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Poppy Pinnock

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Poppy's trip to Kenya

Poppy volunteered in Kenya with Agape Volunteers during July 2011, as a teacher. She took part in all the usual activities that are offered to Kenyan volunteers including a Nairobi city tour, IDP medical camp and Maasai Mara Safari. All of Agape's staff were incredibly impressed with her contributions, especially to the orphanage and local football teams, whom she worked with very closely.

When I arrived in Kenya I didn’t know what to expect at all but it turned out to be a million times better than I could have ever imagined. I went with my friend Catherine and I did a teaching/orphanage placement, whilst Cat did a medical placement. Gee, the guy in charge happened to be there for most of the time we were and we all stayed at the same home stay.

Staying with Maggie and Oliver was lovely, their hosting was impeccable- if you stay here you will NEVER go hungry. They have three lovely daughters, Kim, Crystal and Beautiful, who kept us busy and on our toes constantly wanting to play. Thankfully after a few days we managed to convince them that sleeping lions was a good game to play which kept them quiet for a while… well a minute or two.

I didn’t know what to expect at all but it turned out to be a million times better than I could have ever imagined

When Cat and I first went to the Agape Hope Centre (the school and orphanage) it was a Friday afternoon and it was play time. We walked through a small gate into the play area and was swamped by children from every angle. They all wanted to hold my hand, touch my skin and play with my hair, I couldn’t move. After a good half an hour of being prodded and poked Ben came to my rescue. As one of the older boys there he told the younger children to give me some room to breathe and I could finally take in my surroundings. It was smaller than I expected considering that so many children go to school there every day but it was a very happy place. We played lots of games with them; football, skipping, me being chased, me having my hair done, them stealing my camera and singing English pop songs… They are all massive Akon and Rihanna fans. A word of warning though; if you play football with them watch out. They’re good! I think I got beaten by several people under the age of 8.(6 at best.)

One of the weeks I was there I painted the orphanage bedrooms with some other volunteers who were in the area and two local boys, Joe and Jesse. I think more of the paint ended up on us than on the walls (all Gee’s fault) but the job got done eventually and the rooms looked much nicer than they had before. All the kids really wanted to join in with the painting and they loved that I ended up covered in blue paint looking like a smurf; in fact they were partly responsible for it. It was hard work but definitely worth it. I also spent quite a lot of time at the centre out of school time when just the orphans were there. Gee and I spent most of our evenings there playing football with them and taking the kids to watch the local football team, Dagototo, train. Gee attempted to join in these training sessions but to be honest he was a bit out paced and out classed :P

On one of our first nights after Gee arrived we had a bonfire at the centre with all the orphans and the Dagototo boys. Everyone joined together to cook a meal and I got introduced to all the boys in the football team. They were all of a similar age to me ranging from about 18-22 and they were all so friendly and absolutely lovely. A few of them tried to teach me how to play African poker (which I am officially rubbish at!) and how to dance to reggae. Moseti taught me to make Ugali and all of them generally mocked me as much as they could. It was a really fun evening and was lovely to see the sense of community that there is. It’s something I really miss now I’m home.

At the weekends we tried to do fun things at the orphanage. One day we made cakes with the orphans and another we took them loads of paper, pens and stickers and had picture time. They loved it. The cakes went dramatically wrong and definitely didn’t look like cakes but they tasted amazing and drawing pictures ended up with everyone being covered in stickers. Although neither day went to plan the way they ended up was definitely more fun. Oh and we also taught them to dance. They now know how to do the Macarena and Gee’s signature dance move, the canoe. If you are ever there ask them to show you :) I also spent a bit of time getting to know some of the football team better. They showed me where they lived and told me about their lives. Jesse and Moseti introduced me to reggae and we even went CD shopping so I’d be able to listen to it all at home. I watched a few of their football matches and cheered them on. So many of the local community turned out to watch it was great, although I think I was bad luck as they never won when I watched.

A very interesting yet amazing experience in Kenya has to be the matatus (local buses). They are old mini buses with way too many seats in for their size and are how the locals get around. They are always packed; at one point Gee had 3 people sat on his knee, and are really uncomfortable but could provide me with hours of entertainment. They play the coolest music I’ve ever heard ridiculously loud and usually have flashing neon lights. An evening matatu ride is something I think everyone should get to experience! They usually end in very funny events which could include: a dog eating your pizza, a local man offering you a towel because your feet are so muddy, trying to get into a random van that isn’t a bus, someone wanting to marry you… or your sister… or your friends… or any other English female you might know and lots of laughing. Another highlight was going on safari!! It’s pretty self explanatory so I won’t say much but it is definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done. We watched the sun rise and saw baby lions climbing up a rock with the rest of their pride… the rock even looked like pride rock in the Lion King! All it needed was a monkey to lift up one of the cubs and it would have been perfect. Seeing that left me on a high for the rest of the day and combined with a reggae filled journey back to Nairobi and dinner at Jesse’s house I really don’t think I could have been happier.

One of the things already included in our trip to Kenya was going to an IDP camp. It was shocking to see people still living in tents so long after they were first given them and it was sad to see how reliant they are on the help Agape is providing, but I’ve never done something so worth while. When went and took medical supplies and helped a doctor to see all the people who were ill. I was in charge of taking peoples weights and temperatures, but others did blood pressure, registration, HIV counselling and some medical students did injections. It was great to be able to help the people who so desperately needed help, but heartbreaking having to leave. They just kept asking when we would next be back. On a more positive note I saw all the buildings Agape are building for them (hospital, church, sewage system). Work had stopped for the time being as they needed to raise more money but when they are done they will be such a help to the community, I really hope one day I can go back and see it all finished.

Although I did and saw some incredible things in Kenya it was the people that made it so special. They were probably the kindest, friendliest, most welcoming, generous, loving people I will ever meet. I will remember and love them all forever and just hope I get to see them all again very soon. Here is a bit about just a few of them:

Izzo (Safari Slim) - Probably the coolest guy you’ll meet he is very smooth. He loves to explain how the African male way is the best way and also seems to be a massive fan of African time (always being late).
Jesse - He’s an angel. He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body and will always greet you with a smile. His generosity and the way he looked out for me was incredible. He also happens to be pretty amazing at football; he’s even played for Kenya U21’s.
Moseti - I don’t even know what to say about him… I’m a little bit in love! 99% of the time I spent with him I was laughing or being mocked by him. He has the most amazing smile and is the star striker in the Dagototo team. He gave me my first reggae CD, which I now play all the time, and taught me to make Ugali and dance African style.
Ben - I will never forget this boy. His happiness is infectious. He has a massive personality and certainly knows how to get your attention. He helped me lots when trying to explain things to the younger children, usually wanting biscuits for payment, a born business man.

Saying goodbye was hard. I don’t think they’ll ever quite realise how much of an impact they’ve had on me. I just hope I managed to give them even a small amount of the happiness and love that they gave me. This experience is something I’ll never forget, I can’t wait to go back!

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