Six years ago, I went to Kenya for a one year stint as a VSO Volunteer.
It changed my perspectives completely.
Now I am back in my country, the Philippines, and I am still working in the development field. My experiences in Kenya have made me a better development worker and prompted me to work even harder for the advancement of the farmers, with particular interest with women.
I’m currently traveling back home after attending a five-day project planning workshop in Tacloban City.
As some of you may know, Tacloban was massively devastated by last year’s Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan). From my hometown of Roxas City, I took a bus that would take me to Iloilo City. There, I took a plane to Cebu City. After arriving in Cebu City, I then boarded a boat to Ormoc, then a bus to reach Tacloban. All in one day. I arrived in Tacloban tired and famished and ready to call it a day.
It was a great day for traveling – the skies were clear and the sea so calm. While waiting for our boat to Ormoc, I noticed that there were only a few passengers; the waiting lounge was sparsely populated.
Where have all the passengers gone? Probably not too keen to travel as, after the most recent Typhoon Ruby’s visit (international name: Hagupit) in the Visayas region, another LPA (Low Pressure Area) was sighted along the Visayas-Mindanao area.
This is some kind of a visual output I made – albeit unfinished – during one of the activities at the Gender in Humanitarian Action Training I attended a few weeks ago.
Gender in Humanitarian Action is important for development practitioners like me as it will enable us to acquire a greater understanding of what is gender equality (male-female inclusive) in programs and how will we apply this in our day to day work. Development workers like me are faced with different levels of situations that require gender sensitivity and we need gender-specific tools to integrate in our work processes.
The CCS was set up last September at Ivisan’s town center. Many children and curious adults alike came and participated in the different activities. We hope to set up more spaces like this in many other municipalities.
As mentioned before, I’ve begun my work as a community facilitator in our town of Ivisan for a non-government organization. Our project is aimed at promotion of child rights and protection through various community and school activities.
As my town is celebrating our annual fiesta, ChildFund, the NGO, has set up a Child-centered Space (CCS) in the town centro (center), thus the big sign below. This is one of the many advocacy activities we have for ChildFund’s RISE Project.
The CCS provides is aimed at children and provides free play for children, as well as adults with trained community volunteers and engage them to various fun activities that allow them to express emotions and such.
I nicked this short description from a colleague:
Child Centered Spaces are safe, physical spaces for children affected by conflict or disasters to gather, providing emergency education, protection and multisectoral support, including psycho-social support. Through community mobilization around children’s needs, CCS provide regular, structured activities for children, adolescents and parents of young children under the supervision of caring adults from the community. CCS allow children to participate in activities where they can play, express their feelings, thoughts and opinions, and learn new things from adults and other children, providing a sense that “things are getting back to normal again.” [Starting Up Child Centered Spaces in Emergencies: A Field Manual, Christian Children’s Fund]
I’m coming back to Signs, signs meme again as I think I have lots of signs that need posting here. It’s just finding the time to post, that’s all.
Anyways, I was in Iloilo City two months ago for a training. For those who do not know, Iloilo City is one of the highly-urbanized cities in the Philippines, and the capital of Iloilo province. Iloilo City is a two-hours bus-ride away from my hometown, Roxas City, in the province of Capiz. Anyhoo, the training was conducted at a mid-range hotel, and it’s also where we (participants) stayed.
In one of the coffee breaks, I dashed to the loo only to be surprised at the sign waiting for me.
I was puzzled at the sign in the beginning – the “self-service” part, lol. It was only later on when I realized what it meant!
Yes, indeed! My baby Jonas is now three months old. I can’t believe it myself but here’s a picture of him taken yesterday.
I’m sorry if I could not be there with you as you turn a month older. MamaGirl has to work and finish her obligations first before I’ll come home and be with you soon. However, ara man si Lola Nene and Granda to take my place and provide you the tender, loving care till I come back. Promise me you won’t be pasabad to them and I promise to hurry home. I miss your sweet baby scent, your small face with big eyes staring back at me, and most of all your smiles that melt all my tiredness and homesickness. I miss you, Kuya Joboi, and Papa Jhong. I’ll be home soon, sweethearts.
The summer heat in the Philippines is just unbearable for this pregnant mama. All I want to do is just take a shower again and again and again. If not only for the sight of our growing pile of laundry, I would have done so already.
Also the heat is making me feel nostalgic about my short volunteer stint in Kenya. So I opened my photo album named My Kenyan Adventure and looked at the photos again. The memories came back in a flash as if they happened only recently. Like this particular photo:
I remember this particular photo as if it happened only yesterday. My volunteer assignment had just concluded and, with still a few weeks left before my flight back home, I opted to spend these days with my fellow VSO Volunteers who were based in Kisumu, nearly 400kms from Mombasa where I was assigned. It is where the popular Lake Victoria is located.
