Volunteer Abroad - Kenya, Volunteer Abroad Programs

Learning About Patience and the Personalities of Kenyan Students

by Kalie McQuillen, Greenheart Travel Volunteer Abroad Participant in Kenya

Time is flying by! Today the weather is so beautiful. The sun is shining; there is a wispy breeze, and only a few gathered clouds in the sky. This is a nice change of pace considering last week my main outfit was this: one pair of jeans, one pair of sweats on top of my jeans, one undershirt, one long-sleeved shirt, one hoodie, and one more hoodie. I was still freezing too! So Africa weather seems to be a lot like Colorado weather – ever changing.

I have been working every day with the special class and particularly with Grace most days. However, I still work with all of the other children. Last week she was able to sign her ABCs without help and I was so excited. Now I just have to keep trying to get her to progress. The class was chaos last week because on top of the three usual toddlers we have, we had another little girl. Her name is Abbey and she was so cute! She was also so loud. At any given moment all four toddlers were screaming a song, Brian a deaf boy, was mumbling loudly to himself, Nandya was just screaming, and all the others were squealing right along. Needless to say, it was a very good test of my patience.

As time is going on I’m learning more and more about the students I work with. Brian and Sirma sit at the far end of the table. Brian is deaf, but Sirma just pretends to be simply because Brian is. Sirma is 21. Brian is probably about 14, and yet Brian is the one constantly taking care of Sirma. He even grabs his hand and writes with him when he can’t figure it out. Then next over is Faith. She is disabled, and I’m not sure of her condition. She walks with a limp and has a speech impediment. She is the most advanced of all the students. She spends most of the day working on math, as her mom is strict and requires that she finish so many problems a day. Faith is also spoiled. Whenever we do crafts she complains about getting her hands dirty and washes clothes daily, only using the white soap and never the blue one mind you.

Eliud comes next. He is one of my favorites. He is an orphan and has been here I think six years. He is always helping everyone else. He gets the books everyday and cleans the tables every night. If I tell someone to stop and they don’t, Eliud is reiterating my request. He tries very hard all the time. Then it is Grace. She would be caught up with her class had she started school on time. She is the quickest with puzzles and colors the neatest. She just has such a hard time in English and math. It doesn’t help that she doesn’t know much sign language and I know only the ABCs. Makishoi is on the other side of me. She has cerebral palsy. Laura works with her the most. She doesn’t have any use of her right hand, but she always finds a way to make it work. It was the neatest thing to watch her string a bracelet with one hand. Never once did she even think of asking for help. And of course, there is Nandya. She has ADHD, but of course no medicine or anything to help her here. She is outrageous and uncontrollable. She hits and screams all the time. The problem is, no one here ever tries to give her any rules. They let her run wild so when they do try to enforce anything she goes into literal hysterics.

Then the babies in the class… Musembi is the best behaved. He has this dangerous little grin that makes you wonder what is going on behind the clever smile. Kim has a big gap-tooth smile and dimples. When he smiles he just melts your heart. He also cries at least four times a day, but he has gotten a little better lately. Gabriele is known as either “stinky, smally or smiley.” He is the youngest and hasn’t quite mastered potty training.

This weekend I went to the giraffe center and elephant orphanage. I even got to touch a baby elephant. Plus I got a good kiss from a giraffe. I met a female volunteer from Canada and we get along great! But I love coming back to Tania seeing Musembi, Kim and Gabriele smiling right off the bat.

I wish I could find the words to describe how beautiful it is here. The hills are all different shades of green. I can look right out into the Rift Valley. Tania is undisturbed by cars and pollution and I’m so thankful for this location.

I’m taking a trip to the coast on the 21st with Jordan (the New Yorker), Breanne (the Canadian), and a German volunteer at Jordan’s project. We are taking the train there. It is about 15 hours as long as no elephants get on the track to cause delays, yes I’m serious. We will go into Mombasa and then to Diana Beach the next day. I have never seen the ocean so I’m so excited! I’ll be flying back to Nairobi on Sunday and leaving Africa on either Monday or Tuesday. The time has flown by, but I’m ready to get back home. I’m hoping to do a big fundraiser once I get back.

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.


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