On our first expedition to Kenya, 100 Humanitarians held a Days for Girls workshop at Eselenkai Girls Primary Boarding School in Kenya. The girls in attendance were girls who had run from Female Genital Mutilation and early marriage, and were mostly in Class 7 and 8, which is 7th and 8th grades in the U.S. We had become aware of the issue of feminine hygiene for girls, and contacted the school to talk to them about the Days for Girls Enterprise and program that we were helping to create in Kenya. At the time, we were supporting one Days for Girls Enterprise, run by Christine Sakali, a woman that we helped fundraise for the previous year to attend the Days for Girls University in Uganda.
After our training with Christine, we met with the girls in a large central hall. Part of the training included not just how to use the reusable feminine hygiene kit, but also hand washing and sanitation. Since then, our workshops have included things like self-defense and how to understand the female cycle. This was a very humbling experience for our team, because until we arrived at the school our expedition had mostly been the fun stuff like The Giraffe Centre and Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi. Realizing what these girls were facing, and how they were so brave to run towards a better life, we couldn’t help but experience a huge range of emotions.
As we distributed the kits, we had some time to spend with the girls, getting to know them and their stories. Many members of our team had the same names as the girls in the school. The girls, though in a very challenging situation, were all smiles and hugs and LOVED having their pictures taken with us. Each of us had a small group of girls swarming us, asking questions and playing with our hair. There aren’t the same physical boundaries in Kenya as there are in the U.S. and affection and love is everywhere. Even though we were the ones that showed up to serve them, all of us came away feeling like we were the ones who were served and taught by the girls.
Since then, we have made every effort to host a Days for Girls workshop on every expedition. We fundraise in the U.S. for kits, and then have Christine and her team sew the kits in Kenya. Her enterprise is able to then support many families with basic needs and school fees for their children. If you would like to donate to our Days for Girls program, click here.
The Mau Forest is a really beautiful area of Kenya, and on my second trip during a very rainy and muddy day, we drove up to visit Tenkes School. When we got out of the jeep, we were greeted by about 15 elders who were on the board of the school. They gave us a tour of the school, and showed us two things that really had an impact on me. First, the desks. There were just not enough for the students, and they were sitting 4-5 in a desk.
There were three classrooms with about 300 students at the school. Each classroom had about 6-8 desks, so most kids were sitting on the floor. Or standing. Can you imagine learning while standing all day? I committed to figure out how to raise funds for 15-20 more desks at least for the school. Turned out that was the really easy thing to do – raise funds. The hard part is cutting down trees and planing wood and building the desks. They don’t have Home Depot down the road with perfect planks for building. That’s the thing you really learn in a developing country quickly; just how unavailable resources are that you can easily get in the U.S.
Next on the tour was the kitchen that volunteer parents use to cook for 300 students each day. Children had to bring their own firewood, or they would get caned or beaten. A typical lunch would be ugali, which is similar to a corn polenta. Kenyans also drink African tea, and so that is often what the students will have. The Mau Forest can get very cold, because it is at a higher elevation than the Maasai Mara. This kitchen was falling apart pretty quickly, and didn’t provide shelter for the cooks when it rained. So my second commitment was to rebuild the kitchen, and we held the event A Taste of Kenya to do just that.
One of the objectives of Tenkes School is to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation through education. These men were very aware of the issue, and were very enthusiastic to share with me how they were working to stop FGM. This was the first time I had experienced that in Kenya from men, and it was really powerful. We spent several hours with them discussing their challenges.
It was a few months later that the kitchen fell down after severe rainstorms in The Mau. We coordinated efforts with the school, and on our first official expedition to Kenya we were able to visit Tenkes School and help build the final desks (we ended up donating 20.) The kitchen was rebuilt, and lunch was cooked for our team in the new kitchen.
The new kitchen was built with two rooms, so that a teacher would be able to sleep on one side. We had lunch with the students and school community, and were invited to eat goat with the elders who were on the Tenkes School Board.
We also planted 75 trees at the school as part of our reforestation project, because trees bring in water, but also provide firewood for the community as they grow. It was a wonderful day at the school and the impact on our team was tangible.
KARIBU KENYA, AFRICA – 100 Humanitarians International
After two trips to Kenya, Africa, I was ready to lead my first official expedition to Kenya. Turns out so many people wanted to go, that I stayed in Kenya for two back to back trips with 13 people in each group. It was crazy. I was crazy.
But let’s start at the beginning and tell the story.
