For those of you who have been so supportive of the Good Life Orphanage and my return trip there, here is some news. Well, first and foremost, I survived! When we arrived at the Orphanage it was to a fantastic welcome from the staff and children – there was drumming, dancing, and singing, and of course we were expected to join in with great enthusiasm, despite an overnight flight, adjustment to much hotter temperatures, and an arrival in Mombasa in the early morning, after not a lot of sleep! What a welcome it was – very emotional for me and for Jane, and it absolutely confirmed it was the right thing to do – to have returned for a second spell of Volunteering.
The Good Life Houses
The challenges came thick and fast from then onwards – when the power went off due to someone stealing the transformer from the local power source! We did not realise it would be four days without power – just as well really, as Jane and I would definitely have considered booking ourselves into a nearby hotel to get some ‘mod. cons’. Anyway, we survived all of this, by a combination of having very early nights (it was totally dark by 7pm and not a torch to speak of, between us!), managing with limited water for cooking or washing in the houses, and being extra careful about what we chose to eat or decline. There was one blessing – we Volunteers still had some running water in our loo / shower – thank heaven for a small mercy!
What this meant in reality was that volunteering was ‘full on’ those first few days, carrying water from the standpipe across to the houses for doing the laundry, Mama’s needing to urgently cook in daylight hours what was left in the fridges and freezers as things were defrosting very fast, lack of running water for children to flush loo’s and for their personal washing / bathing. By the third day I was flagging, and felt quite unwell (probably due to heat stroke). After a short spell of rest and re-cooperation thanks largely to a days visit away from the Orphanage to some friends living nearby (Diane and Evan) who, together with my wonderful room-mate Jane, looked after me ever so well, and with Jane applying cold compresses every half hour (or so she says!) I was pretty much back into the swing of things again before long. Just after the power was reconnected, we had a conversation with Kevin and Mary who would like to use the £700 we had raised for the Orphanage towards buying and installing a generator for the Orphanage – we said Yes please! It’s a great idea and will mean that when power fails in the future, they have “back up”. We think this is a great use of the monies that were so generously donated by our families and friends back at home, and hope you will agree. I am sure they will sort this out, if they can.
A smiling Askari
Our stay at the Orphanage included helping Janet, the laundry lady, with the daily task of washing all of the clothing and bedding for some of the houses – the one and only washing machine was on the blink, yet again! Thank goodness that nothing takes long to dry, even when it’s dripping wet, unless there is a bit of a tropical downpour – yes, we did have a few of those, but they were rather nice! We also helped to prepare vegetables for meals, picking through beans and rice to make sure we got rid of any beasties, so they did not find their way into the cooking pot (although a bit of extra protein may not have gone amiss). Most of all we spent time with the children, playing in and around the houses, in the playground area, and going with them to their new school – which adjoins the Orphanage site. We sat in on various classes and it was great fun. The children SO want to learn, and are very enthusiastic – almost every class is taught in English – and Swahili is taught separately. So it was fairly easy to follow lessons although when it came to the Science class, I had very little to contribute (I think I must have somehow missed doing Science at school – maybe because I was attempting to learn how to play the violin!)
Washing Getting Dried at the GLO.jpg
It has to be said, the school is going very well – over 200 children now attending each day, including about 40 from the Orphanage itself. The very youngest children still go to pre-school, on the Orphanage site – not much has changed here, although the plan is to make this more about educating through fun and play. This is something that Mary and Kevin are keen on, but it will mean changing staff perceptions, first! Highlights from the times spent at the school were, for me, the sheer enthusiasm of all of the children, the singing, and the outdoor physical exercises, especially the relay races – these kids can really really run – I am sure there are potential Olympians amongst them, even if not quite in time for 2012.
On your marksSports Day!
The Farm at the Orphanage is doing well. With 2 cows, 1 calf, and another calf due imminently, and many many chickens. There is a ready supply of milk, eggs, and chickens on the menu. Milk is delivered straight to the houses, and boiled before being used. Bananas are being grown, along with spinach, aubergines, tomatoes, carrots, and other things I did not recognise. Surpluses are sold and monies are literally being ploughed back into the Orphanage funds. Having the farm on site means that vegetables are gathered daily, so are always fresh.
Moses & the Livestock
