From Cork to St Kizito’s

05 November 2013
Another Harambee volunteer team has arrived in Kenya. This 15-strong group is from Ireland. Our best wishes to them and our thanks for the first blog of their trip, written by Tanya Sheehy. Where does one begin? This is my first time writing one of these blogs — and my first time in Kenya. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in Cork only four days ago, we have become wearied with travel but every minute has been absolutely worthwhile. We arrived three days ago in Nairobi airport apprehensive as to what was ahead of us. But, as they say, you should wait to experience something yourself before judging. We had a lovely meeting with all the team including the link team from Mayo General Hospital. And from the hotel we stayed in on the outskirts of Nairobi to the village of Londiani we have experienced some of the nicest, most hospitable native people who have only been too delighted to welcome us to such a beautiful, untouched country. We travelled in a 4x4 to the village of Londiani, stopping in the Rift Valley viewpoint along the way looking down into the valley from 8,000ft. Ears popping from the altitude we continued along the tar road, spotting wild native African animals such as baboons, gazelles, impalas and monkeys. We also saw native farmers along the road with their cattle and donkeys and carts. From here we continued onto Nakuru, where we stopped at a large shopping centre, had a lovely meal with all our team and stocked up on chocolates and treats like squirrels preparing for a hard winter, not quite knowing what was to come. The last leg of our journey started on the tar road and ended on a dusty, rocky road but our experienced drivers kept us out of harm’s way. We eventually found ourselves at the front gates of St. Kizito’s Catholic church, where we received an overwhelming, emotional, heartwarming welcome (or Karibu) from the local women in native song and dance. There were tears shed by members of the group at this welcome; it was an experience of a lifetime to say the very least. We were then shown our accommodation and the area of St. Kizito’s church. We all met in the dining room where we were introduced to Fr. Con and Fr. Martin (two brilliant characters who made us feel so welcome, and invited us to listen to a Midleton game on the radio!). After our long travel, we had a lovely tea made for us by Nancy and Sophia, and retired to our beds earlier than anticipated within the unaccustomed confines of mosquito nets. With our pyjamas tucked into our socks, our tops tucked into our pyjamas and wrapped like sausages in a sausage roll in our sleeping bags we were prepared to battle the dreaded mosquito. The next morning we woke and not a sting in sight (mosquito 0 – Tanya 1)! Some of us were too tired to go for the dawn walk, so we got up at 8am to have a communal breakfast. We then went to the Londiani offices and met with the members of the Londiani team, introduced ourselves and were able to see some of the work that has been done by Friends of Londiani. After our introductions we were split into three groups and shown round the town. Richard and Jocelyn took my group all around Londiani, from post offices to schools to local shops to the Londiani town hall and, unforgettably, to the town hotel and butchery where we had a Sprite and mandazi (a famous — and delicious — Kenyan pastry delicacy). From here we returned to St. Kizito’s and were told about the projects we had been assigned for the forthcoming week. Then we divided into our groups and set about our planning. From this experience alone I can see all the dedication work group leaders and managers have towards the town of Londiani and the beautiful free-flowing relationship between them and the people of the area. Tomorrow is when the training starts and when we get to meet the local people. So with our bellies full from our beautiful vegetable stew and fresh fruit we retire to our mosquito net-enclosed beds to reminisce on yet another breathtaking, eye-opening day in Kenya in St. Kizito’s church. I’m so looking forward to what the next three weeks hold and what stories we will have to tell our families and what memories we will make. It is so far the best experience of my life — and it’s only day four!