Kenya – trip of a lifetime

CWO Chris Raj has recently completed his Junior Leaders Course, and during the assesment phase he was selected as having had the best Section Lead. Along with other outstanding candidates on the course he was awarded a month trip to Kenya through the John Thornton Young Achievers Foundation.

His report follows: “The first two weeks was spent in Kawangare, the slums of Nairobi where the six of us completed various projects at two locations, one, in a kitchen at an orphanage and the other at a clinic called Wema (run by the infamous Dr George Guto). The kitchen had to be refurbished from its diabolical state and retiled by a couple of us with the help of various fundis (paid workers) while the rest of us focused on various projects to at the clinic. At Wema, we were to transform a shipping container into a building capable of being utilised as a X-ray room, raise a water tower by building concrete pillars to create water pressure and create a ditch after completely resurfacing and levelling the ground outside (to prevent flooding of the pathways). Two weeks were spent running around with wheelbarrows and shovels, furiously trying to haggle prices for tools, workers and materials to get the job done, surviving on a very different diet of our usual, duck, venison and expensive wine, instead getting familiar with goat’s intestines and ugali (Kenyan for flour + water…) Finally, caked in soil, cement and paint, with the palms of our hands covered in blisters and pink as candyfloss, we signified the end of our work by painting a Junior Leader’s DZ flash on the outside of the container.

The second phase of our trip was to run a travelling medical camp in Kisii, Dr George’s home county. We were joined by more volunteers from England and together for the next six days, we journeyed to various remote where the local population could not afford / easily access healthcare. Our team provided free consultations and treatments for all who arrived, the best thing being that we could see that we were making a physical difference in their lives – even saving some. During one of the days, I was given the opportunity to witness a childbirth, the stories I had heard before did nothing to prepare me for seeing, hearing and smelling the real thing – what was a gruesome yet beautiful experience ended up in the delivery of a healthy baby boy called Kevin who weighed in at two and a half kilos.

For the final part of our journey, we travelled to Mombasa for nine nights for R+R – but before that we had a little treat in store in the form of a Safari at the famous Tsavo West. We travelled through the national park, spotting all sorts of wildlife from elephants to lions and elated, we left and carried on our journey to the coast. In Mombasa, left to our own devices, we were able to organize a few days out – the most memorable being a day of snorkelling on a reef, avoiding octopuses and seeing dolphins and a day out deep-sea fishing in local canoes (with us happily cooking and gnawing on our catch a couple of hours after). Our time in Mombasa seemed to pass very quickly, without the shambolic hustle and bustle of the medical camp or any time restrictions, we were able to finally lie down and relax, whether it was by the pool or beach and get some rest and maybe even a tan (sunburn in some cases).

Hairy, hanging and happy, we packed our bags on the last day and made it to the airport (nearly crashing on the way), sad to leave a country which had become a second home to us, but cheerful in the fact that we were about to return to familiarity back in England, complete with the knowledge that our work had changed the lives of so many, including our own. My trip to Kenya was probably the best thing I’ve managed to do with my life so far, with the things I experienced still resounding in my head a month on. The very essence of the trip was made by those that travelled with me and the others we befriended whilst there. I’d like to thanks Sqn Ldr Godden for convincing me to do JL in the first place, those who donated money to the cause and all those who helped organise and run the trip, with a special mention to the two charities, Patchworking Against Poverty and the John Thornton’s Young Achievers Foundation”