I was involved from the beginning of the project and was able to see how it grew from an idea and a vision to actuality. I was one of the coordinators and assisted in organising the group whilst in Kenya. I was specifically involved in the Business Programme. This involved me working with some of the team on the ground in Kenya who had a good knowledge of the needs of the people out there. I had the opportunity to specifically work with fashion and hairdressing students as well as local performers teaching them the basics of financial record keeping and the importance of budgeting and forecasting in business. This was achieved through classroom style presentations and smaller group interactive discussions.
I wanted to get involved because for a long time, I felt a strong desire to help the poor. I felt a great sense of gratitude over all that I have been blessed with in life and really wanted to play a role in helping others. My place of origin is Ghana so going to Africa really appealed to me. I also wanted to do something that would inspire others to want to help those living in humble circumstances.
I was able to interview a young man called Emilio who shared about his life. He informed me that he grew up with 19 other class mates and that 15 of them had died mostly through getting involved in crime. He was one of the 4 people that survived growing up in Mukuru through good people in the community helping him turn his life around and introduce him to God. His dream is to help transform the slum where he lives into a popular destination for people to live. He is studying IT and runs his own business. He dreams of “bringing London to Mukuru” i.e. transform Mukuru into a popular destination like London. What a vision for someone who has gone through so much.
The team did an amazing job – everybody from the volunteers to the staff on the ground. The children and teachers learned a great deal from the teaching programme, people who would otherwise not have been able to afford treatment were able to receive excellent medical care, close to a hundred young men and women received basic training in finance and marketing and a large number of performers were able to record a movie of life in Mukuru as well as produce their own song.
I found this experience truly exhilarating. I have found it incredibly fulfilling focusing on giving to others. It has given me a greater sense of appreciation of all that I have and it has really helped put my challenges in perspective. I would encourage everyone to experience what I have. The joy on some of the faces of these people when they receive help is truly amazing, it is humbling and made me ponder how I can best do more to help others. Its an amazing reward to see how you can positively impact lives. “The Kenya Project” has given me true understanding of the phrase “Giving is Living”.
I was originally going to work with Amanda and Diane providing teaching support and CPD to the teachers in the Mukuru community, however as Tor would be on her own with the youth group running the music programme I supported her instead.
I decided to get involved in the Kenya project because as a teacher I wanted to and still want to be able to use my skills and resources to help poorer communities. I want to be able to send over basic teaching materials and exchange ideas with poorer schools so that they can continue to work towards providing education for poorer children.
Whilst in Kenya, I was most impacted by the work of the HOPE team within the Mukuru slum community. The HOPE team are dedicated and doing so much to help sustain the community and they are having an amazing impact. I was also impacted by the volunteers and one of the teachers in the slum school because of their dedication to the children and also the fact that a lot of the volunteers rely on supporting HOPE as a way of living and feeding their families.
To be honest I feel that we were impacted rather than making a difference. I do know that after the CPD (Continual Professional Development) session the teachers said that they found the session helpful and wanted more training, the youth music programme was a great opportunity to allow the young locals to use their talent to create music, I believe Tor left the music making equipment so that the youth can continue to use them.
I would encourage others to get involved in the Kenya Project because HOPE Kenya are working really hard to fund all the projects and do need support, doing the Kenya Project is also a great opportunity to understand the heart of Jesus towards the poor.
I coordinated the Education Programme. This involved:
I needed a ‘shake up’ in my spiritual life. I felt I had become too comfortable, and needed to do something which would allow me to reconnect to the power of God and the Holy Spirit. At the time, the project was sill in talks, so didn’t know what to expect.
I had gone to India over 10 years ago on HOPE Youth Corps and was really convicted by the poverty I saw… and how joyful, hospitable and content people were. I felt like my convictions were fading as it had been such a long time since I had been around any extreme poverty, even though there are definitely needs here in the UK. I had been talking about wanting to go somewhere and do something – so when the opportunity came to help those who are in need, I thought it would be a good idea.
