Jayshrie Sivananthan - Care & Community in Kenya
During the summer of 2014, I spent two incredible weeks volunteering for the Care & Community project in Nakuru, Kenya. I decided to join the High School Special programme because, as a 17 year old travelling alone, I felt that this would be a great way to meet and volunteer with people my own age.
Arriving in Kenya
When I arrived at the airport in Nairobi after a long flight from London, I was really nervous. After all, it was my first time volunteering abroad and I was all by myself. However, as soon as I exited the airport, I was greeted by two Projects Abroad staff members and was introduced to two other volunteers who had just arrived at the airport. Everyone was so friendly and my nerves were soon replaced by excitement.
The two other volunteers and I were taken to a guesthouse in Nairobi to stay the night before driving to Nakuru the following morning. The 2.5 hour drive to Nakuru went by quickly, with all of us chatting and getting to know each other along the way. We even stopped by a viewpoint where we saw a stunning view of the Rift Valley.
Upon arriving in Nakuru the next day, we were taken to the Projects Abroad office where we met all the other volunteers on the project and were given a brief introduction. We were also shown around the town and were taken to buy Kenyan sim cards. In the evening, we were taken to meet our host families. By then, any nerves I had previously were gone completely and I couldn’t wait to get started at my placement!
My host family
My host mum was called Rose. She had a beautiful home, overlooking Lake Nakuru where I stayed with two other volunteers. Rose was very welcoming and kind and I immediately felt comfortable and at home.
Every evening, Christine, the housekeeper, would cook us delicious Kenyan traditional food such as Chapati, Ugali and Beef Stew. Over dinner, we’d chat to Rose about our day and she’d tell stories about her life in Kenya.
My Care & Community placement
My placement was at Bethesda Childcare Centre. Every morning, we would help out with the cementing and painting of rooms in a new building that was being built there. We carried out tasks such as chipping the floor, filtering gravel, mixing cement as well as sandpapering and painting the walls. Some of the work was physically demanding but it was fulfilling. All the other volunteers and I got along really well and it felt fantastic to be able to work as part of a team.
In the afternoon, we would spend time with the children at Bethesda. This was definitely my favourite part of the project. The kids, aged 4-7, were so enthusiastic, full of energy and always bursting with smiles. We played games such a football and tag and sang nursery rhymes with them. The kids even taught us a rhyme in Swahili!
I noticed however, that a lot of the kids at Bethesda didn’t own a proper pair of shoes, yet most of them had to make the 3.5km walk from their homes to Bethesda every single day. I came up with the idea to buy each of the 75 children at Bethesda a new pair of shoes. With the amazing cooperation of the Projects Abroad staff and the other volunteers, we actually managed to make this happen.
The other volunteers and I came up with the money by each contributing some (some of our family members contributed as well) and the staff members helped out with the buying of the shoes. It was an amazing feeling to present the shoes to the kids and see the smiles on their faces.
My two weeks in Kenya weren’t all work. We were given the opportunity to visit some of the fantastic sites in Nakuru. We got the chance to see the breath-taking views at the Menengai Crater and Thomson Falls. We also were given the opportunity to learn more about Kenyan culture by joining a cooking class (we were taught how to make Chapati) as well as a traditional dance lesson (it’s not easy, but its lots of fun!).
During the weekend, we visited the Lake Nakuru safari as well at the Lake Naivasha boat safari. Seeing the giraffes, zebras, antelope, buffaloes, hippos and other wildlife up close was incredible. It was like a scene out of a movie.
My two weeks in Kenya were an amazing experience that I will keep with me forever. I’ve made so many new friends and so many incredible memories. Kenya is a beautiful country with a unique culture and lovely people. I definitely recommend visiting 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.