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First impression of Franzi and Yannis

The two volunteers Franzi and Yannis have written a first report after three weeks of their volunteer work: Have fun reading:

First impressions

The country is hot and covered with a thick layer of red dust. Wherever we go we are greeted with a big smile and a loud “Mzungu” is called. Kenya completely won us over.

When we arrived in Nairobi three weeks ago, it was already late at night. Our flight was delayed for several hours and we had no opportunity to give notice, but when we stepped out of the airport after a long passport and baggage check, Josephine, our Kenyan contact person and second director of Jiamini, welcomed us with a friendly smile and immediately helped us to load the luggage.

Since it was already late, Josephine took us home for the first night. She lives with her five children and her husband in a small apartment on the outskirts of Thika. Like many homes here in Kenya, it is surrounded by a wall with a large gate. A security guard in the district ensures that only residents go in and out and that there are no raids at night, although Thika itself has a reputation for being a very peaceful city.

When we got to Josephine's it was already two o'clock in the morning. Josephine told us that she had been awake for 24 hours because there was no running water in her district during the day and she had to wash her children's laundry last night. We felt a bit bad about it, but she just waved it off, said it was normal and disappeared into the kitchen for a brief moment and then came back with a pot of red beans and a plate of chapati (Kenyan flatbread), because together Food is the top priority of Kenyan hospitality and we couldn't refuse that (and we shouldn't, because the food is good).

The next day Josephine showed us the city, or “Thika Town”, as she laughingly explained to us, because Thika was so small that one could hardly speak of a city (despite the official number of 100,000 inhabitants!). Apart from the size, Thika has everything you need to live. In the center there is one shop after the other, there are clothing, hi-fi shops, mobile shops, workshops of all kinds and many fruit and vegetable dealers who offer their goods on the sidewalk, so to speak in the second row. So in Thika there is a lot of activity, a nice mix of modern and uncomplicated unconventional. Our first city tour already resulted in a hunger for Kenyan life and adventure that we have not yet been able to breastfeed, because we experience more of it every day and we just can't get enough of it.

Josephine's house was only a place to stay for the first night due to our late flight. Our actual accommodation, it turned out that afternoon, was in a part of Thika called Section 9. Above all, rich Kenyans (and Indians) live here, which is easy to see from the large properties and the even larger security systems. There is also enough water here. In our small three-room apartment, which we will share with four other volunteers and a Kenyan hostmum, we will lack for nothing in our time here. We have a shower with hot water and other amenities like 24-hour electricity, a microwave, a toaster and a gas oven. What counts as standard equipment in Germany is by no means taken for granted here in Kenya. Of course, if we had entered the same apartment in Germany, we would have described it as simple and functional, but in Kenya it shows luxury and wealth, we are very well aware of that. The best thing, however, was the friendly welcome from our Housemum (Beth, 24 years old). We felt right at home J.


First day in the Kiandutu project

All of Kenya is buried under a thick layer of red dust. While a lot of effort is made to keep the dust out of the inner cities, in the poorer areas it is simply part of life. The slums in particular are strongly influenced by this. Entering the slums is like entering a desert in which makeshift little wooden barracks have been built. There is no sewage system and no garbage disposal, everything happens here on the dusty paths. As Europeans who have just flown in, it is difficult to believe that people can live here. The poverty is so great and so terrifying that it can hardly be put into words. It is even harder to believe that the slums make up most of a city. Kiandutu, the slum in Thika where we will work with Jiamini, already has 30,000 residents. And that's just one of many in Kenya. As far as we know, there are two slums in Thika.

Because the slums are considered very dangerous, Stano, one of our Kenyan Jiamini employees, picks us up from a safe place. He is 22 years old, grew up as an orphan boy in Kiandutu and has a big heart for children and a good knack for organization, which makes him perfect for our project. With him by our side, it is possible for us to enter and leave the slum without anyone looking at us crookedly. Without him, work here would not be possible.

On our first day in the project we are first led to the larger Jiamini Center, which consists of a room with a toilet and kitchen and a small adjoining room, then to an additional room that Jiamini has rented. You are lucky enough to be one of the few stone-built rooms. They offer enough protection and tranquility for the children and thus form a good place where the children can learn and play.

