Senior Pays Tribute to Missionary Trip Through Batik Project


McLeish takes a photo with one of the Kenyan children she aided during her missionary work.

Anna Sarpong, Staff Writer

It’s 7:50 a.m. and the Jeep rocks back and forth across the patchy, dirt road. On the sunny, hot plains of Kenya, Emma McLeish ‘21 gazes outside of the window, admiring the beauty of the unfamiliar world that encompasses her. In amazement, she watches one of the elephants directly approach the Jeep, its majestic ears swaying in the wind.

“My entire experience of going on the safari and seeing nothing in the beyond simply amazed me,” McLeish said. “Animals could come up to the Jeep at any point in time, and they did.”

McLeish did not realize how much she would reminisce about her experiences in Kenya until she was assigned the batik project in Fiber Arts. Out of her compelling encounters, she decided to dedicate her entire project as a tribute.

“I decided to do my batik project on an elephant that was walking in the sun,” McLeish said. “Elephants are my favorite animals. In Kenya, a few actually came up to our Jeep and I ended up taking so many pictures of them.”

A batik can be referred to as a textile that is decorated with the use of dyes, waxes and cloths, all put together to make a brilliant design.

McLeish took advantage of her excursion to Kenya not only to experience a new environment but to support poorer communities through missionary work along with the support of her family.

“We all went to one school, redecorated and repainted their entire classroom. Throughout the trip, we gave these kids school supplies and just played with them,” McLeish said. “They didn’t even care that we were renovating their classroom. All they wanted to do was spend time with us–that was the whole point. They saw us painting the classroom, adding chalkboards, and giving them supplies, yet that didn’t matter. It’s as if these kids were saying, ‘we get to hang out with people who care about us!’ And that was really impactful.”

Furthermore, McLeish’s encounters with several of the children during her stay enabled her to understand how fortunate her life is here in Indiana.

“It’s incredible how much we take for granted here and how much children in Kenya don’t. They have so little but they are in love with everything they have. It’s such a big difference,” McLeish said.

Even so, McLeish said that she would go back to Kenya in a heartbeat. The trip allowed her to not only grow closer with these children but also to her family.

“It was really amazing that my whole family could go to Kenya and bond together. It really was a nice family trip,” McLeish said. “Also, just the fact that we were so closely related to the people we missioned within Kenya was a great reminder of how significant the trip was.”

McLeish’s finished batik project.

Ultimately, McLeish’s travels to Kenya for a missionary trip enabled her to discover a passion she has to help others. This passion only grew more as she was able to express herself through art.

“I genuinely enjoyed the project. I especially liked the ironing part–when you actually see your project. The waxing is such a pain, but overall the process was really simple,” McLeish said. “However, for me, it was a really stressful one-time experience and the project took about a month to complete.”

Despite McLeish’s mixed feelings over the process of the batik project, the narratives and stories behind her work outweigh the negatives. Because her project had meaning, McLeish notes that she would be willing to do more projects in the future.

“I am not really the best at art nor am I creative,” McLeish laughed. “But after I made the batik, I saw how sincere it was that I even went. I got to create my very experiences through art.”