Dedicating her entire mind, heart and spirit to their mission, Sarah conducts a training program for new volunteers to prepare them for cross-cultural exchange and completes various financial and fundraising tasks in a job created specifically for her.
“International service has the potential to be extremely fulfilling to all who participate,” Sarah said. “My goal is to prepare new volunteers to work and travel with open minds, ears and hearts while keeping them informed about politics and other cultural realities in Kenya.”
The mission of Hekima Place, to serve the needs of Kenyan girls who are orphaned, primarily by HIV/AIDS, by providing a safe, faith-based, loving home that supports excellence in education and empowerment for their futures, is a mission Sarah has wholeheartedly supported since the moment she met the girls who wanted to love and be loved.
Working from her U.S. home to keep her Kenyan home running smoothly, Sarah serves Hekima Place through PULSE, the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience. PULSE, committed to cultivating a community of young servant leaders to transform Pittsburgh, mentors a new generation of urban leaders who understand and appreciate the importance of the city for the world's future. Sarah lives with a cohort of other PULSE participants working to make positive change in Pittsburgh and beyond.
“My first trip, I didn't know what to expect,” she said. “Of course, half way across the world, there were plenty of things that were different. But I was struck more by how much was the same. Giggling girls who wanted to be loved, moms working hard, men trying to decide what it means to be a man. Kenyan culture is very different from our own, but people are somehow the same, no matter where they are. So I loved them.”