Harriet Kinahan - Care & Community in Kenya
Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to volunteer abroad. When I heard about Projects Abroad, I knew it was just the thing I was looking for so I signed up straight away. Then came the slightly daunting task of fundraising, but thankfully I managed to raise the money I needed to head off to Kenya during my school summer holidays. With all my vaccinations and a back-breaking rucksack, I was ready to head off - full of nerves and excitement at the prospect of the volunteering trip of a lifetime.
My host family
The host family I stayed with were so welcoming that I instantly felt part of the family. My host mother had five children but only the youngest two girls lived at home. They were eager to teach me Kiswahili and loved performing dance routines for me. In return, I taught them card games which became quite competitive.
Staying with a host family was a great way to learn more about Kenyan culture as you have first-hand experience of it. My host family served us traditional Kenyan food and I grew to love chapattis during my time there. I was also fortunate to be placed with two other female volunteers, one from America and another from Japan, whom I made firm friends with over the two weeks of my stay.
My Care project
Hope Children’s Ministry, one of our care placements, was in a very deprived area. Despite the poverty, we received a warm welcome from the children when we arrived. As soon as we opened the gate to the school yard the children ran full pelt at us with their arms open and the widest of smiles on their faces. All afternoon we were kept on our toes as every single child at the school wanted our undivided attention. It really felt as though we were back at school ourselves. We played with balloons, taught hand games and attempted games of football. Even the rain couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces as we went inside and I heard the best alphabet song ever - it included some great dance moves.
My Community project
Another part of my project involved building a toilet block at a local orphanage and school. We would work on this every morning and, over the 2 weeks we were there, we completed it and presented it to the school. Manoeuvring the rocks in wheelbarrows and making cement (without a cement mixer) was very tiring, but seeing the block grow day by day and knowing how long it would last in the future was so rewarding.
The best part of building the toilet block was the plastering. I never imagined that plastering would take as long as it did – about 3 mornings worth of work! Plastering involved flinging extremely watery cement at the walls and getting the majority of it all over ourselves. By the end of it we looked like we’d been showered with mud!
Travelling in Kenya at the weekend
At the weekend, the medical and care volunteers went on two trips together. The first trip was to Lake Baringo, and en route we stopped off at a snake sanctuary. We were able to hold some of the larger snakes and were shown a chameleon that some of the local children had found at the side of the road. It looked just as comical in the flesh as it does in cartoons.
Lake Baringo had crocodiles in it which made our boat trip extremely exciting as we were able to get very close to them. In the centre of the lake we visited an island where a ninety-something year old man lived with his five wives, the youngest of whom was around 14 years old. This exposed us to a different culture within Kenya and it was extremely interesting.
The second trip we went on was to Lake Nakuru National Park for a safari. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. The amount of animals we saw was incredible. We spotted rhinos, zebras, giraffes and flamingos to name but a few. It was nice to have some time off as the weeks were so busy and this time allowed us to see more of Kenya.
Returning to the UK
Leaving Kenya was sad as I had met so many incredible people and had such an amazing time. My experience in Kenya will stay with me for life and, for me; it has confirmed that I definitely want to pursue a career in which I work with people. In the future I hope I get the chance to go back to Kenya!
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.