Looking forward to a new kind of normal

This weeks travel tale is provided by Rachel, Our Marketing and Communications manager. Rachel talks about adapting to a new COVID-19 influenced lifestyle and the heartbreak of realising her trip to Kenya with Derby County Community Trust was no longer going ahead.

It’s a lovely sunny day at the end of July and I’m sat here, in my garden thinking about everything that has happened over the past few months: events that we could never have predicted. Normally, at this time, I would be at work, with my fabulous team, going through marketing and communications tasks for the week. I can’t complain that I have the time to enjoy the sun but I do miss being at work, my colleagues, and the very important job that we do with the aim of improving lives in the UK and Africa. I was due to travel to Kenya in May, which of course didn’t happen, but I very much hope I will be able to go soon: I am sure this hope is shared by many of our volunteers. I thought I would put my thoughts down on ‘paper’ to share with you, as I can only imagine that many of you will be having similar feelings.

At the beginning of this year, I agreed with Dan (Founder of African Adventures) that I would travel to Kenya with Derby County Community Trust, a group from which has traveled with us for the past few years and has made an incredible impact at several of our partner projects. I felt many emotions, amongst these excitement, determination, apprehension. The reason for my apprehension? I have two young children – aged two and five – and was starting to think about what it would be like to be away from them for so long. However, I knew it was something I wanted – almost needed – to do, and after over six years of not being able to travel, due to having my boys, it definitely felt like a visit was long overdue. I have never been to Kenya with African Adventures and I am desperate to experience everything that I communicate to our volunteers, first hand. I first traveled to Kenya to volunteer in the slums of Kibera, Nairobi, when I was 24, so – without revealing my age! – it has been a long time since I have visited this beautiful country. I was in the process of arranging my visa and looking into vaccinations when COVID-19 hit the UK and everything changed. It soon became clear that our trip to Kenya at the end of May was not meant to be – indeed all trips for the year have now been cancelled, leaving so many volunteers disappointed. I feel so sad for everyone who has: worked hard to raise the money to afford their trip; been looking forward to experiencing the beauty of Kenya for the first time; been counting down the days, weeks and months to their trip; longed to go back to visit friends and places close to their heart.

A trip with African Adventures is so much more than a holiday – it is a journey of discovery, a changing of perceptions and an opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives. Having this taken away is really tough, and I have such sympathy for our volunteers going through this. Of course, the feeling of disappointment is very much shared by our teams of incredible staff, our partner projects, and the children we work with in Ghana, Kenya and Zanzibar. The support that our partner projects receive as a result of our trips is paramount to their development, and it is devastating that they have missed out on all this support over the past few months, and will have to do so over the coming months as well.Thanks to government support, my team has been able to benefit from the furlough scheme over the past few months. I am fortunate that this has allowed me to be at home to look after my sons, and to attempt some kind of home-schooling – this has proven to me, without question, that I am not cut out to be a teacher, and I believe them to be superhuman! There have been many challenges along the way but I feel extremely lucky that I have been able to spend so much time with my children – time that I would not ordinarily have. I know that this horribly uncertain time has been less kind to others and has been a great worry for some – I can only hope that you, our volunteers and supporters, have found a way to manage this period in the best way for you.

I am now starting to look to the future, and hoping that my time to travel to Kenya will present itself before too long. Indeed, I cannot wait for our trips to start running again so that our volunteers are able to embark on the adventure that they are so looking forward to, and that our partner projects are able to benefit once again from the support that African Adventures provides them. I can only hope that our trips, when they are able to happen, are all the more incredible for the delay in taking them. There is no question that our partner projects are going to need our support now more than ever before and I, for one, have a deep passion to do all I can to help get African Adventures back to the strong position it was in, to allow our vital work to continue. I look forward to ‘speaking’ to you all when we return to work in a few months’ time. I look forward to getting back to a new kind of normal – a normal which will involve a resurgence of wonderful experiences for all those connected to African Adventures.