This blog post is written by Arrive Board Member Davide Ippolito.
Eighteen months ago I made my first journey to Kenya. It was not the first time I had traveled to a place so far from home, but it was surely the most exotic place I had ever been to. Looking back at the trip in preparation for my next trip I realize how easy it is for a person to develop anxiety before a safari ('adventure' in Swahili) into an unfamiliar place. It begins with doubt: you doubt your mission, and you doubt your abilities. Fear is another element of preparation to venture into uncertain waters. Going into a developing country where you are the minority, fear can dominate your mind. The second my plane touched down in Nairobi that first time, my doubts and fear were replaced with extreme excitement for what was to come. After six weeks in Kenya I was not in any mood to return home to the developed parts of the world due to the love that had grown for the people and the beautiful country.
Now as I prepare for my trip in January I find myself in a distinct position compared to my last trip. My mind is set on completing as many projects as possible while on the ground, and my heart is set on spending as much time with the children to see how they have grown and to teach them as much as I can - though I believe what I learn from them is usually much more than what I could possibly teach.
Brian and the Arrive Team with the help of Fariji and all of our supporters have been able to do incredible things in Kenya. We have increased sustainibility, decreased opporational costs, and increased the amount of children that we have been able to take off the streets of Kenya. At the same time, though, there is still so much to do. In the coming months, we are moving into a third stage of our work in Keumbu. The first phase was research into the issues that the region faces. This includes the physical issues such as infrastructure, and the social issues such as poverty and diseases. The reason for the first phase is to allow us to understand the problems that the region is facing, and to give us an idea of how we should approach these issues. It took us about 18 months to confidently complete this stage. Our second phase is quite possibly the longest and most difficult. It entails putting in the infrastructure to solve some of the peoblems we see and battling the social issues such as lack of education. During our second phase we have been able to build a well for fresh water, a fish pond and animal farm for food, a large garden for food as well, the boys and girls dormitories, solar panels, and a plethora of other projects in order to reduce opporational costs at the KRCH. Along with this we have supported the Emanuel Lights Academy in its goal to spread education to the community, and supported the secondary education of all of the children in the KRCH. These projects have all been designed with the goal of empowering the local community and making a sustainable model that can eventually be brought to other locations.
Our third and final stage, which will being in January, entails reviewing all of our endeavors and projects, and seeing if they are running at full capacity , or 100% efficiency. It starts with an audit which we will preform in January of every single project to see where we stand in terms of efficiency. This first part should take about two weeks to complete. Phase three continues with work to make sure everything is 100%. We have set a 12 month goal to complete this part of the project. This could include redesigning a few of our projects in order to make them work better. The second part of phase three is figuring out areas that we can improve in as far as sustainability goes. This means looking at the system as a whole and determining the areas in which we can still make progress - in essence it is similar to phase one. The third goal of phase three is to increase the independence of Fariji, or in the future any local NGO that we work with. Though the projects that we have fundraised for help to increase the sustainability of the orphanage, there will always be a need for fundraising even if we are able to eliminate food, water or electricity costs since there are educational costs to put the kids through secondary school (high school). In order to help Fariji become more independent, we have started to teach its staff important NGO skills, such as grant writing so that in the future Fariji and the KRCH educational fees may be covered by grants from Kenyan organizations and businesses. Our main objective continues to be empowerment of the local people.
Towards the end of my stay in Kenya in January, Brian and I plan on summiting Mt. Kenya (the highest summit in Kenya, towering at a monstrous 17, 057 ft). The first time Brian and I hung out when we were students at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO, was on a three day hike in the Rocky Mountains. Both of us have a passion for hiking, though we differ in how we like to approach the summit. Brian walks slow and looks all around, while I rush to the top to get the best view. All in all, though, our passion for wildlife and hiking has been one of my favorite parts of our friendship and one of the ways we have been able to get to know each other so well as best friends. The trip should be about five days and I have been looking forward to it for quite some time.
One of the main principles that Arrive was founded on was the idea that volunteers ought to get a complete picture of the country they go and help. In order to facilitate the “experience” aspect, we have fostered relationships with companies across Kenya that do all sorts of activities ranging from mountain summits such as Kilimanjaro, to safaris. My goal of summiting Mt. Kenya, though, is to try and push myself as much as I can. I believe that giving myself a goal to look forward to at the end of my stay in Kenya will help me work harder and better. The untouched beauty of Kenya has always attracted me, and I think that appreciation for the beauty helps to change one’s image of a developing country from an image of pity to one of awe. Kenya’s wild side represents to me a very honest image of the country, one that is not so heavily influenced by the developed view. It serves to remind you of the epic history and ambience of the place you are in, as well as the really incredible roots that all Kenyans have.
January will be a busy month between the audit, our staff training program and climbing Mt. Kenya - but it will be a big milestone for Arrive. We are going to be able to see, with as many measurment tools as possible, our progress on the ground in Kenya. I feel no anxiety, no doubt, and no fear as I head towards my departure for Kisii. All I feel is excitement to see how much we can get done!
Throughout Davide's stay, we will post updates, photos, and follow-up.