Jocy He - Care & Community in Kenya
During my summer before senior year, I finally decided to go on Project Abroad’s two-week Care & Community Project in Kenya, Africa. It took two years to convince my parents to let me go and it turned out to be the most exciting and unforgettable experience of my life.
Arriving in Kenya
I flew from San Francisco, California, to Nairobi, Kenya, with stops in Washington Dulles, Virginia, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Unfortunately, I experienced a delay in Virginia that caused me to miss my flight in Ethiopia. I spent 14 hours in the Ethiopian airport which was tiring, but Projects Abroad handled my delays with patience and quick replies.
I arrived in Nairobi at around 1:30 am, after passing through customs and baggage claim. Customs was not as scary as I thought it would be. Lilian and Cleopas, two of the Projects Abroad staff members, picked me up and I stayed in a Nairobi hotel for one night before leaving for Nanyuki in the afternoon. Nanyuki is a three-hour scenic drive from Nairobi and it was so cool to see the difference between both the capital and the smaller town.
My host family
I lived with my host parents, Lucy and Eliud, and my Project Advisor, Maggie, in a beautiful double story house about 10 minutes away from the central part of the town. Lucy and Eliud have a set of adorable twins and a seven-year-old daughter who greeted us with a hug every day after work. Maggie has a toddler who is very cute as well. My two roommates and I enjoyed playing with them during our free time. We also bought gifts for our host family, which they really appreciated.
I bought a San Francisco hat and mug and toys for the family. The house maid prepared delicious food every day. I was nervous because I am a picky eater, but the food was really good! We usually had cabbage, sheep stew, and pasta or rice. Chapati, a flatbread similar to Indian naan, and ugali, a type of rice cake, were also common. I really enjoyed their milk tea as well.
My Care & Community Project
I worked at Hope & Home, a school and orphanage that was approximately 15 minutes away from my host family’s house. Maggie accompanied us to Hope & Home every day and was with us at all times. Since the Care & Community group was small (only one of my roommates and me), we fixed and replaced windows on the school buildings instead of working on a bigger project. A handyman joined us and we had interesting conversations about our cultures throughout the course of the two weeks! As much as I loved fixing windows, we didn’t have the chance to spend time with children as often as I wanted to, so I spoke to Maggie about this. Dennis, the Care & Community Manager, and Maggie solved this problem, and we had many more opportunities to interact with the children in their classrooms the next week. We taught the sixth grade Social Studies class and coloured pictures with younger children. During breaks, my partner and I passed out balloons, stickers and candy which the children really enjoyed! The kids were all so friendly and welcoming, and I miss them the most!
My free time
During the weekend, all of the High School Special volunteers in Kenya joined in on the Saturday safari. We went to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a beautiful reserve where we spotted all kinds of exotic animals. We saw elephants, zebras, gazelles and even lions! We stopped at certain places in the conservancy to feed a blind rhino, see chimpanzees, and eat lunch. The safari was an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. On Sunday, we went to a Maasai village in Samburu, which was a one-hour drive away. At the village, we performed a dance before seeing how the nomadic tribe lives. It was incredible to see how they could live in such tiny houses! We were given the chance to shop in their market afterward, and I bought some of my souvenirs and trinkets there.
Projects Abroad responded to my emails very quickly and efficiently. My Volunteer Advisor, Jonatan, was very helpful and informative in guiding me through the process of applying for visas, paying for the project, and packing for my trip, even though I signed up only three months prior to my project. I also had major flight delays but Projects Abroad picked up my phone calls right away and addressed the issues efficiently. In Kenya, I unfortunately got a bug bite and infection that needed to be seen to at a hospital. It all went very well and everyone took care of me.
Overall, this trip has been so memorable and exciting. It was my first time flying to a different country by myself and all the worries and nervousness I had melted away when I met the kids and the people there. I had a great time and I would definitely go again.
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.