Volunteer stories : Tia T., Care & Community in Kenya
Arriving in Kenya
I flew from Dublin airport to Dubai and then onto Nairobi airport, the whole trip taking approximately 14 hours. I was met at arrivals by a very welcoming Projects Abroad worker and brought to the guest house in Nairobi. Nairobi was very intimidating; it is a very busy city with major traffic and not very “western” rules of the road. This was where I stayed for one night with several other volunteers. The next morning I was brought by “matatu” (a fascinating experience of a very crowded public bus) to Nanyuki with another Projects Abroad worker. The drive to the town of Nanyuki took about three hours but it was so scenic I didn’t mind. Once in Nanyuki I was directed to the Projects Abroad office. This was where we could socialise with other volunteers and use the Wi-Fi. I was given a tour of Nanyuki village where I bought a local phone and then I was brought to my host family.
My Host Family
From the second I met my host mother I was astounded by the incredibly warm Kenyan welcome. I was immediately made one of the family and I have never felt so loved by someone I knew for such a short period! I was with one other volunteer in the house and I was given my own bedroom. The family had a maid who cleaned our clothes and often made us pancakes for breakfast and packed lunches for the day.
The evenings with my host family were one of the highlights of my whole trip. My host mother, her young daughter, the other volunteer and I would cuddle up on the couch in the sitting room under a blanket to watch television with chai and biscuits and talk about our days. I felt so included in their family and we exchanged so many stories about our own cultures and lives. I also played with my host mother’s daughter and we often went for walks around their enclosed compound. When I had a small bee problem in my room she was so understanding about my fear of insects and gave me something to kill them. My host mother gave me beautiful traditional earrings when I left and I still speak to her today! The food was at times hard to get used to but overall there weren’t many dishes that I couldn’t eat; it was strange eating dinner at 8/9 pm at night though which is their normal!
My Care Placement
My first day at Springfair Academy primary school was spent first speaking to the principal and meeting the staff and then receiving my assignment to a classroom. I spent my mornings teaching English, science and social studies to my class and tried to make my lessons as interactive as possible. I brought balloons and giant math sets to the school which the children loved. I played with them at break time in the playground and organised team games like skipping and football with them.
In the afternoons, due to a request from the principal, I taught one hour of French to the whole school (aside from the youngest class as they were still only learning English). I taught them basic greetings, colours, animals, clothes and other simple vocabulary while also teaching them “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in French which they loved singing with the actions. I was the only volunteer in the school for my first week, and then another volunteer my own age arrived for my last two weeks. I still talk to her and we visit each other even though she lives in Holland - she is now one of my best friends! My usual day started at 9:00 am and ended at 3:00 pm. I learned so much humility and saw so much poverty here, it was at times heartbreaking but I will cherish these days forever.
After my work in the school I would usually go back to the Projects Abroad office to talk to my family and friends on Facebook or catch up with the other volunteers doing various other placements around the village. We all became a close knit group of friends during my time there and we often went to the local cafes for milkshakes and cake. One evening we were brought to a local market by a local girl our age where we tried barbecued corn with spices by a street vendor, it was delicious! I also visited the equator, more markets and a local swimming pool in the evenings.
Projects Abroad also allowed us to have outreach days where we took days off from our placements to experience the local culture. I went to two: one was a cholera education seminar and cleanup of a slum estate and the other was a trip to a Maasai village in Samburu.
Both of my weekends were spent away from my host home. The first weekend our group of volunteers went on a two night, three day hiking trip up Mount Kenya. This was an extraordinary experience even though it was the hardest physical thing I have ever done. I made it to the top of Africa’s second highest mountain which is one of my proudest memories. The second weekend we went on a one night trip to Ol Pejeta Conservancy Safari Park. Here we got the chance to see wild zebras, giraffes, buffalo, rhinos and even a sleeping lion. This was my favourite memory of the trip as it is what you first think of when you think of Kenya! The scenery and stunning wildlife is something no documentary can really capture, it is so much more breathtaking when you see and experience it with your own eyes. I have made so many amazing memories and friends here and learned more than I thought possible in only three weeks!
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