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Giraffe in Kenya

My Kenya Diary Part Four: On Rugs and Risks

By Jane McLellan

Last updated: 30th July 2011

Wednesday 13th July 2011

Another day had dawned in Kenya. I woke up ready to head off and check out the day’s projects, sure I would find yet more deserving programs that need vital volunteers. We drove to an orphanage where around 30 kids live and attend school, and where many children from the poor local community also come to attend day lessons. The children who lived in the orphanage were there for similar reasons as those in the previous orphanages I had visited; having been abandoned or having suffered through HIV/AIDS related crises.

The bedrooms in this orphanage were spacious and comfortable, but I again noticed that they don’t have any personal belongings apart from school books. The odd room had a poster of David Beckham from when he played for Man U, but apart from that it was pretty bare. Only one of the rooms had any carpet; the staff explained to me that the four boys in that particular room were given some Christmas money and asked if they could combine it so they could buy a rug. Not toys or sweets, as you might expect, but a rug, because they simply wanted to stand on something that felt warm and nice. These boys are not even 10 years old!

I was introduced to each class and their teacher and the kids were so polite and all looked really happy. Volunteers are needed here to teach, play with the kids and help with general duties around the place and looking at all the kids’ faces I knew that choosing to volunteer here would not be a difficult decision to make. Once you see first hand the difference your help could bring it’s hard not to want to get involved.

We ate lunch in the main office and discussed the issue of HIV and AIDS. It was explained to me that in poor communities, buying food is the priority not spending it on condoms. Apparently it is common practice for some people to use a plastic bag instead and simply wash it out when they are done and of course there are many that simply don’t bother. Not necessarily because they can’t afford condoms, just because they are not aware of the risks of having unprotected sex. Many girls are selling their bodies in exchange for food, so more has to be done so they don’t see this as their only option. Education on safe sex is really important to make people aware of the risks and inform them about ways of protecting themselves.

During lunchtime, I looked out of the window and I asked why some kids were sat down having lunch at a table, others were eating sitting on the playground, and why there was a group just watching their friends eat. I was told that those at the table are the orphans that live at the home who are given lunch every day. The ones eating on the playground are lucky to have parents that can afford to give them a pack lunch and the other kids watching simply went without lunch that day because their family can’t afford food for lunch. It’s so very sad!!

I left, thinking about all the amazing work good volunteers could do at this project, and hoping I could find some people who would share my passion for these amazing projects who would go out to Kenya and offer their help. Back at my hotel I packed my overnight bag in anticipation of the next day’s exciting trip to the Masai Mara, where I would have a bumpy ride and meet Pauline, an extraordinary Masai woman whose women’s project was a unique experience…

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