A year ago today I left the UK to embark on the best experience of my life. After a few months of fundraising and preparing in every way imaginable, I was off to Kenya with a group of other UK volunteers to take part in an ICS programme with Balloon Ventures.
We were about to spend three months living in the small town of Njoro with a group of fellow volunteers from across Kenya, ready to embark on a development project to help small local businesses and entrepreneurs.
Exiting Nairobi airport and venturing out into the strong dry heat of Kenya, It felt a million miles away from the cold, bleak grey of January back home. We loaded into a Matatu, a mini bus van used as public transport all across the country, and set off on a long and bumpy drive out of the sprawling capital and onto long empty roads.
The bumps of the road sent our heads flying around, hitting the hard metal roof of the van repeatedly. Looking out onto the scorched and dusty fields and seeing the savannah wildlife comfortably patrolling the land felt very surreal. My eyes were glued to the window, desperately searching through the dusty landscape to spot the distinctive splodges of a giraffe. The rough journey sent my motion sickness into overdrive and I took a short nap as our long drive continued.
The sun had long set and the warm day had turned into the darkest of nights. There were no streetlights or vast skyscrapers to send an illuminate glow into the surroundings. You could truly see the stars without the light pollution a lot of us have grown so used to. It was beautiful.
We drove through the town that was to be our new home, down the main street that was the foundation of the community, and to the small hotel we were all going to stay at for the first few days before we moved into our host homes with local families.
The night went by in a tired haze. Tired from jetlag and tired from the drive. I get certain flashbacks now of warm memories that have become yet warmer now I can look back a year later with all the context and hindsight of the experience as a whole. This was my first night with a group of people I would come to consider family.
We met our Kenyan counterparts, and for the first time of many good times to come, sat together as a group of 17 and ate dinner. Chicken and chips didn’t seem too far from the familiar food of home. We all chatted and got to know each other a little. Names, ages and where we were all from.
With an evening of laughter, conversation and food, the experience of a lifetime was about to begin. At that moment I could never imagine what was to come over the next few months. Now, a year later, I want to share more about this experience with you all.
Over the coming weeks, I will be writing a whole host of blog posts all about my experiences in Kenya. I’ll be telling stories of the people I met, sharing my experience of volunteering abroad, talking about the small town I called home and generally just give you an insight into what it was really like being there. This experience was special to me and has been something I’ve held very close to my heart since I got on my plane home and have since had time to truly contemplate all that happened. Now I feel ready to tell more of my story. I hope you enjoy the posts that are to come as much as I’ll enjoy writing them and reliving those warm, glowing moments all over again.
In the meantime you can read a few of the posts I wrote about Kenya whilst I was there and after I had just returned.
Thank you for reading,