So writing a blog on my time in Kenya is easy I kept a daily journal for my 5 weeks here but making a condensed blog is harder as I could write 50 pages on my time in Kenya – that is how much you learn about 1) the GLO 2) the culture 3) Kenyan Life 4) Yourself. For a long time I had wanted to go to country like Kenya to do some voluntary work so I did some research and read all about the good things that the GLO were doing so set up my trip and headed off on 9 November. So when I first arrived here in Mombasa I was welcomed in arrivals by David, the driver of the GLO – a very nice, chatty man. Greeted at GLO by 4 of the mama’s who insisted on carrying my bags to my room for me. A quick unpack and I fell straight asleep. I was allowed to sleep in so I woke at 10.30am and then went down to the office where Auntie Dorothy greeted me and brought me on a tour. After meeting about 5 people, I knew I would forget names. All mama’s and aunties were very friendly and welcomed me to their houses. I spent most of the morning in Kilroe house with Mama Tuita and spent time with all the younger kids – Melissa, Lisa, Stephen, Evaline, Brendan and Tim. I fed Tim and he fell asleep in my arms – too cute for words! Soon found out that Evaline and Melissa rule the roost in this house and are little bossy boots. I struck up a friendship with Melissa involving many high fives as she doesn’t speak English yet. Dorothy also brought me down to the school to show me the great work they are doing since they opened in May. Spent the later part of the afternoon playing with the younger kids in the playground – also met Maria and Nuala – two other volunteers from Tyrone. Was very happy to meet them as seemed really down to earth but they were due to leave two days later.
Laura's Accommodation
From the first day onwards at the GLO I had a little routine depending on the day. I would normally get up at 7 and then head down to the houses to have breakfast of bread with butter and a cup of green tea (as kenyan tea “chai” is very sweet). I then would go around the various houses to see if they need help. The mama’s and aunties get up at 5am and work until about 7/8 that evening so they really appreciate all the work you help out with. Housework would normally consist of helping wash/dry dishes, cleaning/chopping vegetables (even sometimes helping Kennedy from the farm pick these), handwashing clothes which is a very long process, sweeping, mopping, cleaning rice/beans etc. For my first few weeks here all the older children were in school so I normally did a lot of housework these mornings or else played with younger children. I got to know all the young children very well during these first few weeks and they are all just so cute. Lunch would change each day but might be matoki (one of my favourites – like a potato and banana stew – it is nicer than it sounds) or else rice with beans etc. I ate in Kilroe house each day so got to know and love the children here very well. Mama Tuita knew my favourite foods so sometimes she would spoil me and make them twice in one week. I got on really well with her and she referred to me as her daughter. One great thing about Kenyans is their sense of humour – they are very sarcastic like Irish people so I fitted in quite well.
Auntie Rosemary prepares Matoke
After lunch I would normally go to the playground to play with the kids as they all go their for play time. This time was manic and normally involved a lot of pushing the kids on the swings and them all trying to run to get on the swing first. This time normally involved going to the shamba “farm” with the kids as Jack and Johnny love going. After this I would normally have dinner which might be ugali with a stew sauce or maybe chapati with beans/lentils. I have to say although food was hard to get used to at first and I had very small portions at the start – I was really quite enjoying it by the end and had massive portions – you need it to keep up your energy. In the evenings I would sit in one of the houses – mainly Keogh and Kilroe and chat with the mamas or aunties.
Keogh House entertains Laura
A lot of evenings were also spent reading/coloring with kids (they love doing both of these things especially in O’Malley and Maguire house) or else dancing/singing/telling stories with older children (some very talented children here). I also spent a good few of my days at the school so it was good to see what went on there too. Mary and Kevin had asked me to help out with some accounting work (as this is my occupation) and teaching accounting to the school secretary so I spent a good bit of time with her getting it all up to date as well as helping with the budgets etc. During my time at the school I got to see how well the school runs – from the great teachers to the excellent facilities etc. The children are also so eager to learn and it is such a great extension to the GLO to have this facility there for the children from the GLO to go to as education in Kenya can be quite expensive.
The Rugrats
I could write pages about each individual child and how great they are. I had such a great time playing and laughing with them. The older children are all so polite and well mannered. They all help out with house work and chores and are little treasures. The younger children are great too – they are all so confident and are such happy and healthy kids. It took a few weeks but I eventually managed to learn all 54 names. In my other time in Kenya – I did various other trips/days out. In my first week there I went to the feeding station. Usually 1200 – 1900 children come each week to be fed. Children walk from up to 10 miles just to come here for some food. The local indian community organise this each Sunday and either fund it themselves or from donations given. It is like a military style operation – the children line up and 4 at a time are given a tray of beans, rice and bread rolls. They also get some juice, a banana and a bag of maize – enough to feed a small family for 3 days.
