So I went to Kenya…

I spent three weeks in Kenya, followed by one week recovering from the jet lag, and two more attempting to tackle the mountain of homework I received from my teachers as a welcome home gift. But now I’m baaaaaccckkk! And I have an extra special mountain of pictures and stories for all y’all.

The trip was amazing and exciting and beautiful and scary and crazy and wonderful and challenging all at the same time. Kenya threw us a new challenge every day, and it was so overwhelming all the time.

It was the best three weeks of my life.

Our team of ten from my church went to work in a slum in Nairobi called Dandora for two weeks. The organization we were working with had recently acquired a building to use as a school, after renting for five years. Our job? To renovate the school. When we got there, the front wall was crumbled and half missing, and the kids were trying to learn while crammed into three bedroom sized classrooms. Over the course of the two weeks, we knocked down walls between rooms, built up walls to create three larger classrooms, as well as adding a storage shed and a functioning toilet.

Keep in mind that when I say we did all this, I mean that we did it with a lot of help. The Kenyan workers were the ones in charge. They knew how to lay stone walls with no tools except a trowel and a plumb bob. We were just free labour. We carried stones from one place to another, we shoveled cement and sand and dirt, and we painted stuff. I personally also did a lot of cooking and washing dishes and playing with kids.

The place where we actually lived during the trip was a nicer house in the suburbs of Nairobi with five university students that the organization sponsors. We had some amazing times with those students, and they became my good friends. One of the biggest highlights of the trip was undoubtedly the times I spent with them.

We also stayed for a third week, but that was to do a vacation type thing unrelated to the project. We went on a safari in the Ma’asai Mara game reserve and also to the beach in Mombasa.

So those are the general facts. At some point I do want to write about how I felt about it all, but not yet. In a lot of ways I’m still processing everything that I saw and everything that happened. It’s really hard to come to terms with the kind of poverty I saw and the stories people told me about their lives. It is definitely going to be a process, and I want to include you all in it. Over the next few months I will probably write about the harder stuff and what I’ve been feeling, but right now I’ll start with pictures.

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A typical street in the Dandora slum

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Our school was just down the street from one of the world’s largest garbage dumps. It is a pretty awful sight, but many people in the slum make their living off of scavenging the garbage.

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This was the house we stayed in. It’s a typical three bedroom bungalow, and there were fifteen of us living there.

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An apartment building in Dandora. You can see that everyone has laundry hanging up. That’s because even in the slums, appearance is important. Everyone that I saw in Kenya always had sparkling clean clothes, even the poorest of the poor.

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The kitchen in our house had a propane stove, some cupboards, and a sink. Cooking with no fridge means that you have to go to the market every day to buy fresh food. We all took turns going to the market with our hosts and helping them cook.

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Water at the house comes from these tanks in the back yard. A truck comes by to fill them, but a couple times we ran out, which made life interesting.

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As we came up the alley to the school on the first day of work, the children welcomed us with songs.

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The first thing we did was knock down this front wall, because it was half down already.

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We had to dig down six inches before we could lay the cement floor of this classroom. The dirt is hard and dense, so we had to break it up with a tool called a jambe, and then shovel it out and wheel it away.

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The front wall, half done. This was maybe day three or four.

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If you want a ladder, you don’t buy it. You build it out of scrap wood.

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The kids are so sweet and well behaved and mature. This is them lined up to leave for their very first field trip.

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Most of the kids had never been out of the slum, or even on a bus. This trip to the zoo was so exciting for them!

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The front wall, finally done. you can see remains of makeshift scaffolding.

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We also visited an orphanage that the organization supports, and I got my butt kicked in street soccer. It didn’t help that I was unprepared for the sudden pick up game. If I had known I would have at least worn better shoes!

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9 thoughts on “So I went to Kenya…

  1. Yeah, blame it on the shoes…

  2. I for one can not wait to live vicariously through your stories to come. You are one well rounded young lady. Those kids are adorable. I want to squeeze every single one of them.

  3. Would love to hear the stories, we went on an outreach to Kenya and many of my pictures are similarbto yours. May God bless people like you, willing to help…

  4. I too can’t wait for your stories! I’ve been super behind, but will definitely make an effort to stay caught up with you. 🙂 Also – you’ve heard about the blogger meetup planned for sometime this fall. yes yes? 🙂

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