We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya in the end of June/2012, and, despite not knowing what to expect, we gathered lots of energy to do what we were supposed to do there – build a school. When we got to the project site, there was… mud! It was great to see all the enthusiasm among our team members, who, instead of freaking out with all the mud, decided to jump into that big muddy hole and transform it. After all, we had come with a strong vision in our minds, and were willing to do all necessary to build the school in whichever area was available for that.
And so, we spent the first day filling up buckets with mud and throwing it away. We were exhausted and filthy at the end of our first day. With the same huge enthusiasm we came back the next day only to find out the mud was all back! It had rained just a bit, but it seems mud just appears there all the time like water springs flowing from mountains. And so, we took all the mud out again, with more progress this time as we were able to start setting up the foundation with some concrete.
For the next couple of days, we visited schools previously built by World of Difference (organization we went with), which continued to improve with funds raised by local population. This served as motivation for our team as we still could not picture how that huge pile of dirt, concrete and big rocks would turn into a school. By the end of the week, many people were getting sick and it was very good (and needed) to take a break at that moment. Hence, we went away for the weekend for a safari adventure. We came back reenergized!
On the second week, we were ready for new challenges. The Kenyan workers had made progress while we were away and now they needed our help with passing buckets of cement (made without the help of a big truck, of course) and big rocks to lift up walls. As the end of the week approached, we were getting tired and, again at the exact right moment, our team leaders organized another weekend away by the Indian Ocean. It was just what we needed to recover and gain energy for a final day at the project, as many people were feeling depleted.
It was smart to go away for the weekends, not just to recover our energy and health, but also because it would be nearly impossible to work with many people in the area – kids out of school, who wanted to interact with us all the time, and adults out of work coming to see us, the wazungu (that’s how they call white people). Every day at 4PM when kids got out of school and parents came to pick them up at this school and others nearby, it was so hard to continue working because the little alley we used to carry the material in got so crowded we could barely move. Plus they – children and some adults – wanted to touch us with a ‘Hi 5’ or touch our hair or even introduce themselves and shake hands. Also, they believe that a child who has been touched by a mzungu (one white person) has been blessed. Meanwhile we were trying to pass 20kg (50lb.) rocks down the line all the way to the project site.
When we came back on the following Monday, the walls were really high and ready for a ceiling. We then proceeded to take nails out of previously used long pieces of wood; next, we straightened those nails, sawed wood and from that we built desks for the new classrooms we built. Mission accomplished! As we gathered with the community on the last day at the project, they thanked us enormously for our volunteer work. Our team leaders reminded us that our work did not end there; we had planted a beautiful seed by providing classrooms for more than 50 children, who will be followed by many more. Besides, these kids will have better chances in life because of education and that could (and hopefully will) mean a change in Kenya’s future.
We had also made new friends – people who worked with us at the project, children who came to see the wazungu simply to love us (with no expectations to be loved back whatsoever), teachers and parents, who were ever so grateful for what we had come to do. With this, we left a little piece of ourselves in this country. Most of the time, we gave it all to the project or when interacting with kids. Even when we felt too depleted to give it all, we could never negate a smile to any of those loving people.
And so we left Kenya with a sense of mission accomplished. Not meaning our work is done, as education must be a continuous process, but we finished the specific project we had come to do. From now on, we will feed the project with thoughts, prayers, donations, and hope – either coming back to Kenya or all the way from our houses. May the seeds planted for a better future in that country grow successfully, not just in that particular school we built, but in all other schools in Kenya.