My time volunteering
In October 2018, I went to Loitoktok in Kenya which sits on the foothills of Kilimanjaro - so we had beautiful views for the entirety of our placement.
Our project was on Livelihoods and focused on inclusive education and female empowerment. My placement was based in Rombo which was a long drive from Loitoktok on the bumpiest roads! We worked in 3 schools and delivered peer education sessions with students aged from 4 - 18. We did topics such as hygiene, relationships and how to deal with stress and focused on exam stress (because it was exam season whilst we were there). Sadly, it was school holidays for the majority of time when we were there, so we didn't get to spend as much time in schools as we would have liked.
However, the school holidays allowed us to concentrate on the women's groups. We had 4 groups in Rombo and it was so amazing to work closely with women and men in the Maasai community. Truly wonderful. We conducted needs assessments with each group to understand the best ways that we could help them during our time there.
Mainly, we built jikos (energy saving stoves), taught them how to make liquid soap and how to sell it on to make a profit and ways to improve their business model when selling their beads.
We also had three community action days (CADS) - World Aids Day, People Living with Disabilities Day and International Volunteer day. These were planned by the volunteers and they were all really amazing and brought the communities together!
The impact of my placement
For one of our Womens groups (the Nasarunoi group) we successfully repaired a greenhouse which was used by people living with HIV and AIDS. The greenhouse had been broken by bad weather and the womens group did not have the funds to repair it. As a results of the damage done, the group of people living with HIV and AIDS who used the greenhouse to grow vegetables and sustain a livelihood were suffering as they had no means of sustaining economic empowerment.
The Rombo team fundraised separately to raise the money needed to repair the greenhouse! And we managed to raise the money needed! The womens group were fully involved in the process and were extremely grateful for our help. They sang to us which was truly unforgettable and made us feel completely at home!
The greenhouse was repaired and is now used again by the people living with HIV and AIDS to provide them with a sustainable form of income and is helping fight the stigma which surrounds the disease.
My unforgettable moments
One of our CADs was People Living with Disability Day. We hosted the event in Rombo as it was quite remote and there was a negative stigma regarding disabled people within the community.
I was part of the CAD committee and we had planned the day to ensure that there were speakers there that would be beneficial for the participants. We had mobilised the community as effectively as we could by going to churches and rural communities to inform them about the event.
On the day - 180 people turned up, which was a huge number! Many of them had travelled a long way to attend, and the journey for people was not easy!
We had a physiotherapist in attendance who did such an amazing job! He was able to register many disabled people as disabled and this enabled them to receive benefits from the government - such as grants and crutches/wheelchairs! The people at the event really enjoyed it and were glad to have seen so many other disabled people in attendance. It really built up a sense of community!
It was truly unforgettable to see such a wonderful turn out and I think the day meant a lot to people and they were thankful. It was one of my stand out moments because I think we really encouraged a group of marginalised people to be more confident and showed them that they are not alone and that there is help out there.
The impact my placement has had on me
After getting back to the UK, I think and reminisce everyday about the amazing experiences I had whilst in Kenya. I made many lifelong friends - both UK and Kenyan who I will continue to see.
I understand now that I am more capable of affecting change than I previously thought and know how to achieve things now as well which previously daunted me - such as organising events and public speaking.
I am passionate about international development and know that this is a career I want to explore - I do have the travelling and adventure bug now!
Most importantly my VSO experience has shown me how I can positively change the world in a proactive manner.
I would go back to Kenya in a heart beat and loved it so so much!