A Madison County teacher is using her summer break to help teach students in Africa.
"I was a little nervous because I had never really ever left the country before," Mackenzi Mathews said.
She traveled almost 8,000 miles across the Atlantic to help teach at an orphan school in Migori, Kenya.
"They sang us songs and greeted us. They love shaking your hands and asking questions and touching your skin and your hair," Mathews said.
That's how Mackenzie Mathews was greeted when she first arrived to Golden State Academy. A total of 400 students go to the school, and 100 of those students are orphans.
"What they have there is just raw and real and you can just see what they're feeling whether it's pain or excitement," Mathews said.
Mathews is a 4th and 5th grade teacher at Harvest Elementary School. She decided she wanted to do something different this summer, so she went to Kenya.
"Just getting to see the villages and the community that they live in was really eye-opening," Mathews said.
During her trip, she taught kids the importance of staying clean while helping teachers understand the importance of their jobs. Her group brought 14 suitcases full of school supplies that were collected by the community here in North Alabama.
They also bought mattresses and bunk beads to allow all 100 orphans to stay at the school. The group also bought enough food to last them a month.
"They would just shout and sing at the top of their lungs because they were just so excited," Mathews said.
However, she says she also learned something while there.
"They do not have a lot of things there, but they do have a really strong sense of community. I would really love to bring that back to the schools because we are here most of the day all week long. So, I'd really like to make this feel like a family," Mathews said.
Two other teachers at Harvest Elementary are also traveling this summer to help students and teachers abroad. One of them led a teacher training at a school in Africa while the other teacher will be going to Israel in August.
"I want to bring that energy back into my classroom to just how exciting learning can be and community can be, because it's a really awesome thing to be a group," Mathews said.