The five houses are now almost full – 56 children in total out of a possible 60. This includes some very young babies and a small number of children with disabilities. The children are well cared for, well fed and clothed, and clearly loved. Each house has a live-in Mama and Aunty on duty – they are there 24 / 7 and work for a few weeks, before having a short break to return to their home, and family. At least a small part of each day is spent playing with the children, as well as doing all the day to day household chores – washing, cooking, cleaning, bathing, etc. There is a lot of mutual respect shown, all around. Mercy, the Manager is doing a great job. She was promoted from a previous position of Aunty. She is young, energetic, and well respected. She is very keen to learn and move things forward. She has a lovely way about her, and although still lacks a bit of confidence, we feel sure she will go from strength to strength. We spent quite a bit of time with her talking things through, and giving her information and advice, as well as feedback about how we found things there. We are now in email contact with her, which feels great in terms of offering our support.
Mama Jane, Mercy & Mama B
Oh yes, the Orphanage has well and truly joined the I.T. age – with a computer room on site, as well as computers in the school. This is largely due to the hard work of a Volunteer Alan, who came 2 years ago and stayed quite a while, setting up all sorts of systems for the longer term, including I.T. Well done Alan! All of the children and most of the staff are interested and excited about using I.T. and much time is spent in the computer room at the end of each day – looking at the internet, sending emails, and listening to music (religious and otherwise). Likewise, at the school computers are being used on a regular basis, to aid learning.
Nuala, Naomi & Rama
A source of great excitement during our stay was the arrival of a new larger 14 seater minibus. This means that more staff and children can go out together, and it gives more scope for recreational activities, as well as trips to shops, markets, schools, doctors, church, etc. etc. The minibus arrived late one afternoon, as darkness fell, but it did not stop EVERYONE trying to get on board, including climbing onto the roof! Never mind 14 seats, I think there were about 40 children and staff crammed in, at one point in time…Within 24 hours it had been plastered with The GLO and School logo’s, plus the logo for the Steve Gerrard foundation – a donation from the foundation enabling the purchase of this much needed vehicle.
Our new Minibus
Trine & Baby Daniel
Volunteering has now taken off in a big way. There were six Volunteers on site during our stay. A young German couple Katriana and Tobias who recently qualified as teachers and were doing some travelling before settling into teaching jobs in Germany next year. They had been there for three weeks and had got really stuck in. Also two sisters Nuala and Maria, who arrived shortly after us. They are related to the founders Kevin and Mary, and Nuala was returning for a second visit, and Maria for the first time. They were particularly interested in health care issues, and visited a local Aids / HIV clinic, as well as the local Feeding Station. Nuala is also planning to sponsor one of the Aunty’s at the Orphanage, who wants to return to studies, having had limited education during her childhood.
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Between us band of Volunteers, we were able to apply different skills to the running of the place. It has to be said, Jane and I tended towards the more sedate tasks – (Jane had taken along knitting and sewing kits, and enticed the older children, girls and boys, who took to it really well – you never know, we may yet see a knitted scarf or two when we next go over.) Although I assisted with this, I was most comfortable with some of the very practical domestic things like having my elbows knee deep in laundry, prepping the veg, and washing up after meals. I also loved being in the playground with the little children, who like nothing more than being pushed endlessly on the swings.
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As for the much younger volunteers – Tobias ran around the football pitch like a madman, which the children loved. Nuala and Maria devoted a lot of their time to playing with the younger children and cuddling the babies, as well as researching health care in the local community (and what an eye-opener that was!) Katriana succumbed to a bout of malaria which put her out of action, but by the time we left, she was recovering steadily.
The point is there are always things that need to be done, and always skills that volunteers have to offer – whatever.
Happy Evenings in keogh House
Both our Sundays in Kenya were spent at the local Feeding Station – not far away from the Orphanage. Here, each Sunday, the Hindu community feed in excess of 1,000 children. These children arrive, without adults, having walked to the Station from where-ever – possibly several kilometres away. They form an orderly queue, waiting in the searing heat, for the lunch to be served to them around midday. It is a highly organised and efficient operation – the food is served on a large metal platter to a group of four children, and they sit together on the floor, in the shade, sharing bread rolls, rice and beans. Before they leave they have a mug of fruit squash, and they take a banana and a bag of maize back home. It all happens fast, and the time taken from serving to when the children leave to head back home is only about an hour. Sometimes there are extra “treats” – our first Sunday visit coincided with Diwali, and the children were given some really lovely home-made sweets, together with their usual meal. It’s a humbling and very emotional experience. The first week 1,320 children were fed, and the following week about 1,200 children came. The week before our arrival the Feeding Station had fed 1,800 children, and this demonstrates just how reliant some children are on this.
Mama B @ The Feeding Station
We proudly handed over the remaining £700 from the fundraising we had done this year, and this will pay for the cost of one Sunday’s Feeding Station – so this is money that is very much appreciated and is being very well spent making sure that a large number of children get a good meal at least once a week.
Feeding Station

