In the lead up to my travels to Africa I spent endless hours researching
voluntary work in orphanages. So many options, but not exactly what I was looking for. A family friend shared an article in our local magazine. The article was about Belinda Buchanan and her work through Hope Child Africa. Little did I know that this article would have such an impact on my life.
Although I had already been accepted into another volunteering position in Nairobi I chose to sponsor a child through ‘Hope Child Africa’. I sponsored a child called Mutie and my sister jumped on board and sponsored Mutie’s younger brother, Maundu. Sponsoring a child was always something I had longed to do and I felt this organization was the right one to go through.
With only a week until I left Australia on my travels and two months prior to the commencement of my planned voluntary work I had a change in heart. I changed my voluntary placement to be with ‘Hope Child Africa’ to volunteer at two orphanages in Mombasa, Kenya, and to meet the two boys who already meant so much to me.
10th August 2013, saw me fly into MOI International airport and settle into Mombasa. I spent the first week volunteering at Mighty Redeemer. I stayed with Josephine and her family. The 28 children here ranged from 6months to 12 years old, all happy, outgoing and full of energy. It was school holidays when I first arrived so the children were all at home during the day. I spent the days interacting with the kids at the orphanage, playing games, getting to know the older ones, learning the language and helping the little ones learn some new English words. Along with other volunteer we arranged a day trip to Haller Park and later an outing to the beach.
Week two saw me move into my own apartment in Nyali Beach and the beginning of my time at Mama Anne’s children’s home. I met with Mama Anne and was exited and ready to meet her kids and longing to meet our sponsor boys, Mutie and Maundu. The children were very shy at first.
They sang and welcomed me into their home. Twister was brought out. The children loved playing this game and we spent the afternoon getting to know each other.
I was fortunate to spend quality time with Mutie and Maundu throughout my stay. Over two weekends during school holidays I spent time with them around the area I was staying in Nyali. This gave them the chance to explore some western food. A burger and chips became their favorite food. We played soccer on the beach in the morning before going shopping at Nakumart, a big supermarket. The boys helped me buy some coloring books and pencils to take home to the other children. They also asked me to pick up a few household items they wanted to take back to aunty at the home. So together we ticked off their list, a new scrubbing brush for cleaning the clothes, some shoe polish for their school shoes, a grater, peeler and masher for cooking and some candy and soda for everyone to share.
I spent the rest of the week at Mama Anne’s, coloring, drawing, singing and teaching the kids to play Aussie Rules with the footballs I had brought with me from Australia. This was a challenge as Africa is dominated by the game of soccer. On the weekend I arranged an outing to the Mombasa show where they enjoyed the carousel, face paint, ice creams and camel rides.
With the new school term insight, Mutie would join seven of the already sponsored children at Vineyard Private School, with Maundu due to start there in the new year. I obtained the approval from Belinda and Mama Anne and met with the principal at ‘Vineyard.’ I was able to push forward Maundus enrollment. I arranged for Maundu to sit his enrollment exam which he passed with great marks. Together we had fun arranging his new uniform and school books.
All the current children at Mama Anne’s now have sponsors and they will all attend ‘Vineyard’ next year. The school is strictly English speaking once inside the gate, I got to know the headmaster and principal well and I was invited into the classroom. 5pm become my favorite time of the day, standing outside the school waiting to walk the children back to the orphanage.
My four weeks in Mombasa soon became six. Balancing myself between ‘Mighty Redeemer’ and ‘Mama Anne’s children home’, I wasn’t ready to leave but I had travel commitments made. So I farewelled the kids. I promised Mutie and Maundu I’d visit them again hopefully in 2014 and was on my way.
8 weeks after leaving Kenya, I found myself back in Mombasa. It was 6th November, Belinda was holding the AGM in Australia and I was back, at 5pm, standing outside of the school gates ready to surprise the kids.
They were unaware of my return and as they came out the gate one by one the reaction on their faces will stay with me forever.
