Melanie Dampier came to Kenya from North Bay, Ontario, Canada and volunteered in teaching and caring for students. “Teacher Melanie” (as the kids called her) loved their time with her, especially learning French since French is Melanie’s primary language. The children in Kenya speak their mother tongue (family tribal language), Swahili (the official language of Kenya), they are learning English in school as part of the curriculum, and Melanie helped to expand their skills even more with some basic French. She taught them numbers, animals, days of the week, etc. “I know firsthand how valuable speaking multiple languages is and exposing the kids to one more that is used around the world was important work” she said. “I also learned a little bit of Swahili from the children and I can say Asante Sana to them for that” (Many thanks!).
We asked Melanie what made her want to come to Kenya and volunteer
Melanie shared an impactful event in her life that led her to want to want to always share time and love with others in the world. Growing up, Melanie watched her sister spend the first few years of her life in the hospital with a congenital heart defect which required countless blood transfusions and surgeries, along with experiencing seizures. At just a year old, her sister lost her hearing. Throughout this time, Melanie saw how important giving of time and love is to others and it inspired her next steps in life. Melanie is a nursing student at Canadore College in the Registered Practical Nursing program where she is in her very last semester. Currently, she is getting ready to enter her preceptorship where she applied for both medicine and surgery, although her first choice is surgery. Melanie aspires to be a surgery nurse then continue her education to be able to move into the position of a scrub nurse and pediatric nurse . Her sister has been the true inspiration to her in helping others in life and pursuing her dreams. One of those dreams was to travel to Africa, specifically Kenya, and work with children. Before gearing up to finish her Nursing studies, she came to Kenya for four weeks!
So, Melanie, what were those four weeks like for you?
Melanie shares that coming to Kenya for four weeks was both challenging and life changing. One challenge was quite personal since she was a newer Mom in life and as anyone could imagine, being away from your child(ren) is just plain tough, but “all of the long term planning for this was worth it,” she says. Melanie spent her time planning activities and lessons for the children and working with the teachers on strengthening their skills doing the same. Helping the teachers to become stronger in lesson and activity planning allows those practices to continue over time, impacting even more students that will come through Melanie’s classroom doors in the future. As the day ended for class, Melanie would make her way back to her home stay area with the other volunteers and get ready for dinner, write in her travel journal, and add the finishing touches to the plans she created for the next day.
In the late afternoons/early evening, she visited a community called Kibera, the world’s second largest slum. In Kibera, she met Doctor Dora at Senye Clinic. Since Melanie will be a Nurse, this was a very special encounter for her. She saw the challenges of a clinic in this community and watched Dora at work with her patients that came in, making do with the supplies that she had. Melanie left a patient bed filled with supplies that will help Doctor Dora serve more patients in need in Kibera. “Doctor Dora is an inspiration in my future career as a Nurse in Canada” says Melanie. “In my future career as a Nurse, when I think things are challenging, Doctor Dora has already filled my bucket of hope and encouragement to use as I encounter those times as a Nurse, I am ready!”
High-fives all around!
Melanie says that she has learned so much more from this experience than she had ever imagined she would. Melanie says “I learned not to take things for granted, I learned to be happy with what I do have, I learned that things I thought were a big deal in my life were actually not a big deal, and I met people from around the world that I would not have met otherwise, making new friends in life. When I think things are getting difficult, I just remember the smiles and high-fives they used to give me every day I entered the classroom.” If anyone is contemplating volunteering in Kenya, her advice includes “go with the flow and take on the challenge!” She also warns that if you do… be prepared to leave a piece of heart in Kenya…. “a piece of your heart will always be in Kenya from all of this” she says. “You think you made an impact, wait until you get back to your home country….. you find out your experience changed you just as much”
So, what is next Melanie? Melanie will finish her Nursing degree, obtain her credentials and serve in Canada. She also plans to return to Kenya one day for a short term visit to work along side of Doctor Dora.
Note: We thank Melanie for sharing her photos with us (permission to post). The photos belong to Melanie and her photography business – Moments in Time Photography. She captures all sorts of life events for families and individuals so if you are in the Petawawa, Ontario, or North Bay CANADA area and need a photographer, our future Nurse Melanie is recommended!
Story by: Jennifer Wiley- Much love to you Melanie!!!