Many Hopes Volunteers Engaged in Kenya

I absolutely love how very touching this proposal story and video is of two Many Hopes volunteers.

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Brooke: About two and a half years ago, a handful of folks from Many Hopes, a volunteer-based nonprofit organization, moved from Boston to DC to take new jobs. Thankfully, they decided to bring Many Hopes with them. To get the DC chapter going, they held a house party with about 70 attendees, of which I was one. They projected a video about the work that Many Hopes does in Kenya on the garden wall, and as the intro music from a little-known instrumental band started, I thought to myself, “Whoever made this video has great taste in music.” A few weeks later, I found myself at a dinner meeting for those interested in being part of the DC chapter. As we settled in around a large, family-style table in Chinatown, I ended up sitting next to a good-looking guy in a cocked Red Sox hat. Not a great first impression for a Phillies fan, but we struck up easy conversation as the night wore on.

As our involvement with the organization deepened, so did our friendship. Soon, we were taking turns visiting one another on weekends, as DJ was living near Richmond at the time. He business began to bring him to DC more and more often, and a year and a half later, he moved exactly three miles down the road from me.

DJ: It wasn’t too long after the move that I realized that this was someone truly special I was dealing with. Beautiful, thoughtful, wildly intelligent, down-to-earth, with a penchant for cooking and making the world a better place? I mean, c’mon! More than that, I had a pretty good hunch that she felt similarly.

I’ve always had the idea that proposals should be a surprise, so I skipped most talk of marriage or where this might be going, and jumped right to catching up with my mother to get the engagement ring my grandmother once wore. Over Thanksgiving, I asked Brooke’s father for his blessing, and after talking it over with her Mom, he whispered in my ear as we left that they would be honored.

Brooke: I had no idea any of this had happened. A few weeks after Thanksgiving, we joined a group that traveled to Kenya to visit Mudzini Kwetu, the girls’ home for which Many Hopes raises funds. We spent the week surrounded by the warmth and laughter of our 40+ energetic “nieces,” learning their names and talents and favorite colors, getting to know these little ones whose lives and stories grow more powerful by the day.

DJ: I’d visited Mudzini a couple times already for photography and video work, so I already knew that while I might be able to dream up a perfect proposal scenario, once I was on the ground, I’d only have what was available to make it all come together. So, while there was a kernel of an idea, most of the planning came together only once we had arrived and I could scheme with the Many Hopes staff and other volunteers on the trip.

Brooke: On our second-to-last day, all of the girls, staff, and visitors piled into cars and mutatus (Google that) and drove to a private beach for swimming and a bonfire. Around the fire, the girls held their nightly singing and prayer time, which concluded with a time of thanksgiving. A few of the girls stood up and shared their gratefulness for Mudzini Kwetu and for the people who make their lives there possible through Many Hopes, as did a few staff members. Then it was DJ’s turn.

DJ: I actually wrote a longer more eloquent version of what I wanted to say a few nights before. Brooke and I had separate rooms, so each night before bed, I’d sit awake on my laptop, rehearsing and refining the words. On that night, however, in my nervousness, I think I only remembered about a quarter of them.

Brooke: He stood in front of the fire and told the story of how we came to know each other. He explained to the girls that if it hadn’t been for them, we would never have met, and so it seemed only right to include them when he decided to do what he did next…which you can probably guess involved getting down one knee, followed by a whole lot of little girls screaming and cheering. It was a far more meaningful proposal than I would ever have been able to imagine for myself. Watch the video…you’ll see.

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Video by the groom, himself, of Firefly Imageworks