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Maasi HIV/AIDS

Help to combat HIV and AIDS in Maasai-land

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Make a difference in Maasai-land

Help promote the future health of the community in one of Agape’s toughest but most rewarding placements.

As a volunteer on our HIV/AIDS programme, you will be working in a clinic as well as in the wider community. A lot of the work requires a great deal of personal strength and understanding, particularly as many of the sufferers are children. You will be carrying out HIV tests, counseling sufferers, educating young people in the community and carrying out home visits. You will be made comfortable with all of your responsibilities in your orientation, and you will be given extra advice about precautionary measures you should take when in contact with infected people.

Your work in the clinic will mostly be carrying out conducting tests and other procedures, which you will be taught by local clinic staff. However, counselling is likely to be your most demanding responsibility. We counsel people with positive and negative results, talking through what can be done to help them as well as giving them preventative advice. You will also be carrying out home visits to distribute food and medicine to families who can no longer work due to their illness.

The Kenyan government provide a supply of medicine which you will help distribute. During your orientation and in your first few days you will be assisted in all of these duties, and we will make sure you are prepared for the challenges you will face.

Within Maasai-land, there are added difficulties such as traditions which forbid contraception, or a simple lack of understanding. Education is therefore especially important, for both men and women in the community. Many children have never been taught about the dangers of HIV, and their teaching has to start from the most basic level. The treatment of HIV is much more difficult in Maasai-land due to its inaccessibility, therefore preventative measures such as these are of crucial importance.

 

Breakfast and dinner will be provided for you with your host family. Breakfast will be bread, butter, jam, eggs and chai, a type of African tea. Kenyan food often has an Indian influence, and dinner consists of rice, beans, mixed vegetables, chapatis, ugali and stewed meat. You should bear in mind that there will be far fewer alternatives in Maasai-land compared with Nairobi. However, the Maasai grow all of their own crops and their food is very fresh. It is recommended that you drink only bottled water during your stay.

You will be living in volunteer groups of between 4 and 16 in homes near your placement. Beds will most likely consist of thin mattresses on the floor so you should bring a sleeping bag, although pillows will be provided. In line with the Christian values in most Kenyan households, all rooms are single-sex. There is no electricity in Maasai-land, however there are vendors who generate electricity to sell if you wish to charge your phone. Similarly, there is no running water; instead water will be collected in tanks on the roofs of houses. You should not expect to shower more than about once every two weeks. Entertainment is provided in the community every night. Volunteering in Maasai-land is very different from western life, but an experience which will never be forgotten.

Within a day of arriving in your home-stay you will recieve the Agape Volunteers orientation. This is explained in much more detail in the information pack, but the general idea of this is to make sure that you are as prepared as is possible for your stay in Africa. It explains things like culture, customs, language and how to stay safe on a day to day basis. This also gives you a chance to meet other volunteers who you might not be staying with.

Living in Maasai-land, you will be immersed in a tribal culture very different from the western world. You may find yourself suffering a little from culture-shock, and although your orientation is designed to make you feel as comfortable as possible, it will help if you have an idea of what to expect beforehand. Watching videos of Maasai-land on YouTube will show you a surprising amount, as will finding out as much as you can about the traditions and culture of the tribes you will be working with. If you need any suggestions or advice in this area just email info@agape-volunteers.com.

The main difference between the Maasai people and their urban cousins is their semi-nomadic lifestyle. The Maasai grow all of their own crops and rear their own cattle, and uphold many tribal traditions. Agape’s aim is to work alongside the Maasai traditions, not to try and alter them, so please do consider this when working there.

All Kenyan and Masai volunteers recieve two extra trips included in their volunteering costs.

The first of these is the IDP outreach trip. IDP stands for "internally displaced person" and these camps are a hangover from the 2007 election violence where thoudands of people were made homeless. Unfortunately, since then for whatever reason these people have not been able to retuen to their communities and still live in tented camps spread out accross the central African rift valley. The conditions in these camps are not good and unfortunately since the UN withdrew in 2009, Agape Volunteers are the only full time aid organization opperating in these areas. We run a food outreach trip every two weeks where we travel to the camp to distribute food and gerneral supplies and a medical trip around every month, where medical supplies are distributed with the help of local doctors. As part of your volunteering fees you will take part in one of these trips if you want to that is. Most volunteers describe it as their most striking memory from their stay in Kenya but also as the point at which they felt most useful. Agape Volunteers is committed to continuing these outreach trips but is also investing in longer term solutions to the problem, which include the building of a school, completed in 2010 and a hospital, due for completion this year.

The second trip is the city tour. On one of your free wekend days in Kenya you are entitled to a free tour around the city of Nairobi with other volunteers. As part of this trip you will visit the monkey park, animal orphange, crocodile park, elephant sanctuary and some beautiful city parks. There is a nice lunch included too, but as this is taken in the monkey park, you will have to guard it with your life!

You don't need to worry about organizing either of these trips as one of members of staff will be in contact about them once you have settled in.

After breakfast with your host family and the other volunteers, you will head to your placement. Placement work starts at 9am, and you will always begin at the HIV centre to discuss the day ahead with the staff. Testing is usually done in the morning. You may want to carry out tests and counselling in a group with other volunteers or members of staff at first, and help will always be available with these aspects of your work.

Lunch is from 1pm until 2pm, and you are free to meet up with the other volunteers on your placement. After lunch, you will be carrying out home visits with another member of staff. Each visit lasts for 45 minutes, and you will be delivering food, checking on the children and getting to know the families you are working with. At around 3pm on some days you may go into a local school with a group and another staff member to present a talk on the dangers of HIV and how it may be prevented.

At 5pm, the clinics close, and HIV volunteers either join in with another project, playing games and looking after the children, or return to their host families. Dinner will be at about 7pm, followed by games with the other volunteers, and then bed around 10pm.

There are plenty of optional extras you can choose to include in your trip. At the weekends, you can get involved with lots of activities taking place in and around your placement. Teaching at Saturday school is optional for volunteers, and usually involves lots of games rather than serious lessons. You can explore the Maasai markets, and take advantage of the city tour of Nairobi included in your programme fee. Your host family will also have good recommendations for places you can visit. Most families will attend church on Sundays, and whilst this is optional, they may invite you to try it.

For more extended trips, you can visit the spectacular Fourteen Falls, go to Diani Beach near Mombasa, and even climb Mt Kenya or Mt Kilimanjaro. Most of our volunteers also choose to take a safari, which is an unparalleled experience in some of Africa’s most beautiful parks. It is available to our volunteers at a reduced rate from the tourist prices. You can find more information about all of these optional extras in our information booklet. Second to this, after you have booked, your trip adviser will ask you if there are any other trips that you would like to take whilst you are volunteering.

 

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