By Victoria Catterall-Decalmer and Mary-Anne Kilroe

We have had privileged lives. We have been afforded good, loving families; an excellent education; the opportunity to live in a part of the world where our gender does not limit our quality of life or the potential we may reach in our careers. We realise, however, that not all countries offer these luxuries – and they are a luxury. Eight years ago, Mary and Kevin, with the help of many generous donators and fundraisers, founded The Good Life Orphanage, and in doing so founded a little bubble in Mombasa where orphaned or abandoned children are well educated, cared for, and given the love that they deserve. So, in November 2016 we decided to take a step back from our lives to see for ourselves the positive difference this project has made for some of the most resilient and inspiring children you could ever hope to meet.

Mary-Anne with Nuru

Three flights and 17 hours later, we arrive in Mombasa at around 2am. On the hour long drive to the orphanage we both stare curiously out of the windows at the dirt tracks of Mtwapa and the shacks along either side of the road still lit up and thriving with people sat outside chatting. We knew this would be a trip to remember. Once we arrived at the orphanage we were shown to Kilroe house, which would be our primary house during our stay. What amazed us most was that, despite the fact that it was now around 3 in the morning, the Mama, Auntie, and eldest girl in Kilroe House, Precious, had stayed up to greet us and even provided us with freshly made ginger tea to welcome us into the house. We weren’t sure exactly what to except when we arrived as it was so early in the morning, but the immediate generosity and kindness of the people who live at GLO was a first impression that certainly lasted.

Victoria with our rugrats

As our trip to GLO was during the children’s’ long end of year holiday, we spent most of our time playing with all the children and showing them playground games that we (somehow) remembered from our schooldays. We also exchanged hand clapping games with the children, as they taught us some in Kiswahili and we shared some from back home – “Double this, double that” went down particularly well and became a bit of a fad! We also organised various craft activities for the children which they all got involved in, such as showing them how to make snowflakes from a piece of paper. It was wonderful to see some of the more timid children come out of their shells as we were playing with them.

Vicky & Mary-Anne with Nuru, Mudi & Mercy

During our stay we were told about the backstories of many of the children, some of them were honestly really hard to hear. When we were with the children, however, those horrors were so easily forgotten as their laughter, smiles and love for life just take over. They are honestly some of the most inspiring and genuinely happy children, and their happiness showed that the work Mama Mary, Papa Kevin, and all the staff, volunteers and fundraisers for the GLO have done and continue to do actively transforms these children’s lives. After seeing how these acts of generosity have changed the outcome of these children’s lives, we hope to sponsor a child upon our return to England and to encourage others to visit GLO in the future.

Victoria & Mary-Anne join in the fun

During our time in Mombasa, we were also able to experience other aspects of Kenya on our days off. We were shown a big tour of Mombasa city, seeing the white tusks in the city centre, a guided tour of Fort Jesus and the Akamba Wood Carving Co-operative which was outstanding and a must-see. We also chose to participate in the Feeding Station which is a family run charitable event where hundreds and often thousands of local children come to be fed. Although the state of poverty at the Feeding Station was a shock, it was more encouraging to know that families like this and the volunteers who participate here each week are actively trying to help the poorer people in Kikambala.

Feeding Station

On another day, the Mamas took us to one of the largest fruit and vegetable markets in East Africa and was nothing like what we had seen before – it is hard to describe how enormous the place was and how many people were there, but the Mamas always made us feel safe in the large crowds. There was also the opportunity to go on Safari in Tsavo East and it was so exciting to see all the animals in the wild! (Beware though, the monkeys like to sneak into your tent and steal your biscuits…)

Elephants at Tsavo

On our last morning, we reluctantly packed our bags and went downstairs to say our goodbyes. We handed out some sweets we bought for the children and had a final play around the yard with them. Saying goodbye to the children was harder than we could have imagined. We hugged and kissed all the children but once some of the children started crying it was hard to hold back the tears. The drive away from GLO was so quiet compared to the lively and happy atmosphere of the orphanage and we both fell silently sad. We realised how much of an impact GLO had on us and knew we wanted to return.

Kwaheri Tina, Mary-Anne & Vicky

The return to our lives in Manchester was harder and stranger than we expected. After seeing how basic but happy the lives of those at GLO and the surrounding village are we realised how fortunate we are and that we take a lot for granted in our world, even just having running water.

GLO Group

Mama Mary and Papa Kevin are two of the most inspiring and selfless people we could have the pleasure of seeing, and the work that they do for the orphanage throughout the year cannot be praised enough. Also, the Mama’s and Auntie’s in each house deserve massive recognition as their jobs are some of the most tiresome and stressful that we could imagine. Our experience at GLO has been eye-opening for us, but it has been an honour to meet the children and staff there. We will never forget the kindness that has been shown to us nor the lessons they have taught us. We wish everyone at GLO the best for 2017 xxx.

Playtime @ The GLO