We’ve just come back from spending 2 weeks in quite a rural area of Kenya, 45 minutes drive from Kisumu. We stayed in the orphanage compound the whole time we were there it was a very safe environment, it’s also good to be close to the children all the time. I think we were really lucky with what they gave us whilst we were there, we had our own bedroom, with mosquito nets, we had a shower and normal toilet, as well as a living area and electricity. We were also given a cook/cleaner, who was very helpful, at our own cost, but it was still very cheap!
Don’t expect that there will be lots to do in the evening, even though there is electricity there’s still a limit to what you can do, from what I noticed Yala had no bars, and it was just safer for you to stay within the orphanage compound once it was dark anyway. Yala has a few shops and a market twice a week, where you can buy fruit and veg, pop, and phone credit, along with a few other things. Although we found we didn’t need to buy much whilst we were there as you give the orphanage enough money for food and drink and they will buy it all for you. Yala also has an internet café, which we found very useful, it was only down the road and we were able to go there by ourselves, which gave you back a little bit of that freedom your used to at home. The computers were really nice, they had broadband internet, but it was still very slow to what we’re used too, even though they claim it to be high speed. It’s also very cheap, but I guess it needs to be if the connection is slow!
Although the orphanage has running water, whilst we were there the water did run out for a few days. We were still able to get water to put down the toilet and to wash, but it’s handy to take lots of baby wipes and antibacterial gel to make sure you can clean yourself whenever you need to.
As I said before during the first few days whilst you are there, or even before you arrive, it is essential that you organize with them how much money you will need for food and drink during your stay, they will then buy everything you need. You may wish to visit the supermarket in Kisumu when you arrive to buy anything you may have forgotten, or any food such as crisps, biscuits or sweets to keep you going, as the food you will be getting is mainly carbohydrates!
If there’s anything you really don’t like or can’t eat I’d advise telling them in advance and they will cater around your needs. The food we were given whilst we were there wasn’t much different from home, the only thing is it’s all very plain. The one night we had shepherds pie so they must have looked into the types of food we like. Also we were never given ugali (made from maize and is eaten by lots of people in Kenya as it’s very cheap), they’d really put some thought into the types of food we may like.
We suggest flying to Kisumu and then organizing to be picked up at the airport. We privately hired a matatu (public minibus/bus) which cost 3000ksh (about £21) to take us from the airport to Yala, via the supermarket. We advise flying, even though you will have a weight limit, because the road from Nairobi to Kisumu is very bad and will take about 7 hours, also it’s not much more money to fly.
Everyone at the orphanage is so nice and really easy to get on with; they will even go out of their way to help you. We felt that we were treated like royalty whilst we were there and they really do make a big deal out of you being there. One thing you need to be aware of is they expect you to go to church with them, as they are all very Christian. I must say that their church services can be quite a shock as they are very long and very different to those in England.
The types of things we taught the children we’re mainly arts and crafts and sports/games, as its things they never have the opportunity to do. All the children are at school or nursery in the mornings so you have this time to yourself, we often found this time useful to organise what we were doing that day. Then in the afternoon most of the children are about except a few of the older ones who go back to school until around 5pm. There is a language barrier and sometimes it is hard to explain how you’re supposed to be doing something, but arts and crafts were fairly easy to explain as you can show them visually. By the end of our stay there you could really tell that the children were a lot more confident with their English and were talking a lot more to you.
Before we went to Kenya we did some fundraising which was a great help to us. We then used this money to buy lots of sport equipment, books and arts and crafts stuff to use with the children. They especially loved the glitter and couldn’t resist covering themselves with it; we had to take it away in the end as they were getting a bit carried away! It’s very important that you think about the types of donations your going to give to the orphanage. They already get quite a lot of funding so I really advise buying lots of teaching and sport equipment like we did as it’s something the children will never see otherwise.
On the last day we had a big party, they even decorated the hall with all the Christmas decorations and there was even a tree! We all had a big meal in the hall, and we ate with the children, as it’s something you don’t normally do. We then gave out certificates, and they even gave us them too! We also bought a few treats for the children such as crisps, biscuits, sweets and lollies, something they very rarely get chance to have.
All I have left to say is you will really enjoy it. It was very hard work and the heat really adds to this, also they can’t understand how the sun affects us so much and limits what you do, as they are just so used to it. But it was also a lot of fun; I have so many memories that I will cherish forever from this experience. It really is such an eye opener, even though these children do have quite a lot for Kenyans, they still lack a lot of things that we all take for granted. Just make the most of it; what you get from the experience is what you make of it.