Entering July, volunteer season has hit full swing here in Kenya. Visitors from all over the world meet in rural Nyaturubo to join the Arrive team and contribute their time, expertise, and skills all for the benefit of the local men, women and children. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of reasons why Arrive loves hosting volunteers; as I write this message, there are nine international volunteers here at the KRCH. Below are just a few reasons why volunteers are vital to Arrive’s success: (remember you can click on any photos to enlarge them):
Volunteers like Joren Manz, from Alberta, Canada, come with an open mind and willingness to help wherever needed. A track star and major in Immunology and Infection at University of Alberta, Joren came to volunteer at the local hospital. There, he injects patients with vaccines for polio and typhoid. During his time off at the orphanage, he teaches the kids how to play his ukulele and takes them on runs from village to village.
Volunteers like board member James Hale bring me awesome gifts from America, like two of my favorite items of all time – Mario Kart for Nintendo ’64 and McDonalds. The insane number of hours I’ve played Mario Kart ’64 in my life has made me virtually unbeatable, so good luck to all the kids trying to drift pass me on the turns! And did you know the closest McDonalds to me here in Keumbu is 2,434 miles away in Johannesburg, South Africa? In perspective, that is about the distance from New York City to Las Vegas. It’s probably a good thing that McDonalds hasn’t invaded East Africa, and if you want to eat a McChicken sandwich you must go out, catch a McChicken yourself, and McSlaughter it.
Volunteers like Caitlin and Ben Glazier come ready to see things they’ve never seen in their lives. This brother-sister combo were shocked during their first time in Kisii to see young children sniffing glue, chewing batteries, and living in dumpsters. So what did they do? They bought lunch for all of the street children they saw; most likely their only meal of the day (or recent days). The Glaziers also help the kids of the village and are a welcomed, dynamic duo in our home.
Volunteers like Joanna Barret, while on break from their work, take safaris around Kenya and bring the kids along too! Joanna, I, and two of the children traveled to an area of Kenya I had yet to visit: Kakamega National Forest. A what-was-supposed-to-be three-hour matatu ride turned into nine grueling hours from Kisii to Kakamega, with Joanna one of six people squeezed into three seats. Once in the forest, we hiked in the dense jungle with monkeys jumping high above our heads.
Now to the name of this post: from Kakamega to renovations, Kakamega + renovations = Mega Renovations. I may only be twenty-three years old but my “dad jokes” are clearly already well-developed. Around the home we have made some small changes with big impacts. We first built a veranda for the girls’ house. Every time it rained, which is often here during the rainy season, a small lake formed at the entrance of the girls’ home. This was due from four streams of water flowing into a low spot right in front of the door. Girls would either be forced to jump over (sometimes wiping out and going for a swim in the process), or wade through the shin-deep puddle. Joren, James and I brought up large rocks from the river, made a path, then cemented the gaps. Then, we dug drainage trenches for the water to disperse. With a new coat of paint on the door, their veranda is now ready for the most intense tropical rainstorm.
Another major addition was adding cement and red oxide to the outside bottom of the boys’ structures. We cemented the outside of the boys’ house, kitchen, and bathroom. Before this work, there was a two to three-inch gap between the top of metal sheets and dirt. This entrance into the house made it an easy way in for bugs, rice, rats, and snakes; all of which have been found in the boys’ house. Now, not only is the house more aesthetically pleasing, but unwanted and dangerous critters will stay far away from our beds.
Added to the boys’ latrines are two “bathroom breathers” – pipes inserted into the sewage area that bring the unwanted fumes high above the latrine where they can be diffused harmlessly. The bathroom breathers make for a much more enjoyable and less smelly bathroom experience. This might seem like a small change, but when 20 boys share two small latrines, I promise these pipes brought monumental breaths of clean, fresh relief.
Lastly, I want to share a bit of sad news from Kisii. I had become very good friends with a street boy named Douglas. He is seven years old and a complete orphan. Douglas gets sexually raped every night in Kisii by older men who then give him money so he will come back the following night to be raped again. We helped Douglas as much as possible by bringing him to doctors and making sure that his body was not being permanently damaged, but we simply don’t have enough resources to bring him home. Last week, as Douglas was sleeping on a sidewalk, he rolled onto the street and got run over by a passing car. People on the scene thought he had died, but he was rushed to the Kisii hospital where he is currently tied down to a bed in a room with 25 other patients.
Douglas completely shattered his femur, the physically hardest bone in the human body. The hospital does not have casts, so he must stay perfectly still for two months. Besides us, Douglas has had no visitors; not even one. He had no basin to bathe in, meaning he urinated in his bed and continued to lie in it for weeks. He had no plate, cup, or spoon to eat with. When I heard about his accident, I immediately went to visit him and bring him these essential items. Every time he sees me, his face lights up with joy as my heart fills with sympathy. I continue to visit Douglas as he heals and can only hope one day he will be able to not only walk again, but find a better life for himself off the streets.