Memories that won’t fade away

We have been following our two students from Oaklands at the beginning of their trip to Kenya while they were there – below is a detailed account of the remaining days of their trip! We won’t add anything else to their words as they are so inspirational – so we would just encourage you to read on…! 😉 Day 3 – Sunday
This morning we were invited to join in Mass and the celebration of St John’s Feast Day.
We started by walking through the slum and down to the house where the priests live. There we were welcomed by some of the community members and we also met some of the priests who live and work with Fr John in the slum. As we were waiting for Mass to begin, Fr John gave us a very inspirational talk on faith in the slum and how he strives to stop corruption, achieve justice and end poverty for the people he works with. We were left with no doubt that this is a man of God, a true prophet for our times – he does not just speak the Gospel, he lives it!

Walking in Korogocho

Before joining in with the community in celebration, we had an interview on BBC Radio Solent (for the Sunday morning worship show with Tim Daykin). We spoke about what we were doing, our feelings about the slum and the people we had met, and we described the atmosphere surrounding us.  As we were speaking to Tim, you could hear singing in the background and the priests talking to the community that had already gathered outside. After our interview, we joined the congregation and walked in procession through the slum to St John’s Sports Society Centre where the Mass was held. There were at least 1000 people and the atmosphere was incredible. We joined in with the offertory – we presented some vegetables – which made us feel that we were really part of the service. The Mass lasted 4 hours and although long, it was a fantastic experience. The mood was so joyful; everyone was clapping, dancing and singing! The songs were all in Swahili but we managed to pick up some of the words and sing along too!

Playing basketball at St John’s

After Mass we  interviewed Esther, James and Isaac (three young people at St John’s) about their lives and how sport makes a difference to them. Listening to them sharing their views on the importance of sport in their lives really humbled us and made us realise just how important St John’s Society is for them.

After lunch we presented our plaque to Fr John and James, the boxing coach. The plaque had CAFOD’s logo and our school crest with the words “In celebration of our visit to St John’s Sports Society, June 2011”. Once we gave the plaque it felt as if we will always be with St John’s Sports Society mentally and physically; they now had something that they can always remember from us, it was very exceptional! They seemed very surprised that we had prepared a gift for them and everyone was clapping and cheering when they received it.

It was so special to them that as we were walking through the slum to Nancy’s house, a member of St John’s called Abdi carried it around all the time! He said it was too important and special to put down, in case it got lost. We were also lucky enough to join in with the boxing and karate, which was great fun – as we have never done this before. We could not write for a while because of aching wrists!

In the afternoon, we went through the slum to Nancy’s house. She lives with 6 other family members and her house is about 3 metres by 5 metres! The house had no electricity, so we sat in the dark and the only source of light was the sun coming in through the door. We were offered tea and buttered bread sandwiches which showed that they really made an effort for our visit, which was very moving. All her medals from karate were hanging on the wall, which shows how important sport is to her. We also talked about her life, her sport (karate) and her aspirations for the future. She believes in herself and knows that she will make it to the national team, and maybe even further! We love the hope and commitment that all the young people have in Korogocho. She is very inspirational and what she said will stay with us always.

At the end of the day it was extremely hard to say goodbye, but we will be keeping in contact with many of our friends. Leaving was hard because everyone was so welcoming, which made us feel as if we were truly part of the community. Two days were not long enough to share experiences and we could have easily stayed there for a lot longer. We hope to go back to St John’s next year so we can rekindle our friendships and once again be part of the community that we have come to love as our own.

World Gifts Goats in Kitui!

 Day 4 – Monday
Today we travelled to Kitui! The drive was 3 hours long and mostly on rough roads, so it was very, very bumpy! We arrived at the Kitui Catholic  Diocese Development Office, where we met David. He is the project officer for the Kitui Catholic Diocese, and he explained to us the projects he is running. David informed us that he was going to take us to see some of the projects that are helping people cope with changes in their environment, and also how they are trying to diversify their livelihoods.

He took us to a parish called Ikanga (about an hour’s drive away from Kitui Town) where we met Fr Bosco, a diocesan priest in Kitui. There we shared lunch with him and some of the members of the community. Fr Bosco explained his role in the community and how as a community they try to reduce the drastic effects of climate change. Whilst at his house, we also made friends with his cat, which we named Theo after one of the boys we were travelling with!

