How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA?
The ABV staff in the USA was AMAZING. Sarah answered every one of my million questions before I left, sent me a multitude of information to prepare myself, and even offered to talk to my anxious parents. She also very quickly completed a reference for me.
How was the local ABV Director and the support provided in-country?
Geoffrey picked me up from the airport and stayed at the orphanage for a day or two then left. I didn’t see him again until a couple of days before I left, but he was very open to hearing feedback and constructive criticism. I believe he really wants to help those kids.
What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Sitting in the girls’ dormitory laughing, having my hair braided, singing, and swapping information about Kenya and the USA.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced?
The corruption permeates every aspect of Kenyan life. It was very frustrating experiencing it and knowing that I am powerless to change it. It was also very very VERY difficult to leave.
What was the one thing you wished you were better prepared for?
The corruption. I had no idea how bad it would be. It really is just a part of everyday life there and the locals seem to accept that. I read an e-mail from Sarah before I went that said you need to leave all of your expectations at home. That is completely true. You also need to be very aware of the fact that you as one person are not going to change the ways of millions of people who have been doing things that way for their entire lives. I was made to feel very welcome, but was still very aware of the fact that it wouldn’t be right for me to go in expecting everyone I ran into to accommodate my Democratic Western ideals about liberty and justice for all. I wish I had thought more about reading that I needed to leave all of my expectations at home. I read the sentence and understood it, but I didn’t really get what it meant until I was actually in Kenya.
Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
Request monetary donations from your friends and family then use that money to buy supplies for specific children that you know they need. Don’t bring clothes as there is a whole room full at the orphanage that is locked. Similarly, there is a whole room of donations from past volunteers that is locked. Give the items directly to the children to ensure that they get them and are able to use them. You can get good shoes made out of recycled tires in Nairobi at City Market. Pack less clothes than you think you will need. You can do laundry as often as you want (by hand) but it does have to line dry, so plan for that. Take a flashdrive to get pictures from the other volunteers. The kids LOVE to color, so coloring books and crayons would be an excellent donation to bring. Going on a safari with Stanley is TOTALLY worth the money, but if you don’t have a very long trip, you may want to skip it so you can spend more time with the kids. I would highly recommend taking a few of the kids out and into Thika or even just Kenol. Fourteen Falls was amazing and beautiful and the kids we took really enjoyed playing on the rocks. If you have an iPhone that you want to take with you so that you can use Skype, etc., you need to take your laptop with you and take it somewhere with internet. You must have iTunes and internet for a safaricom (or any other) SIM card to activate on your iPhone. It’s really much easier to just buy a cheap phone while there. It would be a really good idea to pick up a Kiswahili phrase book or try to learn some Kiswahili before you go. The only book I could find on the Kikuyu language was written in 1904 by missionaries and many of the word meanings have since changed. Most people that I came across knew multiple languages, generally including Kiswahili.
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
This was absolutely the most amazing experience I have ever had. It completely changed the way that I see the world and made me so incredibly grateful for everything that I have. ABV made it very easy to plan for the trip and Sarah was absolutely wonderful about answering any and all questions I had. ABV is a fantastic organization to go through and they help you make priceless connections in other countries. You truly cannot know how much volunteering abroad will change your life until you get out there and do it. The kids at the Orphanage are intelligent, kind, hard workers. They deserve all the love that any volunteers could ever give them. Every morning I would wake up and eat breakfast with the other volunteers. We would then either help with laundry, cleaning, or cooking. One day, we worked on demolishing an old rabbit room in the barn so it could be used for storage. Another day, we worked on the ABV mural. There is always something to do if you are willing to go ask one of the staff members what they need help with. We often used the time while the older children were in school to go into town and buy supplies. A few of the younger kids don’t go to school yet, so they are always around to hang out with, play with, and love on during the day. All in all, this was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it again. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Kenya is a wonderful place full of amazing people and I am so thankful that I discovered A Broader View and had the opportunity to go to the Makuyu Village Orphanage.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Catherine Volunteer Abroad in Makuyu Village, Kenya