A Happy Little one
In my second week there a free medic clinic day was held. A friend of Mary’s, Danielle, set up this clinic a few years ago and they organise about 5/6 free clinics each year but may introduce more in GLO as today was first one held at GLO grounds. The project is part of Tumaini Homes of Hope and basically offers a free consultation with a doctor, free counselling services, free HIV tests, free medicine, free family planning and free follow up services. Mary came about 9am and we went down to help get the school ready. The clinic was a very good success – 450 people came and all got seen to between 10am and 4pm. People’s illnesses ranged from malnourishment, ringworm (common in a lot of the kids), jiggers (a parasite that eats away at the feet – this is from people not wearing shoes, dirty enironment etc), hiv etc. People who came ranged from a few months old to over 80 years old. Was very hard to see some of the people – some children and adults looked very malnourished. One woman came with 6 children – most of whom had very bad ringworm but all got treatment as did everyone who attended. It was a tiring but amazing day – really inspiring the work that they do and it was great to see all the teachers, staff at GLO, the teachers at St Bernadette & St Mary’s School and people from Tumaini Homes of Hope all working together to make the day a great success.
Mary helps at the Medical Outreach Day
Madam Judith preparing to dispense the medicines
Kevin also took me out for a day to show me two projects that himself and Mary are helping with – in one they are helping build a shop for a family (that was being sposored by some people in the UK) as no one in the family can get jobs. They also helped build a new house and small kitchen area for the family as their old was was destroyed. The house is quite nice by Kenyan standards and was great to see the work in progress. When we arrived the mother was busy digging so was great to see them also helping with building it. I spoke with Kevin before I left Kenya and he said the shop is now up and running and she is making a profit of 1-2 pounds a day which is enough for her to buy food etc for the family so was delighted to hear that. Next we went to see another family they are helping. They are helping build a room on the side for the man to rent out so he can make enough to feed the family. Again when we arrived they were already working on it themselves and the family were very friendly giving me some shells to take home. It was good to visit these two homes to see how a normal/tradtitional kenyan family lives and just how different life is compared to at home. You really learn to take nothing for granted and just how lucky we all are. The last two and a half weeks were great fun as all the children were off school so they were all around during the day so really got to know a lot of older children during this time. On the last day of school – there was a prize giving. The assembly was great fun – included Mr. Mwasi giving a speech, singing and prayers. All the mothers were there as children were also being given school reports later on. The singing was great – all so loud, clapping and people shouting things randomly during the songs. The prize giving was for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and most improved in each class. Felt so proud of all the kids from GLO who won prizes and was great to see a lot of children from outside of the school also win prizes.
1st December - Prizegiving Day at School
I also went to visit Kongowea Market one Friday there. I went with David and Mama Jane at 7am. They go here each Friday to get all fruit and vege for the week for all the houses (some vege/fruit they get from the farm). Well what a mad, crazy place!! Outside it sells 2nd hand clothes (nearly everyone buys these as maybe 1/2 pounds for a top/trousers). Inside is where they sell all the food – I have never witnessed anything like it. I would say there was about 6,000 people there if not more – it was mayhem. First stop was to buy potatoes – during this a sack of about 3000 potatoes (which one man was carrying on his shoulders) nearly fell on top of me. The market is known for thieves so I had to keep my backpack on the front of me. I saw 5 guys (who were pretending to help a girl lift a massive sack of potatoes) actually stealing about 5 potatoes each from the sack – these people dont have jobs and this is how they feed themselves so I just had to laugh at them. Having people constantly touching, poking at you was strange at first but i got used to it after about 30 mins there. I had to start walking a bit behind mama jane because everyone kept charging her very expensive prices because i was there. I also had 2 marriage proposals – as one man admitted – it was just because he wanted “white” money! Just buying weekly shop for the houses took 5.5 hours. We went to mama jane’s house on the way back (well she rents two rooms in a house) to drop off some groceries (it was actually quite nice with electricity and water. Her family were so welcoming too.
