Earlier this week I wrote my first blog from Kenya, having been there for two days… Now, I write this as I sit on the plane awaiting take-off for me flight home, after an eventful – and memorable – few days. In my first account, I wrote about my first day volunteering, at Ungana Academy, which was eye-opening and heart-warming. The following three days were spent visiting our other partner schools: The Walk Centre, West End, Cherish, Jubilee, and Chaddy Mission. What an incredible few days. Each school is so different but they all have one big similarity: they provide opportunity for children who may not otherwise be able to receive an education. Those who run these schools are inspirational and generous people who provide a safe haven where children can flourish, and the smiles on children’s faces are testament to the positive and nurturing environments that have been created for them.
I watched as African Adventures’ volunteers, from Derby County Community Trust (DCCT), threw themselves into the experience, making notable impact with development work and engaging with the children in such a special way, learning more about themselves in the process. I observed the children’s smiles and laughter as they shared time with volunteers, whose time was dedicated to them – playing games, singing songs and learning new things. I witnessed the volunteers’ wonder at the strength and beauty of these children, who have almost nothing but act as if they have the world, such is their positivity and joy. I experienced so many emotions, I couldn’t possibly name them all. A trip with African Adventures is not a holiday, and it is not without its difficulties – it is a challenging and rewarding experience, and one which I truly believe that every person should have at least once in their life. One volunteer told me that she believed that “it is when we step out of our comfort zones that we learn the most” and I couldn’t agree more.
Perhaps the most emotional part of my trip was when I visited the Hilton Dumpsite, where many of the Walk Centre pupils live. Nothing can prepare someone for this; I have seen so many pictures of the dumpsite, and I thought this would make it less difficult for me to experience it. I was wrong. The smells, the flies, the pigs and goats in amongst the rubbish, where families have their ‘houses’; nobody should live like this. Thank goodness the children have the Walk Centre to escape to each day. Since writing the bulk of this blog, I have spoken to several of the DCCT group about their dumpsite visit, and the theme has been the same, with feedback such as “I don’t think I can put into words how I feel, having just seen that” and “Heartbreaking – I felt helpless. Nobody should live like that”. It’s something that is very hard to witness, but this is reality for thousands of people, and it is important that we realise this, so that we continue to do what we can to change things for these children.
It has been very special this past week getting to know the DCCT group – it’s been an absolute pleasure sharing the experience with them, and I have been inspired by their drive and positivity. It is no wonder that this fantastic group achieves so much each year. They are led by an amazing man – Paul Newman – who inspires and motivates those around him. The Kenya trip has become a huge part of his life, and his family’s life too, with his dad, brother and two sons joining him this year, as they have on previous trips. This group embraces the experience and they take so much from it as a result, whilst also making a notable impact during their visit.
Fittingly, my trip ended with a group safari at Lake Nakuru National Park. Wow. We were blessed to see four of the big five, as well as a plethora of other animals. It was absolutely beautiful and I feel so lucky to have been able to experience it. It is wonderful, but strange, to be home – it takes some adjustment after such an experience. Kenya – what a diverse, interesting and beautiful place. Thank you for the memories.