Meeting the community in Kitui

Afterwards, we travelled to Kyatune village, where we met Kambua Mulei and found out how the World Gifts goats given by CAFOD have greatly improved her life and her family’s. The conditions were hard to see, as it was so dry and dusty; the trees had turned red from the dust and looked close to death. The huts that they lived in were circular and the bricks they used were handmade. Also, the roofs were thatched. When we were about to give her our gifts, she quickly got changed and came back in her best clothes showing that it was very important. We gave her some food and some stationery for her kids; she was very grateful and replied saying “God bless you”. We were informed that the first 2 kids from the goat were given to other members of the community who did not receive a goat initially. The owner of the goat gets to keep the kids from the third onwards. The goats have allowed her to feed her family and give them better nutrition. It was great to see that these World Gift goats actually make a difference to people’s lives, especially as our School usually buys World Gifts at Christmas. Kambua explained that without the goats her life would be so much harder, as she would have no milk for her young children and no food for Christmas (because that is when they eat a goat). Who would have known that a goat could affect someone’s life so much?

The dam in Kitui

We then travelled to the water dam where Florence, the community leader, explained how the dam provides a greater source of water if it rains. The land looked very dry and dusty and it was clear that it had not rained in a very long time. We were astonished at how big the dam was and how something so simple could make people’s lives better. The community explained that the dam had never been full, but had provided water for 3 months. The dam was very big and was built in 26 days by 215 people. It allows people to have more time to spend looking after the crops, as the time taken to get water is reduced from 4 hours to 2 hours for people like Florence. It also gives her more time to communicate with her family and friends. The community are very proud of their dam and said that with more tools they would make it bigger.  This shows how precious water is: it is a huge part of our daily routine and we should be grateful for what we have. There was no water in the dam, so we wondered how often there actually was water in it.

We were informed that the next rainfall for them is forecast to be in November; however that is a big uncertainty! This is because of climate change and our actions. It was hard to see, because whilst we are causing most of their problems, back in the UK we are not experiencing many effects. It was hard to think that we are making people’s lives so hard, yet we can do something about it – whilst they cannot. Florence wants people in the UK to know that water is very precious and we should not take it for granted, as they pray so hard for it to rain – yet it is rare for it to come.

Day 5 – Tuesday

A greenhouse in Kitui

After a nice sleep at the Kitui Pastoral Centre, we woke up nice and early to travel back to Kyatune. We visited a greenhouse project, which unfortunately presented some problems. They were trying to grow tomatoes, but this was proving difficult because of the parasites. The greenhouse was made out of wood and a plastic cover, the wood was a home to many insects and this is what was causing the problem. Also, they used nails to attach the cover to the wood, but this meant that more animals, including chickens, could enter through the tears and eat the tomatoes.

To overcome these problems, CAFOD are thinking quickly and working with their partners – the Kitui Diocese Development Office – to find a solution to make the programme more successful and sustainable.
On the other end, the crops they were growing next to the greenhouse (including kale, spinach and onions) were flourishing! These are either eaten by the community or sold for money.

We were given a demonstration on how they load donkeys with water, because they use them to transport water containers. Each donkey carries 40 litres and each plot of vegetables need 40 litres of water in a day! This was very surprising, considering they lack water for themselves.

A donkey in Kitui

We also visited another homestead where we saw another greenhouse project. Again, there were problems but the onions outside were doing well. At the homestead, we gained greater understanding of how people live in rural Kenya. Everywhere we looked there were goats, cows, donkeys and chickens. Animals are extremely important  for both food and transport, which is why people have been trained as para-vets. Their job is to look after the animals and treat any illnesses to stop an outbreak from wiping a whole community’s livestock. When we interviewed the village para-vet, she shared with us the joys of her job but also the hardships she faces – she is the only one covering an area of about 20 kilometres with no transport other than her two legs!  At the moment she has to walk everywhere, so she wishes she had a bicycle, as this would allow her to visit more animals in a day and maybe save quite a few.

We headed back to Kitui town, where we had lunch with the people who were showing us around before leaving for Nairobi. This was a very tiring journey, but it gave us an insight into how climate change is affecting people’s lives.

Group photo in Kitui!

Kitui versus Nairobi
The contrast between Nairobi and Kitui was extreme. Although so close to each other, they are completely opposite. On the journey it was clear that things were gradually changing: the plants were becoming dryer and not as healthy, and the soil kept changing from a rich red in Nairobi to black soil and red dust in Kitui. In Nairobi the roads have been newly built with tarmac, whilst in Kitui the roads were so bumpy it was like a rollercoaster ride!  It was inspiring to see people’s determination, despite the challenging conditions. This shows that determination is the key in building a better life in Kenya, as we saw in both Kitui and Korogocho. We are glad we saw both sides of Kenya and the hardships people face. We came away from Kitui with a wider view on the effects of climate change and how we must change our life styles in order to mitigate them.

Day 6 – Wednesday
After a busy schedule, today was our day to choose some activities to do, so we decided to go on a safari!! We travelled to Nairobi National Park where we went animal spotting for 2 hours. We managed to see many different animals including water monitor, water buffalo, zebra, gazelles, giraffes, ostrich, rhino, and many antelopes. Seeing a rhino is so rare that you are more likely to see a lion – so we were extremely fortunate.

we were so lucky to see a rhino!