When we arrived the children were being taught by a pastor and we sat down quietly so as not to disturb them, but of course our eyes kept wandering in our direction, because there are not so many whites in Thika, and certainly not at all so far from the center. Just as curious as the children looked at us, we were just as curious about them. There were a total of nine children, all of different ages, from Derik (approx. 4 years) to Brayan (approx. 12 years). Four boys, five girls. Some of them are siblings. In contrast to the rest of the children we had seen in the slum, the Jiamini children looked more well-groomed. However, behind this was the great commitment of the caregivers, as we knew, because all nine children were orphans who were taken in by families who do not have much to live on themselves.

As soon as the Bible study was over, we were warmly welcomed. First with a little speech by one of the older children in English, then with a dance by two sisters. We then tried to introduce ourselves in Swahili. We knew that most children didn't speak English yet. But we were up straight away, because our Swahili was so bad that everyone looked at us with wide eyes and then burst out laughing. Fortunately, language is not that important in most cases and so we first communicated a little shyly with hands and feet, but at the latest after a round "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" and a round " Head and sholders knees and toes ”the dam was broken and the children happily jumped around us, eager to touch our white skin and feel our hair, which was so different from theirs.

Then we went to a small local restaurant in the slum, a so-called hotel. The children all live in the slum with a parent or guardian, who are mostly aunts or grandparents. These are supported by the fact that the children can have three meals a day in small restaurants. There is tea, rice and beans and lots of chapati. This support is very important because the Guardians who have taken the children in often have very little themselves and usually have a few other mouths to feed. We ourselves are not allowed to eat or drink in these hotels, as our bodies would probably not be able to tolerate it. We have to buy water in the supermarket. The children, however, have a big appetite. Rarely have we seen a four-year-old eat a huge portion as quickly as Derik does! After that we were part of the sports program, ended up playing football for hours and had a great time with the kids while we got to know the project.


Daily work

Things are going very well in the project. While corporal punishment is often still practiced in many households and at school, the methods here are very educational and modern. At the moment there are four Kenyan volunteers working for Jiamini, in November there will be six, as the kids can then also come to an afternoon program at the Jiamini Center, since the holiday season has started and runs until January. Stano is currently running the project down here, submitting cost calculations to the directors, who then approve them, and receives the money from a financial worker here in Thika, which he uses for a specific purpose. The organization is very commendable and you have the feeling that all money is being used in the best possible way! We got a good insight into the organization and administration, which all has to be very bureaucratic in order to run the organization completely clean. Even though Stano is only in his early 20s, he does an excellent job. He's supposed to be working full-time for Jiamini soon, we think that's great! He grew up in the Kiandutu slum in Thika and enjoys a great reputation here. It is also he who accompanies us through the slum during the day and brings us home before dark in the evening. David and Mackson, the other two volunteers we have met so far, are also doing a great job.

The boys work really well with the children and have a well-planned program. Saturday morning it starts with breakfast, religious instruction, weekly review and brushing teeth, afterwards there is lunch and often a free hour for things like painting, projects etc…. In the afternoons and Sundays, after the kids sometimes go to church with the Guardians, there is a wide range of sports on offer. Here David does warm-up, acrobatics and strengthening with the children. Later there are various stations where boules, frisbee, rope skipping etc. take place before a big one to two hour football game continues. That sounds very clear, but the sports area is a large, burned meadow with a lot of rubbish and animal excrement, and it is within sight of the slum, which in turn means that about 20 to 80 children also want to take part, which we try to make possible do. All children lack clothes and shoes. We were able to bring sportswear for the kids of our project, as well as a few used shoes and games, such as 2 slacklines, which the supervisors accepted and enthusiastically set up again and again. Often the emotions of the Kenyans are still a little difficult to see through, but we are getting better at it! The work is great fun and the children are very happy. You can tell that they lack a lot of affection, they are between 4 and 12 years old and luckily they are already a small community, although the Jiamini project in the Kiandutu slum only existed in this form since September! This is a great achievement by the Jiamini family!


