Katie Baxter Tells Us About Her Average Day Volunteering in Kenya
Jambo! I’m Katie and I’m currently volunteering at a children’s home in Mombasa, Kenya, for a few months. The children I’m working with have blown my mind; some of them are orphaned and don’t have anyone else in the world, but they’re happy, polite and so talented. The children’s home aims to provide them with a safe place to develop their potential.
Mombasa is easily the best place I’ve ever been. It’s hot and it’s busy, but the people here are so amazing. The food is delicious (dodgy chapatti breads from a street stall aside) and there is such a mixture of things to do – go on a safari adventure, hit the stunning beaches, go biking in the forests, try haggling at markets, wander through old towns or just kick back with a passion fruit juice at the roadside as the world whizzes past you…
Here’s a typical day in my life out here:
Early starts, late finishes
4am – Wake up to the banging beats from bar next door, seriously consider getting up and going over for a dance and a beer, then think better of it.
5amish – Wake up to the sound of the call to prayer somewhere down the road, cover ear with pillow and go back to sleep.
6am – Wake up to the sound of roosters crowing and threaten them with all kinds of revenge until they are quiet. Get any additional sleep before the sun gets too high in the sky.
7.30am – Shower, dry off, and immediately commence sweating in the 34oC heat.
8.15am – Head out the volunteer house, waving to children as you pass them and listen to their shrieks of laughter long after you’ve walked past them. How funny am I just for looking like me and talking like I do?!
8.30am – Grab a matatu for the journey to your volunteer project. Matatus are minivans and are Mombasa’s equivalent of the public bus. They have 12 seats, so in theory they should seat 12, but in most cases you’ll be sharing your seat with three others so don’t even think about personal space invasion. Most journeys anywhere cost 20p and you have to bang on the roof of the matatu to tell the driver to stop.
9am – Reach your volunteer project and immediately become covered in children grabbing your leg, shouting ‘teacher, teacher!’, get high-fived until your palms are sore, but for smiles this wide you’ll do it all day if you have to. School usually starts at 7am for children, so they’re wide awake by the time you arrive – lucky you!
9am-12 noon – Lessons continue for the children as you help the teacher hand out books, mark homework, draw on the board and help the children with the one-to-one attention they so desperately need. Class sizes can be quite large, so it’s easy to fall behind. You’re there to do the best you can in the time you have with the teacher’s guidance. The teachers I’ve met in Kenya so far are some of the best I’ve ever seen and they have barely any resources at their disposal.
Noon – Lunchtime chaos! There are a lot of mouths to feed, there are children everywhere and the volume is at an all-time high as the children practice songs they’re learning, count sums they’ve learnt and generally do anything to get your attention. Curse yourself for not having twenty heads in order to hear everyone.
2pm – School’s out for the day, so it’s time to head to the children’s home in my case to help with homework, and help with any prep for dinner, wash clothes, chop fruit – anything. Get involved, get your hands dirty and feel rewarded by the awesome children around you. Some children don’t have anyone else in the whole world, so the children’s home is their safe place, but they still need attention, affection and a little direction at this young and impressionable age.
5pm – Stumble out of the children’s home with children trailing you yelling ‘BYE – SEE YOU LATER!’ even though you’ll be back tomorrow and they did this yesterday. High five every single child before attempting to leave.
5.15pm – Say ‘No, I REALLY have to go now’
5.30pm – OK my hand hurts. See you tomorrow, kids! Did I forget anyone?
6pm – Hail a motorbike taxi and feel the breeze in your hair as you sail home on a cloud of dust and ghetto beats into the waiting sunset. Motorbike taxis are four times the price of a matatu but they’re faster and a great way to get around, even if they make my mum panic when she hears that I’ve been on one.
7pm – After showering and taking in a delicious dinner of chappati, stew and plantain, it’s time to hit a local bar and chat the night away. A cold Tusker beer (the local beer) is the best.
9pm – Sure, let’s go dancing, why not?
Somewhere after midnight – OK possibly time for bed… soon… we’re in Kenya after all, we have the rest of our lives to sleep!
About the Author: Katie Baxter
Katie used to work at i-to-I TEFF for five years and part of her job was to prepare people for working / volunteering abroad and teaching English as a foreign language. However, after giving so much advice she’s decide to preach what she sowed and now she volunteers in Kenya, where she currently lives. She’s been lucky enough to travel to Tanzania, Uganda, Zanzibar, Honduras and Mexico to name a few amazing destinations. When she’s the UK, she likes to take advantage of cheap flights to Europe too.