I have lost count as to how many times I have sat down to write this blog about our trip to the GLO, and each time I try I find it so difficult to find words to justify our experience. So l will start from the beginning and see where it ends up!
My connection with the GLO stems back to 2009 when I was the Manchester Rose of Tralee. As part of my ‘Rose’ duties I was encouraged to support a Mancunian run charity. As a relative newbie to Manchester at the time I sought advice from a few locals and when the Goodlife was mentioned I knew I wanted to help. So I contacted the lovely Mary (also a Tyrone woman which made my decision all the more appropriate) and after a chat in Starbucks I made the decision I was going to do something to help. A charity ball in Manchester, a Tyrone fundraiser, £1000 and one year later our cases were stuffed with necessities for the GLO and St Mary’s and St Bernadette’s School and I was boarding the Thompson flight with my beautiful mum for a two week volunteer stay at the GLO!
We arrived at Mombasa airport around 6.30am where the famous Nico, a lifelong friend of the Orphanage, welcomed us warmly and took us to our destination. Nico is one special gentleman, and is totally on the ball when it comes to the children and their needs! He is a wealth of information so we enjoyed picking his brains about the local area and the standards of living! After a bumpy ride we reached the orphanage. Straight away we were struck by the bright white building, a palace in comparison to the homes of the locals in the area; it was reassuring for us ‘muzungos’ to see such a secure and relatively western style building. As we opened the car doors we were quite overwhelmed to have finally got there, and what was better was that we were greeted so warmly by 3 of the older children, Colins, Abdulha and Rachel. They insisted on taking our luggage, despite our protestations, and delivered it to our rooms. This ethos applied the whole trip, the children, house mothers and aunties, the guards and everyone who works at the orphanage, could not do enough to help us; ironic really when the whole reason we were there was to help them!!
Helping janet with the washing
We wasted no time in getting stuck in and by lunch time we had helped wash the clothes in the barrels of water with a scrubbing brush, (back to basics as mummy described it) and helped to feed the babies. Alan, the now “African man from Mayo” was a pleasant addition to the team for us! Alan is a straight talking, hardworking, dedicated fella, who loves his life in Africa. He works so hard to improve the lives of the people he works with and we are very privileged and lucky to now regard him as a friend! We especially loved our cups of ‘Irish’ tea out in the playground, after the children had gone to bed, discussing the day’s happenings and ideas of what we could do the next day. The Irish tea became a bit of a treat, and with each evening we always had an extra cup to make. The house mothers and aunties loved having someone make them a cuppa but it was only good enough to drink when we added two large sugars for them!! They have a sweet tooth when it comes to their hot drinks.
tea with alan, out last one! for now
We spent most of our lunch and dinner times with Mama Lucy, Auntie Dorothy and Auntie Isabella. These girls have their hands full with Diarmuid, Amanda, Mercy, Angel and Lawrence (my special little guy) and then brother and sister Brian and Cynthia. They are at school and a good help in the house! However, Auntie Marajuma and Domitellas’ chipatis were savoured many a day. I am now a pro at making them after a lesson from Marajuma – she assures me it is a surefire way of getting my boyfriend to marry me, it hasn’t worked yet so I must have some tweaking to do!! 

Food was much better than we expected and with Mary’s influence, combined with the African cooking methods, each day supplies the children with 3 nutritional and tasty meals. We tried everything and most things we really enjoyed. However, Ugali which is the equivalent of potatoes to us, was not to our taste.
lunch time at dommys
learning to make chipatis
When we planned our trip we agreed that we would get stuck in as best we could to get the most out of our 2 weeks at the GLO and that we did. Days at the orphanage began with helping the mamas give the babies their breakfast and helping to get the porridge ready for break time at school. All of the children who go to the school from the orphanage come home at 10am and 12noon for break and lunch. Each house takes it in turn to make the porridge for break time. When I say porridge it is quite different to ours. It reminded me of hot chocolate, only not just as sweet. The kids however loved it!!
tea time
Auntie Janet works very hard to wash and dry the clothes for the children of the orphanage, and with the washing machine not working it became a part of the daily routine to give her a helping hand! She was really impressed with how we could wash the clothes and even more happy to have a helping hand. Mum and Janet had some great mornings out the back exchanging stories and sharing a cup of coffee, so when we bought her a new waterproof apron and gloves to save her hands she was chuffed to bits! We also donated whatever money we had left at the end of our trip to help fix the current machine! Simple necessities bring happy smiles.