My co-volunteers’ work is mainly with children and mothers. There is a children’s center there where they help run. One of their activities is a feeding program for kids and their mothers and are held regularly. During my stay there, I assisted them in whatever way I could – helping make their food, distributing malunggay seedlings (moringa oleifera, which is high in nutrion and believed to comabt malnutrition), talking with the kids, or even playing with them. In this picture, I was playing snakes and ladders with these two bright kids.
My stay in Kenya was short but full of good memories. I wonder if I can ever go back there again.
My recent Mellow Yellow Monday posts about this beach resort in my hometown with a nice, spacious playground got me thinking about birthday ideas for children This thought came to me because my niece’s 7th birthday is coming up in two months time and his dad, my younger bro, asked my help to assist his wife to come up with activities that can make his daughter’s birthday a happy and memorable one, not only for the children’s enjoyment but also for the accompanying parents and other adults as well.
Because of my previous stay in this resort, I can say that it is perfect for my niece’s birthday party. First, the location. It is very accessible, just a 3kms away from the city center to Brgy. Baybay where the resort is located. Tricycles and jeepneys ply this route regularly. For those who are car-owners, there is a huge parking area and – wait for it – it’s for free!
Second, the facilities are good. There is a large swimming pool for kids – which is a sure hit for the kids. However, my SIL and I need to take into consideration those who do not know how to swim.
Thirdly, the resort is about 7-hectares and they have well-maintained tropical garden setting. It is a huge space for kids to run around! There is a nice playground complete with the usual playground fixtures, such as seesaws, slides, swings, monkey bars, etc. to amuse them. For the accompanying parents and other adult guests, on the other hand, they will love the benches and tables shaded by large trees to sit down and watch the children play at the party while enjoying drinks and snacks themselves. I heard there’s a wi-fi Internet, too, so they can also entertain themselves with a bingo game or two at FoxyBingo.com.
Generally, kids are very easy to please. We can provide them with fun things to do, like parlour games, such as this musical chair game. There is also a bowling alley inside the resort so perhaps a mini-bowling tournament for the kiddos will be considered as well. The food and the birthday cake and ice cream can come later when everyone’s getting tired and hungry. We already thought about decors and food, etc. But before my SIL and I go crazy about the details, I think it is a must that we first ask what the birthday girl wants. What we might think fun might not be for her. After all, it’s her birthday. Will keep you posted.
It’s been two years since I came home from Kenya, the country where I lived for 14months to work with a local community in the eastern coast of the country. Despite the pre-departure training volunteers undergo before the big move, it was still a big shock arriving in a new country. My senses were assaulted (in a very good way, that is) with everything right at the moment we stepped off the airplane and set our foot on Kenyan soil! At that time I could feel the signs the heaven was sending to me – like those signs at that flag your attention right away- as if to tell me that it it was going to be a helluva experience!
At the airport, on our arrival, we were greeted by the following sign. Sure it’s not a professional looking one like the ones made by the Lowen Sign Company but we had no trouble finding our welcoming committee.
I was so tired; my head ached and my body was yearning for a warm shower and a nice, soft bed to lie on and have a shut-eye but you still see me smiling here because I felt so relieved to finally plant my feet firmly on the ground after a long haul flight.
We didn’t have time to go sight-seeing in Nairobi because after our orientation and language course we were immediately sent to our respective areas of assignment. I lived on my own in the community with only the very basic Kishwahili language skills as my tool to help me get by. My work as a VSO Volunteer in Kenya has allowed me to travel inside the country. Living abroad has made me notice new things around me, especially signs that are different or not found from where I come from.
There were so many new things around me! Imagine seeing giraffes walking along the roadside? Or the noisy babboons while stopping for a rest during a road trip? Oh, only in Africa!
Here’s a friendly reminder that I keep in my mind all the time.
And this I miss so terribly…. the chocolate, okay?
These are actually great points here but, sadly, not strictly followed, especially the part of using a mobile phone when driving.
When you see this sign, you should be scared… Really scared. Riding on a matatu is not for the faint-hearted.
amel advertising. Anyone? This is a very common site in the tourist town of Mombasa. We don’t have this in the Philippines.
There are so many stories I have yet to tell (or post here) but I’ve been caught up in my present life, working in an industry that is alien to me and in an environment that I’m not accustomed to. But a mama’s got to do what she has to do, right? Just like a real trouper, I picked up where I left off and slowly, but carefully, move on with my “now”.
My stint in Kenya was only short but the memories are enough to last me my lifetime. Although they are now in a special compartment in my brain, they have a way of getting creep out to me at times. Looking back, I should’ve taken more photos of the different signs there and compile them into one book 🙂
This is a sponsored post, however, all the contents and views presented here are all mine.