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Elisa in Kenya: "It is the most precious life experience in the world"

Elisa in Kenya: "It is the most precious life experience in the world"

Elisa in the reception center in Kenya
Elisa in the shelter in kenya. She was the first international volunteer. 

Elisa already knew Kenya. He had taken an organized trip in 2017. It had such an impact on him that, when he was landing in Madrid, she promised herself that she would come back next year. But he did not return from tourism, but with a solidarity trip, through Tumaini. Thanks to volunteering, he has known "the essential, the authentic and the impressive" of the country, he says. The experience has been so beautiful that he says he would repeat it "a thousand more times and each time without a doubt I would grow again inside."

You had already traveled to Kenya, what made you come back and why in solidarity?

In 2017 I visited the country with 2 friends at a delicate personal moment and I promised myself to return as soon as I landed back in Spain. First, because of what it meant for me on a mental level, that trip filled me with illusion!, and second, because of how special Kenya is. Everybody says that once you meet her, she catches you. and that same thing happened to me. Kenya has magic, it stole my heart: the landscapes, the sounds, the smells, the food and, above all, its people. I decided to go back to help because the looks, the hugs and the smiles of the children as we passed left me indebted without a doubt.

Elisa volunteered with abandoned or orphaned babies in Nairobi

How were the two trips (the first, touristic, and the second, volunteering) different?

Last year I traveled in an organized pack, with all kinds of comforts, and I really enjoyed the places we visited and the moments with my friends. But, after all, it was “one more trip”. “The essentials, the authentic and the impressive” of the country is not there on the surface, but on our first trip to Kenya it slipped into our stops without leaving us indifferent.

When I returned this second time to know all that had touched me inside, I realized that that which is not seen in the tourist packages is even more beautiful than the luxury lodges. Through a solidarity trip you get to know the reality of the country, you immerse yourself in it, you learn its culture, its language and you give while you receive. On the other hand, it can be combined with conventional tourism, so it becomes an experience that you will always remember.

How was your day to day in the Nairobi project?

My volunteer schedule was from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an hour break for lunch. My main task was caring for orphaned or abandoned babies by their parents from 1 to 24 months (some with physical/mental disabilities): changing diapers and clothes, cleaning, feeding and entertainment. The rest of the day, he carried out activities with the older children (from 7 to 16 years).

With one of the children from the center
with one of the children center

How was your relationship with them?

I was the first to collaborate with this Nairobi NGO and also I did not coincide with other volunteers. At first, children and center workers were expectant (I think many had never seen a white one). But, in a very short time, a very strong bond was created on both sides (even true friendship with some of them). So much so that when I returned to Spain it was very difficult for me to resume my routine: I missed them andI came to love them so much that I went through a kind of mourningI wished I had stayed there! They made me feel one more filling me with affection daily in the form of thanks. But I have to thank you!

Is there a story of a boy or girl that has marked you? 

There are so many stories! I had to work in the baby unit, feeding them, cleaning them, playing with them... There was a little boy who had autism and he managed to smile and “high five” with me after a thousand attempts on my part, the caregivers couldn't believe it!

And, of course, I will never forget one of them, “your boyfriend” as the “aunties” who learned Spanish used to say. It was love at first sightWhat a pity that international adoption in Kenya is not allowed, because I would take care of that baby forever!

Elisa with Maasai women in Kenya
Elisa with Maasai women in Kenya

What do you think of the work of the NGO with which you collaborated?

They do a wonderful job, what would those kids be otherwise! They receive a good education based on respect, gratitude and work. In addition, they are fed in a balanced way, educated and also manage to internalize an enviable concept of family among them!

What did you learn from your solidarity trip?

To value what I have to receive, to tolerate, to observe… I became physically strong, I understood that other very different realities are just as good or even better than mine (which at first seemed perfect)… And, above all, I learned to spend my free time on things that fill you up, more than the empty pleasures.

Babies in the reception center
Babies in the Nairobi drop-in center

Has your solidarity trip changed your life, even a little?

Yeah I'm a better person I am full of peace, without room for superfluous day-to-day problems. Very satisfied with the grain of sand contributed and on the other hand very grateful for having had the opportunity to experience something so special in every way.

Did you make new friends during your collaboration?

Still I keep in touch with a lot of people (the director, the caretakers, an African student who was doing an internship there, the driver, and the Maasai who received me on weekends). They are wonderful people who embrace whoever arrives, they give you everything, even what they don't have for themselves. I sincerely hope to return soon.

In her volunteering, Elisa made friendships that still last.
In its volunteering, Elisa made friendships that still last.

Would you recommend the solidarity trip to a person who is hesitating to do it?

I understand that you have to be brave! At the beginning there are doubts, uncertainty... But the positive in the final balance is overwhelming, 100% advantages and contributions for oneself! It is the most precious life experience in the world and I believe that we should all go through it at least once.

Elisa traveled and collaborated in the Nairobi children's shelter from 06/16 to 07/02/18.

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