Beautiful, Shocking and Mind blowing: Kenya

My second volunteering trip abroad started a week ago and since I’ve been getting lots of questions on how things are going and I already have a lot to tell, I decided to start writing my first blog on the beautiful, mindblowing but shocking country that is Kenya.

After a two-hour train ride, an eight-hour flight and a one-hour car ride, I arrived at my temporary host family for the next 2 days. We were with 14 volunteers in total and we got to relax after the long trip, taste the first Kenyan foods (which later I would get to know are pretty much the only Kenyan foods), and enjoy the amazing scenery just outside of the capitol city: Nairobi. Since it’s now winter here, the weather is clouded and chilly but that’s good, since walking around in shorts or tops is not exactly the thing to do here. The first days with the other volunteers were perfect to adjust to the new country I would be living in for the next six weeks.

After we got our orientation on the program, the volunteers were divided and sent to their homestays for the next weeks. Liberty, a girl from England that was staying for four weeks, and I got sent to a project in Nakuru. Since we where told that we were staying in Nairobi, we were a bit surprised/concerned with our placement because it is a three-hour drive away from Nairobi, where the office of our organisation is set, so I told myself that would just have to be a part of the adventure. After a long but magnificent drive through the scenery of Kenya, we arrived at our host family where I would be spending my next six weeks. I was shockingly surprised in the most positive way possible. I had prepared myself on a small room with a mattress on the floor and a cold-water bucket-shower with barely electricity but ended up in a beautiful apartment with the most amazing view on Lake Nakuru and a HOT shower! My host dad, pastor Anthony, his wife An who is also a pastor, and their three beautiful kids: Joy, Abby and Maxwell, would be my family for the next six weeks and I couldn’t be more happy with the placement I got. Also staying here where three Chinese girls who had been volunteering here for the last 4 weeks and are leaving next week. We all got to know each other, ate dinner, and talked about our projects. Liberty and I where placed in an orphanage behind the corner where our organisation had told us there was a big need of volunteers. However, the pastor told us that the centre is well-organised with a lot of staff and plenty of luxury. When we went there the next day, that statement was absolutely confirmed. There where about 14 small kids with 7 people of staff who where well-qualified so we ended up just playing a bit with the kids and cleaning stuff that was already clean. When we got home, the pastor told us we could help him out with several other projects that where really in need of help instead. Without hesitation I said yes, and the next day he would take us to the first project in the slums.

I have to say, I’ve seen a lot of videos of slums and other terrible conditions over the years while researching volunteering projects, but when you actually get there yourself, it’s even more shocking then you could ever imagine on the videos you see. It’s simply incomparable.
The first thing you notice when driving towards the slums is the enormous amount of trash. The second thing you notice is the unbearable smell when you get out of the car. Hundreds of flies surround you within one meter and everywhere you look there is trash. People are searching the newly dumped trash together with pigs, cows, goats and billions of flies and the children try to find food. Normally the community doesn’t want people to come there to watch them as if they are a tourist attraction but because we came with the pastor who helps them a lot, they knew we where volunteers helping them and so it was okay.
Pastor Anthony just recently started 2 projects: a football team for the youth and a sponsorship to send children and young boys and girls to boarding school. The football team’s biggest focus is to keep the young boys out of trouble (alcohol and drugs) and give them hope to grow as a team and maybe get sponsored. A lot of the boys are really talented and can get higher in life by playing football. The goal of the sponsorship is to get the kids to boarding school so that they can get out of the slums and are able to get education, food, clothes, and a better place to live.
The first day I went to the slums we where there to get the profiles and stories of the young boys and girls so that we could start a website where people can sponsor them, donate money to the slums and other projects, and volunteer themselves.
The look and smell of the slums was already a lot to take, but when we were interviewing the kids I bursted into tears. Two of the girls that we interviewed got raped and one of them got infected with HIV. They are 11 and 13 years old. Another girl had lost her parents and had to work for her aunt day and night in exchange for a place to live. The other kids also had their own stories. Most of them where living with their single mom and brothers and sisters and in some cases the mom was an alcohol addict who can’t support her own kids because the little money she gets goes to buying alcohol. There are 140 families living in the slums of Nakuru and most of them are living in conditions as I just described. (Young) girls are the ones struggling the most. They get raped, sell themselves as prostitutes in return for 50 shillings (40 cents) to buy food, often get pregnant when they are still children themselves and are left taking care of younger siblings when the parents die or leave.
After the interviews I went to the little school there to hand out pencils, sharpeners, and bubble blowers that I bought for them and again I was left with tears in my eyes watching them play euphorically with so little. As I watched them, careless and happy and ignorant of how inhumane their situation is, I realised that I take things too much for granted. Things as a shower, a hot meal, a glass of water, and everything else that I have. We don’t choose for the life we get, but we can choose the way we deal with it. For them that means making the most of almost nothing, and for us it should mean being grateful, realising that what we have is not to be taken for granted, and giving and sharing as much as we can.

After that first day in the slums, I decided to cancel the project that the organisation gave us so I can spend my time these next weeks helping out in the slums to collect as much money as I can to ship the kids to boarding school, set up a medical camp with Anthony and organize a sexual orientation day for the girls where we can get a doctor to teach them about hygiene, how to get free access to the pill, and take care of themselves. I will also be working in a special needs center for kids and adults with mental disabilities. There is so much I want to do and suddenly 6 weeks feels way too short, but I am so grateful that I ended up with Anthony and An in their lovely home and that I get to meet and help so many amazing people.



Katleen Lenaerts

Take Care and enjoy, Robin.
Warme zoen

Astrid Bossaerts

Jij gaat een verschil maken, Robin!!


Hey Robin ... weer het begin van een TOP-avontuur!
Wat vind ik het leuk om je te kunnen volgen.
Voorzichtig zijn, helpen waar kan ... maar vooral ook genieten!!
Ik ben al benieuwd naar je volgende verhaal.

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