Over the next few weeks, multiple day trips to the beach were shared. A day trip to Mambo Village, a crocodile farm, and many days spent at he field playing soccer.
With the children at school during the day I planned to enjoy my last week of African sunshine and explore surrounding areas of Mombasa.
I was ‘kicking back’ sitting by the pool talking to Belinda. She asks me to meet with a friend of hers who is on the look out for a bigger house for the orphanage. Within half an hour, Iv met with Belinda’s friend, Frances, and am now house hunting. Little did I know this was the start of something bigger! Two days, many estate agents, a few house viewings, a lot of African time and photos and questions being sent back and forth between Belinda and I, we have found a new house.
Day three negotiations start. I meet with Mama Anne and show her the house. She approves with many happy tears. The house is double the size of the current house. The plot has room for a veggie patch, chickens and so much room for the kids to practice their soccer skills. A great location, close to shops and the kids school and with a big blue secure gate! It was ideal! The same day I met with the agent to negotiate and sign a lease.
Having not ever rented a house back in Australia, let alone Kenya, I was counting on Belinda to walk me through it and that she did. She ‘pulled an all nighter in Australia,’ sent me through everything I needed, and eight hours in the agents office later, the house was ours. With renovations to be finished and a fresh coat of paint I now await Belinda’s visit mid December to see the house and the reaction of the children.
Next on my agenda was the veggie patch. Through contacts we organize a FUNGI (builder) who had been hired to bring a truck and building materials and help me buy the wood and soil and then build the patch. I meet with him 8am the next day. He brought two others with him so the four of us pile in the truck. The builder, who speaks very little english, hasn’t brought any tools, so we drive around buying or borrowing shovels, a rake, a garden hoe, hammers and nails. I ask them to drive me to a timber yard so I can buy 20 meters of wood. After driving in circles for close to half an hour, with the three of them speaking in keSwahili, I realize they have no idea what I mean by wood. Thanks to google images, we were back on track. By lunch time, I had thanked the builder and his friends for their help but sent them on their way. Two of Belinda’s friends, Renae and Konrad, who were passing through Mombasa and had visited the orphanage with me the day before we’re on there way to have a look at the new place. Konrad helped me turn over the soil and level the area we were going to construct the veggie patch on. The following day, I got some locals to get 10carts of soil, then help me nail everything together. Another full day and the veggie patch is ready to be used!
My time, once again, was up before I knew it. I spent my last day at the end of year graduation at Vineyard school. I watch the students sing and dance. The students, teachers and parents gathered together to celebrate the end of the school year. This was a great conclusion to my time spent in Mombasa for 2013.
I will never forget the children and the friendships I made in Mombasa and I await to see the upcoming events. This has been a wonderful experience.
Thank you Belinda and ‘Hope Child Africa’ for the opportunity. I will be back to do it all again.
Christie Logan, December 2013
My time in Mombasa…..
The excitement in the lead up to arriving in Mombasa was intense. I had volunteered before for another organisation in another country but this was Africa. I was nervous but couldn’t wait to arrive. Bel had arranged for Josephine to meet me at the airport. Josephine is the mother/founder of Mighty Redeemer Orphanage.
When I arrived at the airport and Jose gave me the hugest hug. I knew straight away that I was going to love my time in Mombasa.
The plan was to first stay with Josephine and her family in their home close to Mighty Redeemer. From the moment I stepped in the door they couldn’t have made me feel more at home. I was fed & watered and shown the ropes.
Day 2 saw me make my first trip over to Mighty Redeemer. Josephine had gotten word that there was a new baby arriving. The police had found her on the streets early that morning wrapped in old dirty material. When we arrived at Mighty Redeemer I held this baby that was only a few hours old. It was hard to believe that someone could just abandon her like that in the street for the dogs. My heart melted.
We took ‘Baby Vena’ to the hospital to be checked by the doctors. She had an infection in her belly from where the mother had tied the umbilical cord with the dirty rag. She had an intravenous line placed in her tiny hand and we would continue to take her to the hospital every day for a week so that she could receive her antibiotics.
