Kenya 2013 – One Month Volunteer

After I left school in 2013 I went on the trip of a lifetime with Camps International and went to Kenya for a month to do charity work. 

It is an experience I will never forget and love to talk about – perhaps a little too much if you ask people who know me well, as I tell the same stories 1,000 times over… Well, wouldn’t you if you had experienced all this?!

 

Throughout my trip to Kenya, I stayed at 5 different camps across the country, our first camp was called Camp Imani and was a slight shock to the system…

We slept in tents, our ‘toilets’ (if you can class them as that) were holes in the ground, we washed with of our limited water supply in a bucket, a far cry from my life back home…

At each camp we had certain charity work to fulfill, in our first camp, we were tasked with helping rebuild a primary school.

The walls and floors were poorly built, with cracks, lumps, and bumps everywhere.

our first job was to take a sledgehammer to the floor to get it all up so we could re-lay it. Interestingly I haven’t decided to focus on the fact someone allowed me to have a sledgehammer, but more that during all of this, the school was closed due to the teachers being on strike, but every day that we were working there were always children around the school, in their school uniform… When asked what they were doing there they simply said they wanted to learn. That was the first time I felt my eyes being opened to this unforgettable place.

One of the children had to look after her little sister, while her mother worked, despite all the people carrying tools and concrete around, everyone who was smashing the old floor with sledgehammers, all the chatter, and noise, this girl’s little sister managed to find herself a quiet step to have a nap. She caught my attention and I couldn’t help but capture the moment.

 

Out of all the things I will never forget about Kenya, one of the most wonderful things are the colours and music, it sums up everything about these astonishing people and their culture.

At Camp Imani on the first day we were welcomed with a dance by the local women, it was so much fun and such a lovely welcome to their world.

We did all have ago at the dance, but I think it may be best left to the professionals judging by the laughter we received when we tried it.

 

By the end of the first day, everything I owned was covered in that orange sand…

 

After arriving and settling in, the whole team came together to do yoga as the sun set behind the mountains.

I don’t think I could ever explain in words what a truly wonderful experience that was.

 

This may look like an ordinary sunset, not even the best one but the reason this was such a special unforgettable moment, was because I was sat on a mountain to take it.

Prior to this picture being taken, we hiked up a mountain, Elle had sat on a cactus-like plant, I was exhausted, everyone was covered in the orange sand that covered most of the area we were in, but we finally arrived, we sat on a rock halfway up the mountain and got to watch the sunset. Breathtaking isn’t the word, I am sorry that I couldn’t capture the beauty with a camera, but is a memory that will never leave me.

 

This is Mama, she was in charge at camp Imani, she was the warmest and friendliest lady I have ever met.

This picture was taken on our last day at the camp, she was so surprised and happy that I wanted a picture with her, but I suppose she doesn’t know that she made the whole trip as special as it was.

Her name suited her down to the ground, I was worried to go to another camp and not have Mama with me. She made it all feel so safe and I loved every moment I spent with her.

 

 

One of our projects was to build an A&E. Yep. Not rebuild, build from the ground up.

The town we were staying in had hundreds of unnecessary deaths as the nearest hospital was over 30 minutes drive away and the majority of the locals couldn’t drive.

This was an insane experience.

When we arrived the floor had been laid already by a previous group, which was a massive help.

There were different stations around the location were meant to build this A&E, the first station was the ‘brick makers’.

So, we were each given a machete, a pile of odd shaped large rocks and a pair of sunglasses and our job was to hit the rocks into the shape of a brick with our machetes… Unsure of the health and safety implications but I have to say it was incredibly therapeutic to hit a rock with a machete repeatedly.

The second station was the ‘concrete makers’, they had to mix cement mix, sand and water together by hand to make the cement to lay the bricks with.

While the first two groups set to work on their jobs, others were working on making scaffolding for us to stand on which was made of sticks and rope.

Once the first three groups had finished their assigned projects, we all began bricklaying and actually building walls of the A&E, while stood on our stick scaffolding.