So, what are my abiding memories from this year’s trip?
~ The total dedication of Kevin and Mary (and others who support them) in not only having the vision but in very practically setting up the Orphanage and now the School. The way in which they are always looking ahead, and to ways of making it all sustainable into the future, for the years to come. Wow you guys, you are simply amazing!
~ The overall warmth, kindness, and genuine interest towards Volunteers, from the staff working at the Good Life Orphanage, the teachers at the School, and most of all from the children.
Their enthusiasm towards visitors is just so lovely – it makes you feel very pleased you bothered to volunteer!
~ The 56 healthy and happy children who are being well cared for and nurtured in a safe and loving environment, which includes caring about themselves and about each other, getting an education, and being given every encouragement to do well as they develop and grow.
~ The 200 or so children who are now getting an education, many of them for the first time in their lives.
~ The fact that children at The Orphanage are now mixing with other children from the local community, and vice versa.
~ The songs, dancing and laughter that staff and children share – it’s a strong common bond between them all – and very heart-warming to see, hear, and be a part of.
~ Despite all of the above, the sense of hopelessness about Kenya, for all of its citizens, especially children, who are not getting their most basic of human rights met.
~ The irony of a country that is really in a very poor state indeed – despite its “green lungs of luxury” for those that can afford it e.g. fantastic Safari, Wildlife and Game Reserves; pure white palm lined sandy beaches; warm turquoise seas; an abundance of fresh fish; a country full of history and heritage. All of this sitting in close proximity but in stark contrast to children who are simply abandoned; children and adults who are starving; who have malaria; who have Aids / H.I.V. or other enduring illnesses; those who quite simply don’t have any family, nor a roof over their heads, or a source of income to get by, and certainly no real place they can call “home”.

Thank goodness for Kevin and Mary whose vision, commitment and practicality has improved things for so many. They are certainly living up to the Good Life Orphanage strap line – “Real Hope Needs Firm Foundations”
Because I can, and because I want to, I will be fundraising again. Seeing just how far the money goes, and what it is used for, is reason in itself.

If this account is encouragement to others who may be interested in volunteering or helping in any other way, please talk to me or Jane, and we can put you in touch.

Rest assured you will be hearing more from us in 2012, as plans take shape for more fundraising ideas next year.
And finally … on behalf of everyone at The Good Life Orphanage, School, and Feeding Station, thanks so much for everyone’s support.

Bridget – otherwise known as ‘Mama B’
November 2011
Kevin & Mary