As a school teacher going back to work was incredibly hard and emotional actually – it took a while to settle back in… the extreme contrast in the health of the children, the learning environment, the amount of resources available, clothing… it really highlighted for me what poverty really looks like, and made me realize that I actually do not have a clue about how people and children are living around the world. I shared at church a few weeks ago that I would have said that we were under resourced at work before going to Kenya. But when I came back, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of teaching resources we have. I saw young children playing alone in mud, in dirty water putting contaminated objects into their mouths… we were very close to sewage. Many, many children walking through the slum with no shoes, or shoes miles to big. Very, very little resources available in the schools. Ripped and dirty text books and curriculum books wasting away on shelves. Very convicting as I’ve seen perfectly good books being thrown away at work because they are no longer used. I could say more….
From an education programme perspective, we got very positive feedback in that the teachers felt that they had some new teaching strategies and ideas that they could use with their children, even with very little resources. There were teachers who were able to receive resources that they could use with their children to enhance their teaching. The children we were able to work with loved taking part in the school sessions, though with some of the resources and sessions were tentative at the beginning as it was a very different way of working for them. After working with a year 2 class, the children were able take their finished art work home, and the teacher told me they were excited to take their work home and show their parents. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose the impact was small but incredibly significant. They have probably had a bigger difference on our lives.
Volunteering on the Kenya Project definitely changed my perspective on life; on what is important, on where I stand before God, on how God feels when I don’t have a heart for the poor… the experience is continuing to soften my heart as what I saw and experienced continues to sink in. There is still a lot more to be done! I think the Kenya project is special in that it allows for people to use their knowledge and skills within each programme flexibly… for these reasons I would encourage others to volunteer…. I have more reasons but can’t think right now….
Which aspect of the work in Kenya did you help with and what did this involve?
I was involved with the medical side of things. I was mainly assisting Claudine and Karen, my job involved translating, holding the torch, filing in the forms and making sure the tools and specimens were stocked and available for use.
Why did you decide to get involved?
It has been a dream of mine to go back to Kenya to serve since I left 6 years ago. When I heard about the Kenya project, I was delighted that I could give something back to Kenya, but also that I could assist since I have been a healthcare assistant for a while.
What were you most impacted by when you were there?
Lives were changed. The women felt cared for and most of them got the smear test and HIV test that they needed. I was touched by how easily they opened up and were vulnerable with their lives. It reminded me how these people live and are content with little.
What difference do you feel the team made to the lives of the Kenyans you met?
They were made more aware, not only of their medical needs but others were given opportunities in business and music.
Why would you encourage other people to volunteer with The Kenya Project in the future?
Jesus left his throne to live with us for 30 years; we are being asked to travel to a different country for less than a week and most of the time the volunteers are still accommodated in a 3 star hotel. It means so much to someone out there.
We can all give something, if we allow God to use us.
The start date for the Kenya Project is one week away!
The project is running between the 19th and 23rd of February. There are now ten confirmed members of the team from the UK and two from the US. They will be joined by medical professionals and volunteers from HOPE Kenya, our partners in the project. The HOPE Kenya team have worked hard to ensure the success of the project and the safety of the international volunteers.
The medical team will travel to two Kenyan communities, Kitingela and Mukuru, and provide a five day medical clinic. They aim to meet specific local needs, focusing on diabetes, hypertension and cervical cancer screenings. Part of the legacy of the project will be to train HOPE workers in Kenya to keep the project sustainable, and we plan to send annual medical mission trips to support the clinic.
It is so important for The Kenya Project to provide this medical support because 44% of Kenyans who are unwell are unable to seek medical care due to costs.
As well as providing medical support The Kenya Project also aims to promote learning among the poorest communities. The focus will be on providing children with the best start possible. The project has been blessed with donations of many kinds, including six laptops and an abundance of classroom equipment. There are three teachers on the team, and they are eager to implement some specific ideas acquired in the UK to support children’s learning and development.
The team will also provide a business skills programme to help small business owners in these communities. For sustainability, training will be provided for local teachers to allow this work to continue.
Finally, the project will run a music programme with a goal to create a body of material that can be performed to uplift the spirits of all involved in the project.
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All money raised will help to cover the costs for medicines and medical equipment, as well as pay for local staff who will be crucial in ensuring that they provide effective care.