Brittany was the first person to sign up for a trip, and quickly recruited a bunch of her friends to come along. I booked my flight a day early so that I could go with my daughter, and Brittany came along. It was so fun for us to get off the plane and have the Maasai warriors all to ourselves for a little while. We checked into our hotel, got a not so awesome night of rest, and then headed out the next day to visit the Giraffe Centre before the team arrived.
We not only visited The Giraffe Centre, we stopped by the Kazuri Bead Factory to see the women in action making the beads. It was a beautiful day, and Christine joined us on our adventures. We decided to visit The Galleria Mall for lunch, and then after a nap, headed to the airport where we met the rest of the team. Everyone arrived safely and ready to go. We were grateful that all of our bags made it as well, because the next day we had plans to drive to Narok for our first projects.
Our team was made up of 13 travelers – one kid and 12 adults. Our objective for the trip was to do a couple of Days for Girls workshops, visit families, build desks at a school, donate soccer balls to an orphanage, and go on safari!
This was the first trip to Kenya, Africa for everyone on the team, except me. In fact, a few people had gotten their passport for the very first time to go on this trip. No pressure! We were all excited for what was to come, most of all me. I had a hard time sleeping…
Kenya, Africa – The Giraffe Centre & The Elephant Orphanage
Kenya, Africa – We woke up after a decent night of sleep to a lovely breakfast at our hotel, followed by an excursion to The Elephant Orphanage and The Giraffe Centre in Nairobi. Every team loves to kiss a giraffe and pet a baby elephant. Both organizations are to protect the animals, and there is a lot to learn there. At The Giraffe Centre, the guards give you pellets to feed the giraffes. If you put one in your mouth, the giraffe will “kiss” you and grab it right from your lips.
The Elephant Orphanage is only open to watch the baby elephants feed for about an hour, but The Giraffe Centre is open all day, and has a fabulous gift shop.
Our drive to Narok was looming, and so were the clouds. We loaded up the jeeps and hit the road, with a stop at the Escarpment that overlooks The Great Rift Valley. The views are breathtaking, and after an hour in the jeep, it’s a great place to make a pit stop before heading down to the valley floor.
This particular team had Bob, or “Uncle Bob” as my daughter loved to call him. He was the “Manny” of the trip, and kept her supplied with orange fanta as a reward for trying out the latrine pits without freaking out. He kept the rest of us entertained with constant stories and jokes and songs. On the way, we stopped to try some grilled corn, or maize as it is called here.
Verdict: Not awesome.
We arrived at our hotel in Narok, and were greeted by friends who would be spending some time with us and helping us with projects over the next few days. After getting checked in and assigned to our rooms, we gathered in the restaurant and assembled 100 Days for Girls kits with underwear and soap in preparation for our workshop the next day at Tasaru Rescue Center.
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Suddenly, I looked over and Brittany was kissing a giraffe. Or, more accurately, a giraffe was kissing her. My first reaction was, “Gross!” and that was pretty much my second and third reaction, but after so many expeditions and trips to the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, I’m pretty used to seeing it now. I still have NOT kissed a giraffe, but never say never.
Going to the Giraffe Centre is often one of the things we do at the end of the trip, but it is a fun way to start off an expedition. We typically have a lazy breakfast at the hotel after flying into Nairobi the night before. Then we load up the jeeps with all of our luggage, and head over. We eat lunch there, and that is typically hamburgers or cheeseburgers, samosas, and sodas. My goal in life is to get them to start serving chips (french fries) to go with the burgers.
Our first expedition to Kenya in May 2016 that was led by 100 Humanitarians was so much fun, and so hilarious. The first day, Brittany and my daughter and I hung out with Christine, Moses and David while we waited for the rest of the team to fly in that night. We also visited the Kazuri Bead Factory, which is my favorite place in Nairobi. We always take a tour and meet the women who make the beads by hand out of clay from Mount Kenya. Then we do a bit of shopping!
They also make dishes at Kazuri Bead Factory, and each year I collect a mug for pens in my office in a different style. We were able to watch the men make the dishes on a pottery wheel (watch in the video posted above) and then see the painting take place. It’s fascinating to watch!
It really is always a huge relief when the team gets off the plane and all have arrived safely. We don’t take safety for granted! Every expedition is completely different, with unique experiences and team dynamics. And each team gets better and better. This team, however, was the first, and will always have a special place in my heart, because they took a chance on us, got on a plane, and flew across the world to serve. Many of our ideas that we have implemented since, came because of what this team brought to Kenya with their hearts and vision.