Volunteering and Travelling in Kenya

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Written by: Cat Holley

An Epic Experience in East Africa

Kenya is the most amazing place in the world and there are things I’ll never forget, like the people I met, squeezing more than I ever thought possible into a safari truck, the amazing beaches, ‘Kenyan time’ and the feeling of being part of the atmosphere and life that only exists in Kenya.

I spent the first half of my trip helping at a camp for street children. They were all ages and lived on the street or in orphanages. This camp was designed to be a holiday for them, so at least for a little while they could have some fun and be regular kids without having to worry about food or what would happen if they fell asleep. They also had medical checks and learnt about HIV and AIDS.

Volunteering with homeless children

The group I had were older than all the others. They were guys of about 17-20. This was a bit daunting as I was 17 as well and these guys didn’t seem like they really wanted to get to know two British girls! I had a Scottish girl as my partner and for the first couple of days we didn’t really feel like we were helping at all.

Then I’m not even sure how it happened, but one of the guys (who was quite bold in the group) started talking to us and then everyone did and we all became really close. I’ll never forget the night we stayed up by the fire and they all told me their life stories; it was incredible and sad to hear.

Mainly by spending time together, swimming, playing football, taking part in the group bonfires and other things like that they began to listen to us when we asked them to go to talks on hygiene or AIDS or to go for health checks, whereas before they’d be really suspicious. One of my best days was taking them all on a day trip to go on a boat… it was so much fun! We also took part in a Kenyan wedding.

Creating bonds for life

There was a bar on site, and when we fancied a change we all piled into the safari truck and went for nights out. There were Kenyan people working for Adventure Alternative (the organisation which I went to Kenya with) so they really knew where to take us. The best day was when someone found a place that sold chocolate cake and had the Internet (we’d been eating ugali and stew every day).

I’ve never been so sad to leave a group of people in all my life, especially because I watched them walk to the shanty town down the hill and I knew that they would be living there now that the camp had closed. I still hear from them and they let me know how they’re doing. Those guys taught me so much about life in Kenya and life in general. There are so many things I’ll never moan about again now I’ve met such inspiring and determined people who have got through so much despite the odds.

Climbing Mount Kenya

When camp was over it was time for the next part of the trip – climbing Mount Kenya. We got into tent groups and did our shopping (which was a mad day). Then we left camp and headed for the mountains… which yet again involved jumping into the safari truck – the best way to travel! The mountain was really tough. People got altitude sickness and it was tiring but it was also one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. To reach the top and see how stunning the world looks from up there was incredible. Our tent group got really close and we’re still talking about that climb now. I think after you’ve done something like that together, it stays with you.

Once we’d reached the bottom (at varying speeds due to the fog) we set up camp for the last time, outside a hotel, and had a vaguely lukewarm shower for the first time in three weeks. It was really nice to be down and we had a huge meal there (that we didn’t have to cook for ourselves) and we just relaxed. Then we went to one of the leader’s farms and had a traditional feast. The hard parts of the trip were over.

Going on safari and winding down

The next day we left to go on safari. This was really cool. I sat on the top of the safari truck and we drove through zebras, elephants, cheetahs and loads more, with a possible giraffe sighting… that could have been a tree.

Then came the most relaxing part of the trip. We spent some time in Malindi, by the beach. We spent the days shopping in a little nearby market, swimming and sunbathing. We found a place that sold pizza too, and there was a bar which we frequented quite a lot. It was so nice just to chill out for a few days and take everything in before going back home.

Before we went home we visited an orphanage, a school and another shanty town. Then it was actually over. I couldn’t believe I had to go back to England where ‘Kenyan time’ didn’t exist. None of that seemed real any more. The friends I’d made seemed like family and I felt like I wanted to stay forever.

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