When Holly came to volunteer with us in Kenya from Cheyenne, Wyoming she brought a wealth of experience with her to her placement. Holly is a certified Nanny by Northwest Nannies Inc. and has also celebrated a 10 year milestone in her career that includes her time in Kenya. ” I have always loved working with children” she says.
Holly’s journey to Africa was no spur of the moment idea for her. “As long as I can remember I have had a strong desire to go to Africa and work with the children there. I wanted to taste another culture and see what life was like in Africa. I spent many months researching volunteer organizations to go with. I came across NVS through a google search and knew instantly this was the organization I wanted to go with. They were so helpful and informative.”
Preparing was a job in and of itself though. Holly spent several weeks preparing to go, researching the culture, getting vaccinations, saving money, but she also says that all of that work didn’t prepare her for the moment she stepped off that plane in Nairobi. “I was in complete culture shock! But within minutes I met fellow volunteers and we found our drivers who took us to the volunteer house. There are SO many things I could say about my experience, it was heartbreaking, eye opening, amazing, beautiful, life changing. I will never forget the smell of Kenya. Or watching the rainstorm from my tent while on a safari. Or my first piki piki ride. (A piki-piki is a form of transportation here in Kenya tha is similar to a dirt bike, we call them piki-piki’s) Or how quickly I became accustomed to “Africa time”, never in a hurry! Or I’ll never forget the faces of the children I worked with. They literally had nothing but the clothes on their back, yet they had a sparkle in their eye. They had the biggest smile when we walked in every morning.”
Depending upon where you are in Kenya and who you are communicating with, they may speak a different language. There are 42 ethnic tribes in Kenya and did you know that each has their own mother tongue? In addition to their mother tongue, most speak the official language of Kenya which is Swahili. Holly quickly learned the most important Swahili phrases such as “Asante Sana” which means Thank you and “Karibu” which means welcome. Something else about Kenya, English does exist and the schools teach the children English very young so either the kids are just learning English or some are quite advanced.
Holly notes that the language barrier was sometimes difficult, but love and laughter are universal. She experienced this out in Maasailand. On free time on weekends, Holly ventured out to a place called Maasailand where the Maasai Tribe lives. The Maasai are one of the most well known Tribes in Kenya and what a close encounter she had! She got to experience more culture, song, dance and food (Yes, she tried the goat!).
When we asked Holly how this experience of volunteering in Kenya has impacted her life, she shared that it is something she keeps with her at all times in her heart. The people of Kenya seemed to be so full of love and just happy despite it being so different from life in America as she knows it. It is people and experiences that are important, not things.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Holly! And… Karibu to Kenya any time!