I have always dreamed about traveling to Africa to volunteer and help a make a difference. I thought maybe an orphanage or a school would be where I could help the most. So the last few years I have been looking at different volunteer trips that I could be a part of. With a lot of these programs it seemed to me that the focus was too much on me as the volunteer and not enough on what we would achieve. These volunteer trips were all asking me to pay a lot to join them. Wait, I have to pay to volunteer?! Well that was the first thing I had to get my head around.
I had a stroke of luck when I was living in London, through a mutual friend I met Myles Edwards. He is an incredible athlete, a professional runner for Scotland. Why was this lucky for me? Well he had also just founded a charity in Kenya to help families in need. You see, he travels to Kenya to train in the altitude and had made friends with some locals and experienced the dire conditions that some people were living in.
Kenya is a country of poverty, where people live on an average of $1.50 per day. Myles and Gideon Gathimba, another incredible athlete in Kenya founded the Gathimba Edwards foundation to help give back to the families in need. Immediately when I heard Myles passionately talking about his plans for his foundation I was so excited and wanted to be signed up right away! Unfortunately, timing wasn’t right for me. My visa was expiring in the UK and I had to move back to Australia where I would need to find a new job and save some money before I could even think about traveling anywhere. For anyone who has been to or lived in London knows it will send you broke!
It wasn’t until 2 years had passed back in Australia when I was in a position to join the group heading to Kenya to lend a hand building houses in a rural part of Kenya, Karatina. So I started planning my trip. Being a self-confessed travel-aholic meant I couldn’t only see this part of Africa, I mean I had to see some animals and do a safari too of course. I am also a travel agent and so I have been exposed to so many great experiences through my work and planning amazing trips for my customers. When it came to planning my own trip I knew there were so many things I couldn’t miss out on. I had to see the Gorillas in Rwanda, raft on the Nile in Uganda, climb the peaks of Kilimanjaro, camp in the Serengeti, hot air-balloon over the great migration and scuba dive in Zanzibar. It was the best trip I have ever been on, I really had some incredible once in a lifetime experiences.
Since I have been back home, everyone wants to know about my trip, my friends, family, customers, they all ask, so what was your favourite part?….. This is such a hard question to answer usually of any trip. But I just can’t go past the experience I had with the Gathimba Edwards foundation and building houses in Kenya. I didn’t expect this to be the highlight of my trip. I expected it to be hard work, for 2 weeks with people I didn’t really know.
I was so wrong! This had to be one of the best experiences of my life. We had the chance to meet the families that we were building for when we arrived in Karatina first, we also got to see their current homes. This really touched my heart and helped to visualise the impact we were going to make by building them new homes. This was going to be life changing! And it was….. for these families and for me. It had such a profound effect on me and has made my heart so full.
The local people we met were all so kind and welcoming, they wanted nothing more than to look after you. The church service we attended turned into a praise for our efforts, they were all so grateful. I met some of the friendliest people I have ever met, they talked about us if we were angels sent to help, we all felt as if we were the ones who were blessed.
So did it cost money like the other trip I had looked into? Yes, it did. But this foundation do it all at cost price so that as much money as possible can go to the building supplies and families in need. The cost includes transport all around Kenya, which added up to hours and hours on the road between sites. All of your accommodation in comfortable hotels is included. Delicious buffet meals with a variety and snacks to keep you going out on the works site too. The trip is kept affordable so that everyone has the chance to join in and make a difference.
As part of the trip I was required to fundraise £500. This was so easy! Once you spread the word of the work you are doing, people are so generous. It touches their hearts. Not everyone has the time to give to a project like this and wants to use their holiday time for their own break so a small donation is something much easier for them to contribute and it goes a long way in Kenya. The funds raised go towards buying land for the new homes to be built on and the building materials we need.
For 3 years now they have taken different groups of people from Scotland, USA, Netherlands and Australia to Kenya to lend a hand and help build houses. I cannot wait to be a part of the team again in July 2018. Want to join us? find info here: http://gathimbaedwardsfoundation.org/volunteer-building-trip/
I can highly recommend it but be prepared to never be the same again.