Casie Strausbaugh - General Care Projects in Kenya
For years, I’ve been eyeing the Projects Abroad website. In the spring of 2016, with my final year of school approaching, I knew it was time for me to apply for a trip and not let the opportunity slip away. After hours of contemplation and a few ‘pros and cons’ lists, I became passionate about participating in a Care Project in Kenya for four weeks. As soon as I submitted my application, I knew that I had just made the best decision of my life.
Arriving in Kenya
After leaving Washington, a layover in London and 22 hours of travel, I arrived in Nairobi. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to navigate the airport and find the Projects Abroad staff member after baggage claim. After a short 15-minute drive through the hustle and bustle of the city, we arrived at a nice hotel in the middle of downtown. There were six other volunteers who arrived at the same time as me and we departed together for Nanyuki, early the next morning. The three-hour drive north was my first glimpse at the street life, countryside, and market towns that have become staple images in my head of Kenya.
My host family
When I arrived in Nanyuki, I was first taken to meet my host family. Since I had never stayed with a host family before, I was certainly nervous. However, the nerves subsided almost immediately. My host family was so loving, welcoming, fun, and just all around amazing people. I stayed with a host mom, her two young daughters, and their nanny.
They always provided us with plenty of food, clean living accommodations, fun activities at the house, and would often take us on outings in town. Our host mom took us to church on Sunday mornings and on a daylong trip to Nairobi to go shopping. I was also extremely fortunate to have the most amazing roommate who is now one of my dearest friends. To this day, I still keep in touch with my host mom on Facebook and talk with my roommate on a regular basis.
My Care placement
My placement was at a home for disabled children. The facility is located 30-45 minutes south of Nanyuki so we needed to use public transportation to get there each day. Using public transportation was a bit scary at first, but I quickly grew to appreciate that it was another way for me to immerse myself in the daily life of local residents. The home combines school, residential dorms, and occupational/physiotherapy into one location for children with a number of disabilities. The 77 children who were there at the time ranged from young (4-5 years old) to teenagers (up to 16 years old). The home is a wonderful place with incredibly loving staff and a plethora of resources for the children that certainly cannot be found elsewhere in remote areas of Kenya.
While at the site, I helped primarily in the classroom and sometimes in the occupational therapy room. During this experience, I always felt as though I was making a difference and lending a helping hand. Sometimes making an impact was as easy as telling the children about America, showing them pictures of places I’ve travelled to, or simply conversing with them so they could practice their English.
Some activities I’d help with in the classroom included tutoring the children one-on-one or in small groups, grading papers for the teacher, or designing art projects for students during downtime. Activities I helped with in the occupational therapy room included helping the children walk between activities and participating in play activities with the children. By the end of my four weeks, I had learned an incredibly amount of information about children with disabilities and how they are assisted in other areas of the world versus in America. Most importantly, I developed bonds with both the children and the staff that were incredibly hard to leave behind and that I will cherish for a lifetime.
Free time in Kenya
While in Kenya, I had plenty of free time to explore, socialise, and relax. In the evenings, the other volunteers and I would hang out at the Project Abroad office in town, go to a local coffee shop or restaurant, or relax at home with our host families. I was fortunate to develop wonderful friendships quickly with the other volunteers, so I always had great people to hang out with during my down time.
On the weekends, the volunteers would go on a variety of trips. I went on a safari at Samburu National Park, went shopping at the markets in Nairobi, and visited an animal orphanage near town. Other volunteers had the opportunity to hike Mount Kenya and even flew to Mombasa for a weekend. My time in Nanyuki presented me with an unbelievable amount of free time opportunities that made the trip one of a kind!
The people I met, the places I saw, and some of the challenges I faced while in Kenya have changed me for the better. My motto for this trip was ‘great things never come from comfort zones’, and it couldn’t have been more applicable. My four weeks in Nanyuki weren’t always easy, but with help from the Projects Abroad staff, other volunteers and my host family, I was always able to tackle any challenge. I highly encourage everyone consider a trip to this wonderful country; I certainly wouldn’t trade my time there for the world!
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.