One eighth-grader at Richmond Hill Middle School wants to work in a combination of ministry and government when he grows up.
Now, Logan Pope has an opportunity to dive into those fields, but not while in the United States.
Pope, who has lived in Richmond Hill since kindergarten, is taking a trip to Marsabit, a city in Kenya, Africa. But he’s not going alone.
An expected total of eight people are going on the trip July 19-31 with the goal of creating a sister city partnership between Marasbit and Hinesville, Ga.
Hinesville resident Peggy Rayman is the trip coordinator. She has been traveling the Kenya area for several years.
“I felt it was an area that could be open for some type of — not aid from the U.S. — but real relationships,” Rayman said. “One of the things that triggered my interest in this was that during World War II, the man who gave the order to drop the bomb on Pearl Harbor had actually been in the U.S. before but was not treated well. He took that anger back to Japan, and it came back to bite us.
“The more we can do to make friends with people in different cultures around the world, the better we are,” Rayman continued. “I brought the idea (of becoming sister cities) to the mayor of Hinesville and he liked the idea. He pointed me in the right direction as far as the process to get started.”
The process began in 2011. Rayman said it took about a year to get the initial approval from the Hinesville City Council. She made an advance trip to share the idea with the leadership in Marsabit.
According to the nonprofit Sister Cities International, Sister Cities program empowers citizen diplomats as they engage in significant international exchange programs. The long-term partnership between two communities is broad-based and has to be officially approved.
The partnerships are meant to create an opportunity for activities in many areas, including municipal, business, educational, professional and cultural.
The coming trip will be the first official trip to Marsabit to create the foundation for the sister city partnership. The trip will focus on experiencing a cultural exchange and making friendships.
“We have the military installation here, so any conflict the U.S. gets involved with can affect us directly,” Rayman said. “Because of this, I feel peacemaking initiatives directly benefit us.
“Marsabit is an area that could go either way,” she continued. “Right now, the people there are very open and friendly to the west, but they are also an area where they have the potential to be radicalized. It makes sense to build good relationships. It will benefit us to do whatever we can in Hinesville to build toward peace.”
The group going on the trip will be visiting officials to learn what daily life in Marsabit is like, several tribal groups to learn their history and culture, school children to deliver school supplies from Liberty County students, as well as other things.
The main event will include an inter-tribal choir performance, which will be composed of Americans and Kenyans from several tribes.
Rayman said many of those going on the trip are musicians or teachers.
“We are targeting musicians and teachers,” Rayman said. “If medical personal are interested, we have a backup plan for that where we could do a medical clinic, but our interests right now are with musicians and teachers.”
A crew will also be joining the group to produce a documentary of the trip. Pope will be assisting the camera crew. Rayman also said the eighth-grader will have the opportunity to sit in a classroom to meet other students of a different culture.
Rayman believes this trip will widen Pope’s vision and horizons.
“It helps you think in ways that you never thought before,” she said. “No matter where you grow up in the world, if all you know is what you see around you, then you are very limited to problem solving and how to view and approach life. When you get a chance to get outside the country, the relationships you make and the expanded world view are marvelous things for any young person. It’s a wonderful exposure.”
Pope has never been out of the country before, but he said he is excited for the opportunity. His mother, Melissa Lanier, is also excited.
“He says that he believes he will not only learn about the other culture, but he will also gain a new respect and appreciation for his country and hometown,” Lanier said.
Pope has been participating in activities at his church, Solid Rock Christian Church in Midway, and he plans to become a preacher and go on mission trips.
When Lanier and Rayman, both school nurses at different schools, met at a conference, Rayman learned of how strongly Pope feels about wanting to work in the ministry and government someday.
Rayman personally invited him along for the trip, knowing it would be a good experience for him.
Pope said it is all thanks to his social studies and history teachers at school who have given him the dream of going all over the world and trying to make a difference for others.
He will need to raise $3,500 to cover the trip expenses, and he plans to mow lawns and do other work for family and neighbors to earn the money.
A 5k fundraiser will take place May 31 in downtown Hinesville to help raise money for the cost of the trip. More information on the fundraiser can be found on the Hinesville community calendar.
Rayman said the plan is for people of Marsabit to come visit Hinesville next year.
To learn more about how to become a participant of the trip, contact Rayman at firstname.lastname@example.org.