Hello dear Kenya enthusiasts!
I’m Lisa, 20 years old and currently am volunteering at Maisha Mazuri Children Centre. I want to use my free time after graduation to make a difference, to gain experiences and to get to know a part of the world that is absolutely new to me. At the MCC, I share my knowledge with the kids, try to implement creative and educational projects and at the same time to learn a lot from the people, the culture and a completely different way of life. I landed in Nairobi in mid-January and was welcomed by Michael with open arms. On the way to the MCC, I got a first impression of the way of living, Kenya’s people, their houses (e.g. small stalls on the roadsides) and, not to forget, the busy and expandable streets of Kenya. The pleasantly warm weather in January, with 28 degrees and sunshine, inspired me very much and the African flair immediately captivated me. When I arrived at the Maisha Mazuri Children Centre, all children gave me a warm welcome and tried to carry my luggage, which in some cases was larger than the kids themselves, to my room. The staff also welcomed me with open arms and helped me with everything I needed. The children were very curious as my skin and face are covered with freckles and this was something new and exciting for them.
Unfortunately, I got very sick on the flight to Nairobi and had to take it slow the first few days. All staff were very helpful and took care of me. Even when inhaling, the children always kept me company and made sure that I very quickly felt very comfortable and accepted in their little world. After I had settled in a bit, I worked out a first timetable with the social workers Marcy and Joseph for the first two weeks where all children still had school holidays and we could use the time wisely.
We implemented computer projects by converting existing knowledge about hygiene and first aid into PowerPoint presentations and then presenting them to the other children. Thus, the children were able to experience Microsoft programs and learn presentation techniques.
I also baked cinnamon rolls with the children. From preparation to actually baking, they all actively supported me and asked lots of questions. In addition, we also found a way to measure the ingredients without kitchen scales and without hand mixers and thus produce a homogeneous dough. Unfortunately, the oven did not work perfectly, but the rolls still tasted amazing.
An absolute highlight for both the interns and the children is a Saturday. Here, after lunch, everything is prepared for Chapati. Chapati is a mixture of naan and pancakes. The dough only consists of water, flour and salt, which is processed into a dough with many strong hands and then rolled out into small flatbreads. The chapatis are baked on so-called chapati grills. This can be imagined as a grill with a crepe attachment. The children bake the chapatis in some fat with their very own techniques. Chapatis are eaten for dinner with stew or meat.
After telling the kids that my favorite food is pasta, we cooked almost 8 kg of pasta with tomato sauce. It was not as easy to get all the ingredients, let alone cook the masses. It was a big change for me to cook over the fire, to keep the temperature and at the same time to make sure that nothing burns. Julius, the MCC cook, thankfully helped us and soon we were able to cook very delicious pasta. One of the kids even ate seven large plates of noodles. As you can imagine, we had to cook pasta again only a few weeks later.
The children teach me a lot around the kitchen. For example how to prepare dishes or dough without the usual German household utensils and how to read the best beans and lentils from bad ones as quickly as possible. Here at MCC, clothes are washed by hand and in my first attempts the children explained and helped me to wash my clothes. They also taught me tricks how to get the last stain out of a t-shirt, or how to protect the clothes from fading by sunlight. Washing my long hair became an event here, as the children like to help with that. Another highlight was when we grilled bread and sausages on a stick. We made a big fire, roasted the bread and ate it together with the sausages. So yummy!
When school started again for all children, everyday life around the MCC changed. The children now spend all day at school and come back in the evening, swapping their uniform for comfortable everyday clothes and do their homework. I support the children with their weaknesses or if they have questions. After getting to know the school system, I realized how privileged we Europeans are and what a good education we enjoy. Often the children in a class are at a different level of education, resulting in large gaps, such as reading difficulties, and difficulties with writing or arithmetic.
Since the children are back in school, it is very quiet here at MMC. We now take care of chores that are sometimes forgotten. Instead of spending my time with the kids all day, I now help even more in the kitchen, take care of the animals, visit the children at school, or accompany the social workers to home visits.
The MCC not only supports the families of the children in the MCC, but also more than 100 families from the community and in the slums. Social workers visit them on a regular basis to check on the situation and to help in emergencies. My first home visit was very impressive and at the same time shocking, as I have never seen anything like it before. Many people lack the things we (in Germany) take for granted, such as food. Often the grandparents take care of their orphaned grandchildren, but most of them are sick themselves or cannot work. When the rain season is over, people here in Kenya have little opportunities to provide for themselves and their families. For example, chicken are sold to finance a trip to the doctor or to buy some food for the children. Nevertheless, people try to make an income by carving stones or knotting ropes.
The MCC and the entire organization looks after more than 100 families and helps them with their needs or even provides food in an emergency. At the same time, children from very bad backgrounds are offered a place at Maisha Mazuri Children Centre and their education is taken care of, so that the children can later provide for and support their families themselves. There is no social security system as we know it in Germany. There is a certain budget for food or education for certain age groups and children, but it requires a lot of paperwork to apply for these funds. In addition, there is a lot of corruption in Kenya, so that the funds often simply disappear.
The founder Jimmy not only manages the MCC project, but also many others, such as the skills center or supports families in the slums of Nairobi. Children who are more practical have the opportunity to choose between various practical training courses in the Skills Center and can develop further there. The visit to the slums in Nairobi was a very memorable and touching experience for me. In Germany, we only see pictures of poverty and the misery. However, these are all just pictures of a place very far away and do not even come close to reflecting the real situation and the impressions on site. It is quite normal in Kenya for a single mother with 5-10 children to live on a few square meters, so that children even have to sleep on the floor or under the bed. With the help of donations and the funds of the association, the children from such families are helped to enjoy a school education in order to lead a better life later and to support their own family.
David, the second volunteer, currently responsible for the farm, organized a trip to the “World Agroforestry Center”. There, we were able to acquire a lot of new knowledge about seeds, trees and plants that are particularly suitable to be grown on our farm and also on the grounds of the MCC. In addition, we have also learned that many of the seeds are archived and preserved long term, so that in the event of a nuclear war or the damage caused by climate change, a new colonization on earth with plants is possible in the future. Together with David, we planted various fruit trees on the farm and also on the MCC grounds, which should bear many different fruits in a few years. The children from primary school to senior secondary school were involved and were able to benefit from David’s knowledge and learn how to plant, water and care for trees properly.
Another project was to repaint the children’s table in order to preserve it in the long term and at the same time spice it up visually. In the end, not only the table was colorfully painted, but also the kids had different colors on them and their clothes. Unfortunately, all seven bicycles at MCC were broken and so we fixed them and brought back into shape. Now the children can whizz around the MCC again with the bicycles many thanks to all who donated prior to my departure!
The previous interns sent me some pictures, which I printed out and gave to the children. With the pictures we made name tags for the kids’ rooms. There was great joy when the children each held a pictures of themselves in their hands, as printed pictures are very rare here.
In March, the new volunteers Britta and Flo arrived. They brought some modern school utensils such as cameras and beamers. Together we installed them in the secondary school and wrote an operating manual. Thus, teachers and students now benefit from state-of-the-art technology and can also make their lessons creative.
Many greetings from Kenya
PS: If you want to know more about the Hand-in-Hand-for-Kenya project or see videos and pictures about the daily life of my volunteer time, pleasae have a look at Instagram @handinhand4kenya.