We enjoyed watching the animals in their natural environment. They looked so comfortable in their habitat. One of the most fascinating scenes was when we ended up face to face with a giraffe. Well, not that we are that tall or that the giraffe was that short! It’s just that it was standing on the road just in front of us!  It didn’t seem bothered to be so close to us and it was amazing to see a wild animal so up close. However, we became even closer to the giraffes when we visited the giraffe centre in the afternoon! We were able to feed them, which was unbelievable and unforgettable. They were really soft and we were able to stroke them. On the other hand, we were also warned that one giraffe was very violent and liked to head butt people – therefore we didn’t go near him!

Our close encounter with our giraffe friend!

At the giraffe centre there was a souvenir shop where most of us bought gifts for our family and friends. The life size carvings of Maasai warriors outside were so detailed and realistic that at first sight it was difficult to say whether they were real people or not.

It was past lunch time, so we were all getting extremely hungry.  We went to a restaurant which was at the shopping centre we had previously visited. The menu was very European, so much so that until you looked around, you could even have forgotten that you were even in Kenya. It was a nice meal to end the week, because it also included our 2 drivers who had been with us all week, Tobias and Francis.

Saying goodbye to Tobias and Francis

When we went back to the guest house, we went for a quick swim because the temperature was up to 40 degrees! It was really hard to say goodbye to Tobias and Francis, because we had spent so much time with them. Tears were flying everywhere from us two, emotional girls!

A very special lunch!

In the evening we were lucky enough to be visited by Mr Sumba’s family, we were surprised because originally it was meant to be only his mum and brother, however it turned out to be his mum, sister, brother, sister in law, cousin, nephew and his cousin’s daughter! It was nice to meet them and we could tell Mr Sumba was really really happy to be with them – due to his beaming smile that stayed with him for the entire journey home!

With Mr Sumba’s mum

Day 7 – Thursday
On Thursday we visited Nairobi City Centre.  Firstly, we visited the Holy Family Basilica, the Mother church and seat of the Cardinal of the Catholic Church in Kenya, and paused for prayer.  We then went out on the streets and experienced the hectic roads and busy shops! We walked past the Parliament houses, the Office of the President and Prime Minister and some other big government offices. Besides all the history and shops, in Nairobi I had my first experience of a mosque when we went to Jamia Mosque. One of the boys on our trip is a Muslim and so we thought it would be good for him to see where Muslims pray in Kenya. It was a really different yet remarkable experience. I had to wrap a scarf round my head and wear a dress to cover my body completely to respect the Muslim religion. While the boys were taken to see the main part of the mosque, I was taken to the women’s side and a young girl explained some of their beliefs and traditions; we then exchanged email addresses so that we could keep in touch. A difference in religion didn’t stop us from becoming friends!

We then all became aware that we needed to eat something so the search for food began! We settled for a restaurant called ‘ChicKing’, which is the equivalent of KFC here in the UK. There were so many similarities between Nairobi and England, like the restaurants and the busy atmosphere in town, which really made being in Kenya feel like home.

In Uhuru Park

After lunch we had a walk around Uhuru ‘Freedom’ Park. This is a really beautiful park with canoe lakes and well kept lawns, and we saw many Kenyans having a quiet time there. We then went to All Saints Cathedral – the seat of the Anglican Church in Kenya. This was great because in a space of about 3 hours we visited the 3 main places of worship in Nairobi. We quickly had to rush from the town centre to CAFOD’s head office, where we were invited to share our feelings and give feedback about our whole experience in Kenya. It was really sad to say goodbye to everyone, but we hope to come back and see all their faces as soon as possible!

Luckily, we got back to the guest house in just enough time to go for a quick refreshing swim before our long journey home. We then had our last dinner and made our way to the taxis to take us to the airport. The journey back was quicker than expected, as it was an overnight flight so we could all go to sleep easier. It was nice to be home because we had all missed our family and friends so much, but at the same time it was sad to leave Kenya and to say goodbye to everyone because we had all become so close, almost like a family.

Back home! Arrival at Heatrow airport

Where do we start? Overall this trip has been incredible; however no words can truly describe what it meant to us. It has been life changing in a way that we would never have imagined. Honestly, we never thought it would affect us as much as it actually has. We will never forget everyone we met, and their stories are so inspirational. We hope that the message we bring back will reach many people and that together we can work to make a difference in the lives of the many people we met. Beyond doubt, our eyes have been opened to how life in Kenya is really like, and we now understand the impact and positive change the fundraising we have been doing has on people’s lives – and we must continue to make a difference. Coming back, we realise now more than ever that telling people our story is crucial to helping developing countries like Kenya. Youths are the next generation and together we are the ones that will bring about change, so we could not live with ourselves if we just sat back and did nothing  – which is why we want to tell you that people in Kenya need our support and help.

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