I went to Kenya to work with The Mango Tree as I am interested in sustainable international aid. The Mango Tree are using a new model of helping vulnerable children and orphans without increasing their dependency which is proving to be incredibly effective. What I was scared about was how different I would be from everyone there, whether I would be able to empathise with them, and support them in ways that would actually be helpful. What I learnt is that I’m resilient, that no matter how scary it is and how far away from home I am, I can cope. What’s more I could learn to love the experience and want to go back.
But what I want to tell you, is that in Kenya I learnt to appreciate everything I have; that unless you’re going to change your situation, moaning about it doesn’t help. It is better to accept it, to smile about the problems, to celebrate the positives, because emphasising the problems just makes you miserable. What I learnt is that the people I was working with, even though they had so little, even though they struggled to feed their families, even though many were suffering from HIV and everything seemed to go against them, they were the nicest, happiest, and most resilient people I’ve ever met.
When I arrived I was excited to see I had a real toilet, not a hole in the ground, but what I had to come to terms with was that water came from a rain fed water-but . I had to go and collect water from this before boiling it to drink, or filling a bucket to wash myself. To begin with this was a shock; I had to be organised otherwise I’d have no clean water to drink and if I washed after the sun went down I was doing it in the dark. But at the end this was amusing; coming home to stand under a shower was the best feeling ever, and it taught me to laugh when I messed up as laughing is always better than screaming or crying!
The people whose homes we went to give advice to always tried to provide some form of food for us as a thank you, no matter how little they had, as sharing it was fundamental to their way of life. These people didn’t need the charity to do anything for them, they weren’t helpless and they definitely weren’t hopeless. Support was what was most useful, they knew how to plant maize but teaching them to plant it a meter apart to increase its yields was the support that was needed. The help the charity gave them was simple but effective and everyone was willing to apply the knowledge to make the best results.
Thank you Go Abroad for enabling me to have this fabulous experience, where I learnt more about myself and my area of academic interest than I ever could have at home.