The children at Mighty Redeemer were AMAZING. It was hard at first, each of us trying to get used to one another. Trying to communicate (though the children’s English was far better than my Swahili) they loved trying to teach me new words in Swahili. We played games & sang songs. They were such an accepting, friendly groups of kids who just wanted to be loved. They took me into their home and made me a part of it all.
The heat in Mombasa at this time of year was sweltering. Some days it was hard to keep going, with little sleep due to the heat and the intensity of the children. But when these huge smiles appear on the tiniest of faces, all the rest seems to fade away.
Day 4 brought one of the saddest of my life. We received a call from Mighty Redeemer to say that Baby Mariah was sick and needed a doctor urgently. We drove over and raced her to the hospital. But with the constant traffic and bad roads in Mombasa it’s hard to race anywhere… Baby Mariah died when we reached the hospital. She was 6 months old. The pain in Josephine’s eyes and the sadness of the Aunty were almost too much to bear. I too had a tear and shared their pain. The other children did not understand. Well, some of the older ones might have. But they couldn’t understand why Mariah did not return. The Burial ceremony was another emotional day. I felt as though I was there to support the older children who attended with us.
Even though we had had a trying week, the month of December is a fun time to be in Mombasa! The children are on school holidays, and once a year Josephine holds a birthday party at Mighty Redeemer for the children, as they don’t celebrate their individual birthday’s as most are unsure when exactly they are. The children attend the annual ‘butterflies’ xmas party (a party for underprivileged children in Mombasa) not to mention Xmas & New Year celebrations. It seemed that there was always something going on.
Being a qualified swimming instructor I thought it would be good to give the children a chance to go to the pool. Not to mention me a chance to cool off… I arranged to take 3 groups over 3 days. I bought goggles & arm floats for the little ones and arranged transport. Although not much tutoring took place, the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves. As did I!
Sometime in the middle we organised a trip to the beach! We packed up lunches (sandwiches, biscuits, fruit & juice) and piled into a Matatu. Everyone came, the children, the Aunties & Uncles, Josephine. It was such a fun day, watching the children run through the water and ride the Mombasa waves. Everyone was exhausted and crashed early this night.
January saw the children return to school and it was planned that I meet Mama Anne from ‘Mama Anne’s children’s home’. Josephine knew of Mama Anne so joined me when we met in the city. She too is a lovely woman doing some amazing work for her children. When I finally got the chance to meet the Children at Mama Anne’s, I was not disappointed again. Mama Anne had 15 children, 13 boys and 2 girls. Their English is limited, but their smiles are not hard to read. I took plenty of drawing books and pencils with me and to give Aunty a rest I cooked a meal for the children. We had pasta Bolognese cooked with mince & plenty of vegetables, they loved it, even if some of the vegetables got some strange looks. These children were not privileged enough to enjoy a vast range of foods, so one of my treats to them was a visit to the market where, I purchased a large amount of fresh fruit & veg for them. It certainly made a change from potatoes, rice & Ugali (traditional Kenyan dish of flour & water).
I took Mama Anne’s children on a couple of outings. One day we went to church & Sunday school (something they don’t get to do very often but is so important to them) and then for lunch (sausages & chips is one of their favourites) before heading off to the cinema to see a 3D film. The kids had a ball. Not to mention me, Aunty & Mama Anne.
As my time in Mombasa was coming to an end I also took them to the beach. The kids were a little nervous to start with but they soon settled in and by the afternoon they were riding the waves and ducking & weaving. What a pleasure it was.
Leaving Mombasa was so hard. I really felt like I had made a connection with the children and still miss them. They have touched my heart and I can’t wait to make another trip back to see how much they have all grown.
This experience was life changing and I would recommend it to anyone. Bel and her Mother’s in Mombasa are doing amazing work and should be so proud. They are raising some beautiful children who are being given every chance to have a loving and fulfilling life.
