Wordless Wednesday: Volunteering in Kenya

Six years ago, I went to Kenya for a one year stint as a VSO Volunteer.
It changed my perspectives completely.

Farmers meeting in Lukore.

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.

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Monday Mellow Yellows 058: Beautiful smiles

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:

monday mellow yellows african smiles
These children are from Lucy Village in Kisumu. I just love how bright their smiles are.

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.

 

Monday Mellow Yellows

Not your usual signs made by Lowen Sign Company

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.

VSO Jitolee, Filipino VSO Volunteers
Here I am with a fellow VSO from the Philippines arriving in Nairobi. We had no trouble spotting the sign.

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.

This is from my fellow volunteers Bara and Chinita. Matatus are vans turned into a public transportation.

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 🙂

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This is a sponsored post, however, all the contents and views presented here are all mine.

Mellow Yellow Monday 026: Women at the market

Just a random scene at a market in rural Kenya. On weekends, oftentimes I went to the market just so I could soak in Kenyan culture. Although this market is small and not like any other markets in the western world, I love going to this kind of market. So many things going on at a given time – so many colors, sounds, and oh, the smell!

These yellow plastic buckets are used for carrying water and other stuff.

While I was there, I was trying so hard to speak the Kishwahili language. Although not fluent enough, I practiced by talking to the women in the community where I was working. Oh what fun. Imagine if I had mastered the language – not only it would have been very helpful to my work but I would probably bonded more with the locals.

Mellow Yellow Monday 025: Sunrise in Kenya

I’m reminiscing my time as a VSO volunteer in Kenya with this picture. I was browsing through my digital files and got hold of this picture… it’s a picture of the first sunrise I witnessed in Kenya…

Glorious sunrise on Kenyan soil.

Looking at this picture, I can still remember the anxiety, anticipation as well as the excitement. New environment. New culture. New faces. New everything!

Signs 013: Cut Emissions

A young activist from Mombasa, Kenya holds a sign for the environment. Age doesn’t matter when it comes to helping Mother Earth.

If only government officials all over the world can see and hear the pleas.

This was one of the  activities in 2010 with involvement of the communities that the VSO Coast Volunteers {of which I was a part of} initiated as part of the global grassroots campaign to raise the awareness and push forward the issue on climate change. Environment scientists/researches suggest that the world needs to cut CO2 emissions by 350 ppm (parts per million), or below, to stabilize the Earth’s climate.

It’s a gigantic task but we can all start right in our homes. Let’s find ways to cut our carbon footprints and help save Mother Earth.

Mellow Yellow Monday 024: My first breakfast in Kenya

It’s exactly one year and one month since I wrapped up my assignment as a VSO Volunteer in Kenya and returned to the Philippines. My stay there was a flurry of activities – time flew so fast, too little time to finish the plans. No matter how fast the time flew by, I still remember very clearly the things I did in the time I spent in a farming community in Lukore. Yes, including the first breakfast I had in Kenya!

Two slices of slightly toasted bread with butter, a serving of macaroni with tomato sauce, and a banana, to go with my cup of coffee.

Carbo-loading much? Hahaha.
The newly-arrived volunteers like me were advised to eat as much as we can by the old-timers for it could be the last proper meal we would have after leaving the city to go to our areas of assignments.

Mellow Yellow Monday 020: Stilt-house

I was digging through my files to find what to post in today’s MYM when I chanced upon this old photo taken some two years ago in Binangonan, Rizal. This resort – the name escapes me now – is a favorite venue for trainings and workshops by the VSO Bahaginan. I’ve been here many times during my pre-departure training and I can see why VSO loves this place.

It is very cool, quiet, and relaxing in this place. My favorite area has to be this stilt house – this is where I liked spending quiet moments by myself or with my Hippo batchmates at VSO.

My favorite place to hang out to during my stay there. The familiar sight of the yellow flowers and the sign reminds me of my training days with VSO Bahaginan.

So many happy memories were made in this place. As of present, two of my batchmates have already gone to heaven, and the rest are currently in different countries finishing their assignments. Hopefully we could all gather again.

Signs 008: Climate Change

Signs,signs

One of the last activities I participated in on my last few days as a VSO Volunteer was an awareness campaign on Climate Change in Mombasa. It was a half-day activity that included tree-planting and beach-clean up. Here’s one of the signs that I saw there, it is in English and Swahili languages:

Climate Change sign in Kishwahili I’m not really fluent in Swahili but this is the rough translation:

Elimika Kuhusu Climate Change  – Climate Change Awareness

Mazingira Bora; Maisha Bora  –  Better Environment; Better Life

Basically, this is what the message the sign is trying to convey. If anyone of my colleagues in Kenya is reading this, please I welcome your feedback.

I love the yellow and green combination here. I used to hear my sister say that to get the attention, the yellow color should be used. The black letters with yellow outline also stands out, in my opinion.

A secret no more

I was rummaging through my old files the other night and found some of my pictures in Kenya that I thought were already deleted!

Specially that of matatus – they are common modes of transpo in Kenya and are actually second-hand (or older) mini-vans and/or mini-buses similar to what we have in the Philippines – and these pictures evoke a particular memory while I was in Kenya.

I regularly take a matatu ride, especially when coming from the town to the jumping point to the village where I work. Because these are already used cars, more often than not, they break down in the middle-of-nowhere. See this photo:

stranded and waiting

If we are lucky to have a driver who knows how to fix car problems, we get stranded only for a short time. Otherwise, we painstakingly wait for hours till someone arrives to take a look at the  vehicle. Times like this we wish there are RepairPal Mobile we can call right away for roadside assistance just like what they have in the US.

The drivers are notorious for driving very fast and there was one time that I had the misfortune of riding in one that had an accident. I think the driver was racing against the other matatu to pick up passengers several hundreds of meters away and could not control the vehicle anymore. Even though he stepped on the brakes, it was already too late; the car swerved to the left and rammed against a tree. The front side of the car was badly wrecked, especially the driver’s side… I was sitting next to the driver and my feet got jammed between the car’s floor and the dashboard. Thank God the injury wasn’t serious. I was probably dazed and in shock and came to my senses only when the driver and other passengers pulled me out… oh the pain on my left foot. Up to now I can still remember every detail — about how everything went into a slow motion up to the impact, to being carried away to the nearest clinic.

Anyhoo, without sounding dramatic but also not downplaying what happened, I was not seriously injured. Nothing broken, just twisted ankle, or so they said, no open wounds (thank God!) just bruises and scratches (I instinctively used my bag to cover my face). So anyway, after receiving treatment at the clinic, I and the other passengers were asked to go to the police station  to report the incident. In my mind I was thinking what to say to the driver. In the end, I told him that he should have his vehicle regularly checked even if it’s just a simple brake pads replacement but very important for safety. After formalities at the police station I went home to Lukore with my new “shoes”.

my new shoes Nobody knew what happened except my older sister Sreisaat. We were exchanging sms for days and I told her to keep mum about it.  It was our secret as I – we- could not bear telling our parents then for they would have been at their wits’ end. Of course, my parents now know.

Mellow Yellow Monday 010: Tree planting

mellowyellow Posting one of the last activities I joined as a VSO Volunteer in Kenya… a beach clean up! By noon time, we had filled about 50 bags of trash, mostly water bottles, to be taken to a recycling centre in Mombasa.

tree planting activity in Mombasa Afterwards, we, along with the local residents and schoolchildren proceeded to plant trees around the area.

More story and pictures about this here in my co-volunteers, Bara and Chinita’s blog.