The orphanage is very self-sufficient with their own water store, shamba (farm) complete with fruit, vegetables and chickens for eggs and 2 milking cows. Each day Moses the farmer divided the 13L of milk from the cows and the eggs between the 5 houses. The house mother or auntie would go out and pick the greens for dinner time with our help…… back to nature; mummy described this as how my granny would have done things.
Most cooking was done out the back of the houses with 1 large communal oven which is heated with lighted charcoal. There are also small rings which have coal pits underneath! I must stress just how much work these women do, I think more than anything what struck us was how much they do but never once complain about being tired or fed up. They wake around 3.30am and say their morning prayers, thanking God for wakening that day, they then get up and begin to tidy and clean the houses. The children get up around 5am to do their chores before having breakfast and heading off to school around 7.30am. Each child willingly does their bit to help their mother and auntie, no one has to be asked twice to do something! When the older children are out to school the babies are washed, dressed and fed. Cooking, cleaning and organising beds and clothes for the children takes up most of the day with time set aside for the mothers and aunties to play with the toddlers!
working in the shamba.
The children’s manners are impeccable and they are so respecting of their elders. In our entire time at the GLO we never heard a harsh or out of turn word spoken. Everyone from the children to the security guards at the GLO is hugely grateful for the opportunity and safety that the orphanage has offered them. This haven of security, comfort, care and love has provided each person with the chance of a better life. Besides Alan, everyone at the GLO is a native of Africa and so by working here it is not only the children who have been extended a life line.
some serious acting
We spent much of our time with the children in the evenings either doing arts and crafts, or watching them sing and act and dance. The talent is literally hanging from these children, they would give any X Factor contestant a run for their money!! The older children along with Mama Lucy and Mama Jane had been working their way through some educational role play in the evenings, to teach the older children about the value of women in their culture, a valuable lesson and very interesting to watch and listen to. With this in mind and how hard the Mama’s and Aunties work to keep these children happy, we decided it might be a nice idea to have a party, ‘Mothers Day’, to say Thank you! The children loved this idea and so straight away they were preparing cards, pictures, banners and songs for the big day. Myself and mum made some rice crispie buns and some party food and also bought a small present for each mother and auntie for the children to present on the day as a way of saying thank you! Well, when it finally arrived everyone was so excited, and when the time came, each mother and aunt got dressed up and joined us outside!! Such beautiful style! It was so special to share this time with everyone together and see everyone really enjoy themselves; even the mamas danced and sang with us! Something that to us is so simple and standard, that really we take for granted, was in fact a totally new and exciting experience for everyone at the GLO.
recieving gifts on mothers day
When we arrived Alan had been working to try and introduce the house mothers and aunties to computers and the basics that surround them, but as he had so much else to do we were more than happy to help out!! This became a daily class with the ladies which myself and mum really enjoyed….finally something I did at school was becoming very useful here in Kenya. With a task list set each lady worked their way through each one, so eager to learn and extremely quick to pick it all up! They loved the little bit of independence a computer could bring them, just being able to type a letter or send an email opened up windows of opportunity for these ladies to keep in contact with friends. Entering data and producing graphs or editing pictures were just some of the areas they covered. They became so enthused by their progress that many evenings I had to chase some of them out as I wanted to go to bed!!
school text books
Having the money from the fundraiser with us gave us great scope to buy materials and things the orphanage needed while we were there. We decided that with some of the money we would take the children out for the day and what a day it was!!! We set of for Haller Park, a wildlife centre near Mombasa! Armed with drinks, snacks, blankets, 31 children and 2 Matatus (mini bus) we set off. The children were so excited and looked really well in their new T-Shirts donated by Sue, another Volunteer at the time from Capetown. The children were engrossed by the animals and some even brought exercise books so that they could take notes on what the tour guide was telling them! The children are also so eager to learn and soak up words like sponges!! We used the rest of the money to buy text books for each child in the school, along with other basics like file paper, pencils, sanitary bins and towels for the girls. For the Orphange we bought a sewing machine, the ladies were so delighted and couldn’t wait to get using it to repair the childrens clothes and give them a new lease of life. Talking of clothes we were amazed at the layers everyone was wearing while we were there, it was June and 28degrees most days, a hot summer to us but a cool winter for the Kenyans, so while were in our summer shorts and vest tops everyone else had jumpers, fleeces and trousers on!