Well done guys! You are an inspiration xx
Elkie Hogg – September 2012
Making A Difference in Kenya – Grandsons of Abraham – Boys Orphanage for Street Children in Mombasa
It was my first volunteering experience and I had no idea what to expect, all I knew is that I wanted to be a positive influence, at least in one child’s life.
The concept that a child has no parents to love and care for their needs is a hard for me to accept. ‘Street kids’ or ‘rat kids’ as they are called, they come from the very ugly street life in Mombasa, diseased, unfed and mostly addicted to glue.
So off I set, my first travel adventure with real purpose, I feel. The joy of giving just to see their smiles is the purpose. But ultimately we hope for better future, one with education, a home and food.
My first arrival was on Christmas Day 2009 so the boys all gathered together in one classroom, they each unwrap a gift (t-shirt & dvd) and told that we were taking them to the Swimming Pools. Excited ohhh yes they were… So about 28 boys and 10 volunteers jam pack into two matatus (bus) and off we set – splashing about all day non stop exhausting fun, I have three kids swinging, jumping on my shoulders the whole day but for my first day – i’m just happy to be there and welcomed by the children, so I am dealing with this just nicely. We had chicken and chips and a soda for lunch which the boys loved – little different from their regular rice and beans dish. I’m always surprised by the amount of food the kids can actually consume, which I guess comes from the mind set of just not knowing when or if there will be another meal.. food comes in extra large portions!
It’s holiday time and a lot of the boys had gone to see family members whilst 28 out of roughly 70 had no family to go to or simply just couldn’t go. So I get the pleasure of hanging out with the kids before schools back and thereafter for a couple of weeks. I hang out, play soccer, read bed time stories, wash their clothes. They are actually just like any other regular children, they love to be cool, listen to their music, dance and show off too. Just as well I am a big kid, I still have the song Yori Yori playing in my head and endless tracks of Acon… which I am now loving. In fact i bought the CDs. And yes of course they fight too, this is when they start speaking in Swahilli and its hard to find out what the problem was but you try and settle things down.
So school begins and I put my hand up for the challenge of teaching level 4. I arrive at the school (about 8am) and ask “where am I am teaching the kids” the response “ahhhh I think you’ll be taking them in the chicken pen”. Yes the chicken pen (which has about 10 chickens running around it in). I’m not liking this idea so I manage to find another room, which only has the occasional rat running around, which you get strangely accustomed to. So I have never taught school children before but I know ultimately I just want to get the lesson across and if it means I have to send the naughty kids (ie. the ones that keep abusing me in Swahilli) to the Sisters then I am not going to let them stop the other kids from learning. So slowly the kids learn that I am there to teach, and then we can have fun once the lesson has sunk in. The hard part is that they are all at different stages of learning so its hard to keep their attention, they loved to be challenged and learn but it was important to know what each child is actually capable of in the first place. I leave for the day feeling a sense of achievement in once sense at the cost of the life that has been sucked out of me… but it is all good.
Next week I put my hand up for level 2, now I know this is going to be a little bit hard in terms of their attention span but hey, i’ve got a whole week of experience under my belt now so I am approaching it a little bit different. One of my favourite lessons for example was the 5 senses, and what’s better than giving the example of tasting with actual food and all flavours. Another lesson was hygiene so I get them some new tooth brushes, tooth paste, handkerchief, soap etc. They are feeling pimped out now and very excited with their new belongings – Lessons objectives achieved and enjoyed. Of course it’s not all fun, especially when their nearly crying that they have to write the numbers 1-100 in words! and I mathematically challenged their brain but with a lot of patience and persistence with them, hating me right now, but in the end I am not giving up until they understand it. And then we can play a game and they can like me all over again! Phew..
My last day was quite sad for me because by now I have actually fallen in love with these kids, with a small entourage I am escorted down the road, my motor bike comes to pick me up and the kids that were still with me are absolutely thrilled when I say they can all have a little ride on the bike. Smiles all round and huge bear hugs on departure… The kids are in my heart forever…
Belinda Buchanan Christmas 2009