Andrea's 3-week experience in Kenya
They say that when you leave Kenya a little piece of you stays there, that a sense of sadness accompanies you leaving this place and that the smiles you see are etched on your retina for life.
At the beginning, before the trip, you may be accompanied by fear and uncertainty towards the unknown, as well as an unexpected accumulation of unknown emotions because we are going to a place with a totally different reality, with different experiences and with a way of seeing life that is very different from what we are used to.
Andrea collaborated dor three weeks, together with three companions, in two centres in Kenya. The first week in Nairobi and the other two weeks in the reception centre in Malindi, on the coast.
Why did you decide to go on a solidarity trip? What was your first impression of arriving in Kenya like?
The summer before volunteering at Kenya I did one in Bangkok, for this reason I wanted to repeat the experience, but this time in Africa as they have a completely different culture to the Asian one.
After quite a long journey, the first impression I had on arriving in Nairobi was one of fear, I'm not going to lie to you. I was afraid of not connecting with the kids, of not living this experience to 100%. This fear was intensified because it was night and the orphanage area of Nairobi had nothing to do with everything I had seen in my life. But that fear vanished in a second as soon as we walked through the door of the orphanage and Maria welcomed us with a smile. The next day there was none of that fear left, let alone when we met the children playing in the playground with smiles from ear to ear.
What was your day-to-day life like, in general terms? What was your relationship like with your colleagues there, and with the children?
I spent three weeks in Kenya with three other companions. The first one in the orphanage in Nairobi and the other two in the reception centre in Malindi, on the coast. At the orphanage in Nairobi We helped the employees of the orphanage with the younger children as the older ones went to school. Two of my colleagues were with the little ones over one year old, who were left free to do their homework and eat lunch. My other colleague was with the younger children, whom she had to give milk to and play with. The children I was with were about 6 to 9 months old. My daily routine, together with the aunties (the women who work in the orphanages) was to feed them, change their nappies and play with them. This was usually about three times a day and the best part of the day was when we could play and take them down to the playground to get some sunshine.
In Malindi, the children were older and they all went to school, and they asked us to support the teachers in the classes. The school we went to had three classes, and I was with the older ones. I learnt a lot from them. I have to thank them for my whole experience in Kenya, because they were wonderful. After the day at school, which consisted of helping them as much as possible with English, playing with them, etc., we arrived at the orphanage and each one had to do their homework, most days we helped them. After dinner, everyone had to do their homework, in my case I was helping the older ones.
My relationship with the orphanage companions as well as with the children was beautiful, it was impossible to have a bad relationship with them as they are super cheerful and wanted to share as much time with you as possible.
Tell us what you liked most about your collaboration in the project, the funniest anecdote, the most intense moment?
I never really imagined that I would feel like getting up at six in the morning because I had a whole day ahead of me with the children at school, full of laughter and new emotions every day. That's why what I liked the most was the time with the children and the dedication with which they did everything.
I have to admit that we had many intense and hard moments, such as when the children asked us if we had parents or when they told us about the reality of many of the girls living in Malindi.
The hardest moment was the farewell, because I felt that something of me stayed there and that the happiness I had felt during those two weeks would not be comparable to anything else. I thought about how much I was going to miss them, their constant smiles.
Among the memories that stand out the most from my experience, is the moment when we arrived in Malindi and all the children from the orphanage sang and danced with us without even knowing us, it was beautiful. Another unique thing was that for them we were already part of the family, which made us feel very comfortable.
In general, each day was different from the last, and that's what made it so exciting.
Besides your collaboration, were you able to do some sightseeing? Where did you go? What did you like the most?
When we were in Nairobi we didn't really do much sightseeing, as we were only there for a week and wanted to make the most of it with the children.
At the weekend we went to Mombasa, specifically to Diani Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the area, ideal to spend a weekend. During those days all we could think about was Sunday so that we could see the kids again.
Once we finished volunteering, a friend and I went on a three-night, four-day safari in the Maasai Mara, which we recommend 100% because we were able to see animals in their natural habitat and connect with wonderful local people who showed us another side of the country.
From my point of view, I recommend doing a safari (or visiting the country) before starting the volunteering, because as I said before, we regretted not having supported those days in the project.
Tell us about some of the things you learned about their culture.
They have a very different culture, as they value things much more and it is not a consumerist society at all, as in the case of the Spanish. They are very religious, they prayed about 20 times a day and were very grateful for everything they had. Also, the lack of resources, especially economic resources, was very noticeable, when we went to the market the children would chase us to buy something for them, it was a very delicate situation. But undoubtedly what struck us most in comparison with our culture is the little value that is generally given to women's lives, as I knew of many cases of fathers who sold their daughters when they were only 13 years old in exchange for a couple of cows.
After the trip... Do you think there are things that have changed in your idea of the country or in the way you see certain aspects of life?
I think that unconsciously, this experience has changed my daily life a lot, we were taught to value even a simple grain of rice, literally. Now, whenever I have a bad day or something "bad" happens to me, I think that the kids were happy with anything, so every day I am grateful that I am lucky to have everything and I avoid complaining about silly things, valuing every moment.
Would you recommend this type of travel, and why?
I would recommend doing a 100% solidarity trip because you really get to know the culture from a much broader point of view and you value everything related to the country, because you understand better what is behind each person. I also recommend it because it helps you to get to know yourself and to be much more empathetic towards others.
What advice would you give to someone who is going on this kind of trip for the first time?
On a practical level, I would say don't get too obsessed with the bugs, as there are a lot of them and they are very big, but don't make a big deal out of it. I would also say don't take clothes that have a lot of value, as they are quite likely to get stained or torn.
On a personal level, I would tell him to go with an open mind and with all the desire in the world to squeeze 100% out of the experience. Let yourself be carried away and put a lot of effort into everything you do every day, because the rewards will be enormous. To give all the children the opportunity, because many of them do not come from easy backgrounds and that is why they are sometimes quieter, but they have the same desire as the others to have fun and to have a little time a day.