First aid course and excursion to 14 falls

This weekend we did a little first aid course with the children on Saturday. You learned very concentrated about disinfection, self-protection and accidents and treated and bandaged wounds in an exemplary manner. We were enthusiastic about her enthusiasm and her concentration and the supervisors also used the first aid pack on the same day! Small wounds were recorded like in a role play and then treated in an exemplary manner, mainly by the older children. We had at least as much fun as the children, but we also felt that the supervisors learned a lot. It is very nice that all the things that are learned are taken up again and again by Stano, David and Mackson so that the children remember them. So last week we went to a big Handwash Day event, where there was information about hand washing. Then each child was allowed to practice and repeat what they had learned. You have to admit that it is often difficult to achieve the standards when it comes to hand washing and brushing your teeth, but the kids are on the right track. In the center, teeth are thoroughly brushed one after the other after eating. We are not entirely sure whether the children have and use their own toothbrushes at home, but we want to find out soon!

On Sunday we were able to make a little excursion from donations, namely the 9 children from Kiandutu and the 5 children from Kiganjo who live there with a host mother. Schwuppsdiwupps were all packed in a small van and we drove to nearby waterfalls with snacks and toys in our luggage. The supervisors wanted that for the kids, as many of them have never come outside of the city limits. We had a wonderful time! It was the first time everyone went across a river in a small wooden boat, they were very happy and made incredibly fascinated faces. After a long and exhausting day at the water, we all drove home very exhausted!



... we still have 6 eventful weeks ahead of us J. We are just starting to become a real part of the Jiamini family in Thika and hopefully we will soon be able to report further great impressions!


Addition: School in Kenya

Since we only worked with Jiamini on weekends during school time, we had time to go to school during the week. In almost three weeks we have gathered a wide variety of impressions here. These were mostly positive for the students, but unfortunately mostly negative for the teachers. Unfortunately it was very difficult for us to teach properly. We attribute this to the fact that when the students are alone with them they know that, unlike their teachers, we will not punish them with beating. In addition, a large part of the lesson consists of the students speaking in choir and repeating the teacher's words when asked. Open lessons with questions and contributions from the students turned out to be difficult, and when someone was to be selected for assignments, chaos quickly ensued, but I think mainly because everyone was bursting with enthusiasm and such a lesson was very unusual for them . Corporal punishment has actually been banned in Kenya for years, but is still used in many schools. Weeping children right next to you, who are being held by the teacher because they haven't had all the blows behind them, were very difficult for us to endure. When I approached a teacher about this, she quoted the Bible and said the children would still love her for it. She also found our methods of maintaining order ridiculous and said it didn't work.

Hope gave us that we had heard reports from other schools that reported more positive ones. Also with regard to the motivation of the teachers. Our teachers spend what felt like 5 hours a day in the teachers' room, teaching about 3 hours. Kenyan students spend a lot of time alone in classrooms. Often they get assignments from teachers in the staff room through their class representatives. If it is rumored that someone is loud and works badly, he is summoned to the staff room and gets hold of the fingers. Pupils with bad grades had to wait in front of the headmistress' office to pick up punches. There is also very little communication between the teachers, including with us. Hardly anyone wants to take us to their class, although they are always very happy when we are there, they usually take them off. For us so far opaque. The staff room is also very cozy, which for us Europeans is interpreted as unbelievable boredom. The differences are huge here!

The interactions with the students, most of whom are very friendly and interested, were positive. Despite everything, we were also impressed by her ability to work independently, although unfortunately a lot of work is done in schemes and the ability to combine things and think logically is neglected. Nevertheless, we had many hours, which Franzi in particular spent dancing, doing gymnastics and singing, in which the students participated with full zest for action. Among other things, basketball and volleyball. We also carried out a first aid course with around 40 students and supported the 8th grade in learning before their exams. Even the very little ones are very happy when you paint and sing with them. They are only 4 to 6 years old and learn mainly through songs and recitation of words. It should be noted here that they learn two foreign languages, Kisuahili and English, from the first grade onwards, because before that they often only speak the language of their tribe, here mostly Kikuyu! The level of the senior math class was also impressive. In some cases we did not notice the correct lessons, because at the end of the school year there is only repetition.

Here you could keep reporting forever! Despite everything, we are very happy to have spent the weeks in a school. We were able to learn a lot about ourselves and have gained a lot of experience. Hopefully we could give the students one or the other happy moment too!


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