My time volunteering
For my placement I was volunteering in Machakos County's Social Welfare Department. Our primary goal was to inform the community on the issue of gender based violence. My counterpart, supervisor and I visited various community groups of marginalised people (including women, people with disabilities and children) to educate them on gender based violence. These community groups had their own businesses, so we also encouraged them to register their group so they could access loans and extra support from the government to help them with their business.
My counterpart and I noticed that there was a lack of knowledge on gender based violence among the youth, so we decided to visit different community youth groups to raise awareness on the issue. We visited the hospital and police station to gather more information on how gender based violence cases are handled, which was extremely useful when explaining the process to others. We managed to sensitise over a hundred youths in Machakos County. Not only did we educate them, the youth groups then created their own committees so they could continue to raise awareness and tackle the issue of gender based violence in more communities in Machakos.
The impact of my placement
After integrating ourselves into the community, my counterpart and I quickly realised that there was a huge lack of knowledge on gender-based violence. In fact, many people were shocked when they learned that Machakos had the second highest number of gender-based violence cases out of all the counties in Kenya. After giving a talk at a local college, we were asked some alarming questions about sex and relationships and so we decided to hold an event on sexual health at the college. The students learnt about STIs, contraception (which is not actively taught in Kenya) and also about HIV/AIDS. The event also included a guest speaker who gave a demonstration on how to use both a male and female condom, something which the students greatly appreciated.
Although the main focus of our project was the youth and entrepreneurship, our team helped organise and run a number of different community events, including World Aids Day, International Volunteers Day, International Day for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) and a blood drive at the local hospital. We were able to provide free HIV testing, registration forms for PWDs and opportunities for the youth to volunteer.
My unforgettable moments
It's hard to choose just one memory from the amazing 10 weeks I spent in Kenya. Camping at Lake Naivasha was definitely a highlight, it was so scenic and truly stunning. It was also my very first time camping and sharing a tent with 9 other people was so much fun!
Without a doubt, the most magical moments of my whole experience in Machakos have definitely been getting to know all the volunteers. Hanging out in the Red Cross cafe eating chips, blasting the song 'I Know Who I Am' during processions and playing 21 dares will forever be some of my favourite memories. The best thing about spending all day everyday with the same people is how quickly you can become a family. I laughed more and more every day and I’m pretty sure my smile doubled in size. Even if I don’t see the Kenyan volunteers again, I know I have made friends for life.