feeding time at haller park
sewing machine
It is difficult to not get too attached to any child in particular and I have to admit that for me I immediately struck a close bond with little Lawrence and Michelle. Such beautiful and special children! Lawerence suffers from Spinabifida and Michelle from Cerebral Palsy. Beautiful children who were abandoned for being one of Gods extra special children, they are little beauties, Lawrences eyes would melt anyones heart! My profession as a physiotherapist meant I took special interest in their abilities and developments. Edelquin, their physiotherapist, is doing some amazing work with these children and comes twice weekly to the orphanage to work with them, however she did explain she was limited as to how far she could go with her treatment due to her lack of facilities, so after a chat myself and mum headed out and got her a therapy ball, oil, and an inflatable pool so that she could push the boundaries and try to get the best from these children! Mama Lucy and Dommy have also put in many hours of dedication to work with these children which has undoubtedly paid dividends!! They too are Angels!!
lawrence and mercy.....two heartbreakers
St Marys and St Bernadettes School which only opened weeks before we arrived is a fantastic addition to the GLO. It has given the children that further stepping stone in life that sadly many children in Kenya and beyond will never have. Remi the headmaster and all the teachers are doing fantastic work there and it was lovely to go around the classes and watch the children learn. I think it is particularly special that this school is providing free primary school education to the poorest families in the area which is important too as it allows the children from the orphanage to mingle and make friends with children from outside their home.
Remi is also the manager of the Orphanage. A big, strong man, with a big heart but strong principles who is doing wonders at the orphanage, he has great vision and is enthusiastic about making a better life for the children! Mercy, his right hand woman, has been at the orphanage from its conception, she keeps everyone in order and keeps things ticking over. We were privileged to meet Mercy’s father at her home just a short distance from the orphanage, it is important to see how people outside of the GLO live, that was real Africa for us and a special experience. People here have so little in comparison to us, yet they are so happy, appear virtually stress free, and live by the most basic of standards, yet no one complains. Their homes are simple yet the craftsmanship it takes to build their houses is something I imagine us westerners would take some time to master!!
No trip to Africa is complete without a trip to a feeding station, that’s what we were told before we left anyway, and it couldn’t be more true!! Totally mesmerising, awe inspiring and touching!! We arrived slightly late as we were late getting back from Sunday Mass (much longer and vibrant than ours at home here) to hear the deafening sounds of children singing and laughing…..these were children who walked miles that morning to share food with their brothers, sisters or neighbours. This meal could potentially be their only meal for the week, yet beaming smiles bowled us over! If ever there was a humbling experience this was it! David, who runs this feeding station, took time to explain to us that a day such as that costs about £80. ……£80 we might spend on a pair of shoes, phone or jacket would give over 1000 children a meal for the day………..money better spent I reckon!
Our last day was a very joyous but difficult one, everyone was so excited for the mother’s day party but for us personally we were heartbroken at the thought of leaving our new Kenyan family. Family is extremely important to us, and so as a symbol of this mum, myself and all the gang at the GLO planted a desert rose in memory of my late daddy, Sean (R.I.P.) This was such a moving moment for us that we could not speak, only cry (happy tears) but Remi and Alan said some very beautiful words that will stay with us forever! Auntie Janet also led us in prayer. For this moment we are so thankful! The family ethos is at the heart of the GLO and every child treats the other as brothers and sisters. It was good to see however that many of them know about their backgrounds and extended family who may not live with them anymore due to varying circumstances. Cynthia and Brians grandmother for example would visit every Sunday.
our desert rose tree
We did take some time out of the orphanage to reflect and see some of the local area, although it has to be said we were never long away before we missed everyone and wanted to get back! I first visited Africa in 2007 and promised I would be back, I told my mum how magical I thought it was and I now know she understands what I mean, it hooks you in like an addiction and we can’t wait for our next dose!!
We think of everyone at the GLO often and keep them in our hearts and prayers! Inspirational people who remind us how blessed we are! We look so very forward to seeing you all again soon!
Much love

Aideen and Margaret.
play time

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