Melissa from Kilroe House
On 7 December I also went on a trip with Rachel and Collins – for me this was the most special day here for me at the GLO and one I will never forget – brings tears of joy to me when i just think of it. Mary has posted a detailed blog of the day but will give a brief outline of it. Collins had asked Mercy if he could go see his aunt and granfather (he said he knew general area of where they lived but couldnt remember exactly where). Kevin and Mary asked David to bring him and Rachel out for the day and to ask lots of people in villages if they knew of the aunt so today we decided to go look for them. Collins had mentioned that he had a little brother but there was never any mention of a baby brother before this. First we went to Bamburi as Collins said that he knew his cousin was staying in an orphanage there and that she might know where is aunt and grandad were. We searched through Bamburi and stopped at a few houses where he thought the orphanage was and Auntie Bella chatted to a few people but no one knew of an orphanage. It is hard because in 4 years all the towns and villages have changed so much so would be very difficult to recognise as an adult let alone a child. We started to lose hope at this stage but then went on to Bomboloulu. We were driving and he recognised a road so we turned off and drove for about 5 minutes when he said to stop. Me, Bella and Collins started walking around to see if he recognised anything (thinking again he may just be confused) but after about 3 minutes of walking through lanes etc we came to a house where he said his aunt lived. We asked the neighbours who were very helpful and said that the aunt had lived there but she had moved but they brough us to the room where Collins and Rachel used to live and they all remembered Collins (couldnt believe that Collins ahd actually remembered after all this time). We got to see where Collins had lived when he was younger. The woman knew where his aunt lived so offered to take us there. Drove off for about 5 minutes and stopped off at a house where we all got out. As soon as we stepped out boys started calling Collins name (but Collins didnt remember who they were) – it was amazing to hear. As soon as we walked into the house a woman (his old neighbour) embraced and hugged him and Rachel as did all her kids. It was unbelievable and happiest thing Ive seen in a long time. Derek, their little brother, was also in the house who the neighbour looks after him. The woman, who has 9 children of her own, has been looking after Derek for all this time. Then walked in his auntie and grandad. Was just a surreal moment – from literally not knowing if you will ever have contact with your family to meeting them all just by chance and luck. We stayed for about 2 hours – all such a nice family. Collins and Rachel literally chatted about it the whole way home and were smiling from ear to ear – I could have cried with joy for them – just an unbelievable day!! There were also some special days out for both Abdullah and his siblings who are at GLO as they got to go on a trip to see their sisters and James and his siblings also got to meet their grandmother, uncles etc – unfortunately I could not go those 2 days but just seeing how pictures the kids were when they were telling me about their days out just made me see how happy they were.
The Charitable Neighbour who looks after Derick
I also took the children to the beach one day – about 40/50 of us all packed up for the day and went off. Off the children ran into the water (and didn’t get out until lunch time) – they would have stayed in their for days if they were allowed – they had a ball. I tried teaching a few how to swim and then played with younger kids. I think Aunty Sharrifa would have stayed in for days too – I think she was loving it more than the children. We had a small snack of cake (which I had made the day before – they LOVE cake) and juice. Then they played games on the beach and swam again before heading home – all very happy after their day out. That week I also went to a fun day with some of the older children and Mama Tuita and Jane. It was a day out for the GLO and about 12 other orphanages/homes in the Mombasa area. I was pleasantly surprised at how well organised the day was – it was so much fun. They had so many activities planned for the day from football, bouncing castles, tug of war, egg and spoon races, face painting and competitions. One thing I noticed was how well behaved the children from GLO were – all so polite to other children and adults. Me and the mama’s were so proud of them and they had a great day. It went on til 6pm and they even had a talent show where the children from GLO said bible versus and sang and danced to 2 songs – they were brilliant and I felt very proud of them. I also won the mama’s and aunties dancing competition – the GLO kids were delighted. They sang the whole way home on the bus and they spoke for days about it.
Laura & Gracie O
My last day at GLO was also very special – first I went to Tito’s house (one of the GLO security guards). He took me around his little village where all his family lives and it was a great few hours. He showed me his little homemade gym and his small farm where he grows some fruit and vege that they sell. Him and his brother also made wine from cocunut trees which was interesting to see and he is also currently building a shed for chickens so they can have broilers. He gave me some fresh oranges and cocunut to drink. Then his brother, who is an acrobat, showed me some of his moves and tried to teach me a few as well – it was a great day and interesting to see how hard he works just so he can afford to help his family have a good life. Then later that evening it was time to say goodbye to all the children – I cried when I saw the special goodbye message some of the older children had left on the blackboard. Then they did a show for me where they sang and danced accompanied by David’s son on bongo’s – some of the mama’s and aunties. Then the mama’s and children all said something nice about me before having some treats and then saying a final goodbye – I was very sad to go.
After a few days Saidi was Lauras Best Friend
I learned so much in my time here – words can’t explain how different life is here compared to western countries. I could go on for pages writing about the Kenyan way of life and how hard it is for people over here but organisations like the GLO help make a difference and Kevin and Mary are such hard working people to ensure that it all runs smoothly (as well as the great staff in Kenya like Mercy and Dorothy). I loved my time here so a big Asante sana for making my time here so special – I will definetely be back.

Sunrise at the Shamba

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