Once we had done as much of the building as we could in our limited time at this town, we then had to plaster the inside. This was done with the hand-mixed concrete which dried so quickly in the heat.

We only spent a week in this town, so left the remaining work for the next group of Camps International volunteers.

 

The A&E by the time we left

 

While we were working on the A&E the local children were very curious about us.

Within half an hour they had decided they were helping us, they were bringing us bricks and providing entertainment while we worked, as well as continuously asking for chocolates.

They didn’t leave our side for the entire week we worked.

 

The children’s curiosity didn’t end when we went back to camp, we spent many evenings in each town playing with the local children, football was especially popular, but on this evening as the sun was going down we taught the local children Head Shoulders Knees & Toes.

Their fascination with us didn’t falter our entire trip, they really made it something special and made the hard work seem all the more worthwhile.

The cutest little helper.

 

A few of these were brought from local shops, but the majority were made while we were there.

At the beach camp we stayed at, they had organised a beach flipflop clean up project, out of the collected flipflops we made all sorts! ornaments, jewellery and anything else you can imagine. These were then sold on to help raise money for another beach clean up. These bracelets can be seen above, that look spongey. The great thing is, as they were made from flipflops the material didn’t deteriorate in water!

We also had a session with the local women to create our own bead bracelets, we made a huge selection for them to sell on their various stands or in their shops, but we were allowed to keep a few, which are also photoed above.

We spent a day working with some of the men who worked on coconut tree’s, there is so much you can make out of the leaves of these trees, including a big leaf bracelet (this one didn’t last that long once it got wet, unfotunately).

A leaf hat!
It wasn’t ALL work and no play…

Two days out of the month we got rest days, where they took us to a local hotel resort for the day to relax, eat some delicious food and enjoy the tropical beaches.

My favorite part of this was riding these gorgeous camels along the beach, my camel was named Yasin and was a big fan of cuddles (me too, Yasin. Me too.)

The man who was leading the camels actually owned them and kept them with his family, they were very well looked after and very friendly, making the experience even more enjoyable.

 

This guy was my favorite!

He made me a pair of shorts and trousers, made-to-measure. Unfortunately, I don’t fit in them so well 5 years on, but I do still have them for sentimental value.

He was so cheerful and tried to convince me every day to buy more, a great salesman if nothing else.

A lot of our group purchased clothing from him and he couldn’t have been happier to measure us all up and have our personalised clothes made.

What would a trip to Kenya be without a safari?

One of the best days was spent on a safari, I took SO many pictures, but due to the bumpy terrain and the distance, most of them weren’t the best quality.

But it was absolutely phenomenal how many glorious creatures we saw and I was so happy to see they were being kept so safe in a huge nature reserve.

The elephants were definitely the highlight for me, there were so many of them and they were enormous!

We Are One
The sad truth

We have all seen the adverts and videos, yet you cannot comprehend what it is like to not have water readily available to you.

So many people had to walk for a long time to get to a water pump and carry heavy buckets of water back home.

This was a hard pill to swallow, Kenya was spectacular and beautiful and a lot of fun but the sad truth is that this the reality for millions of people across many countries.

A definite eye-opener to say the least, but all things considered, every single person I met in Kenya was warm and friendly and happy, which was fantastic, I just wish I could do more.

Deworming goats

A lot of our work was big jobs, but we also helped with the smaller tasks, like de-worming the local people’s goats, to keep the goats healthy.

Contrary to popular belief, this is done by shotting a medicinal liquid under their tongue – not in the other end.

This may seem small but was invaluable to the people who owned these goats, to provide food for their families, from healthy goats.

Alongside this, we also cleared dead plants and planted new trees in surrounding forests.

A lot of our work was big jobs, but we also helped with the smaller tasks, like de-worming the local people’s goats, to keep the goats healthy.

Contrary to popular belief, this is done by shotting a medicinal liquid under their tongue – not in the other end.

This may seem small but was invaluable to the people who owned these goats, to provide food for their families, from healthy goats.

Alongside this, we also cleared dead plants and planted new trees in surrounding forests.

 

With love,
Lily

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