Kenya Travel Diary (by Rosie Baxter)

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24th May

Arrived in Nairobi last night. Today we went to the Days for Girls enterprise. We met lots of incredible women and bought 40 Days for Girls full kits. This cost roughly £220.

25th May

Today we took a very long train from Nairobi to Miasenyi and were picked up and taken to Taru. We were introduced to lots of the locals, shown around the school and ate lovely Kenyan food.

26th May

Today is a Sunday and we spent the day in Church and meeting the local Bishop. We went to his compound where almost 50 people live and had Kenyan tea and got prophecies.

27th May

Today I spent the day in school handing over the resources I had brought out and instructing the teachers on the ways in which they can be used. I observed some lessons being taught and was introduced to all the different classes.

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28th May

Today was the first Days for Girls distribution. We gave kits to around 20 girls and brought enough for the female teachers too in another local school. The session was amazing with the girls asking really insightful and thoughtful questions. We had a lot of fun and the girls were absolutely over the moon with their kits.

29th May

We did another distribution today. This was a hard distribution as many of the girls were HIV positive and many of the children didn’t have shoes and were wearing rags. The girls were less confident and were very shy. Towards the end of the session they were asking questions and they were very happy with their kits. This was for around 20 girls plus 5 teachers.

30th May

Today I spent the morning in school doing some activities based on The Gruffallo with the 3-5 year olds.  In the afternoon we drove out of Taru to a school in the middle of no-where. However, this school seemed very well resourced and had lots of volunteers from overseas which was lovely to see. There were about 30 girls and they were very, very shy. After the distribution they were very keen for pictures and then, I was given a live chicken as a present!!

31st May

This morning I did a distribution in the local maternity clinic. The education was for around 50 women which took a very long time as everything had to be translated by the brilliant nurse. Maternity kits are different to the normal ones and we only had around 30 kits so the nurse gave them according to need. This afternoon I taught maths and English to the 8-10 year olds, we learned how to tell the time and different names for jobs!

3rd June

I spent the whole day in school today. We did some more lessons based on the Gruffallo and read lots of Julie Donaldson stories. I put together some activities and demonstrated them to show the teachers how they can improve comprehension. I showed the teachers a phonics lesson as they don’t teach phonics in Kenya. I sat for a long time with the lovely headteacher Caroline showing her different resources to try and introduce phonics in the school. I went into the oldest class and all they wanted to do was ask questions about England, so we did that for a very long time! I also made Chiapatti tonight.

4th June

This morning I did some more lessons with the younger pupils, and around midday I did a distribution within the school I have been working in (Future of Taru). This was incredibly hard as i have got to know the girls over the past week and am aware of girls who have been or are currently being abused and girls who are HIV positive. This was a brilliant distribution and the girls had so many questions. We had an amazing few hours and around 14 girls received kits. After this distribution I did a Men Who Know talk- the education for boys. This was phenomenal. We discussed what being a ‘strong’ man is and some of the boys were so, so respectful. We went through all the body parts, discussed consent and then gave them the opportunity to ask any questions they wanted. Some of the questions were amazing and I was so happy we had built such a safe environment that they could talk freely.

5th June

Today we went to a Massai community in the Bush. It was amazing! They had a charity come and build them a school building and painted on the wall was ‘no mutilation but education.’ The women were amazing and sang us many welcome songs. The Massai believe in a big welcome! We soon realised that the Massai women didn’t understand English or swaheeli and luckily one of the men who drove us spoke their language. The smiles on the womens faces when we told them what we were giving them I will never ever forget. The women blessed us afterwards and danced with their kits. The elders wouldn’t let us leave without drinking Kenyan tea and talking to them. A man called Gabriel with amazing English was absolutely amazing. He defied all preconceptions about Maasai men and spoke about how he disagrees with FGM, lion killing and beating their women. An amazing day.

6th June

Yesterday with the Masaai they had informed us that there was another Masaai group who would benefit from a distribution. This community was entirely untouched and were living very differently to the people from yesterday. We had to do the session under the tree and Caroline, the headteacher from the Future of Taru delivered most of the session. The women were less receptive and very wary of me as a young, white woman. The elder of the tribe, also the women to deliver the babies, told me about how women can’t have sex when they are over 12 weeks pregnant as the baby would get dirty and the woman would therefore be beaten. When I tried to tell her that this was not possible for anything to reach the baby she got very angry and we had to leave.

This evening we had all the lovely people we had met over and cooked a chicken curry (with a chicken that had been killed especially… ☹)

 

7th June

Today we head to Mombasa for three nights to relax and visit another enterprise.

The money I received from the Eleanor Peel supported me to carry out this trip and I have also been able to bring the following:

  • £250 teaching resources which I took out with me including books, building blocks, maths resources, skipping ropes, multilink, tactile letters, shapes, number cards, place value arrow cards (see picture, however not all resources are in the picture).
  • £60 in Kenya- I went to the local shop and bought £40 worth of exercise books as the school was desperately lacking in them, and £20 on pens and pencils. This supplied around 160 children.
  • £200- this was given to the school to buy textbooks.

 

I can’t explain how hard but amazing this trip was and I wouldn’t have been able to do it or give anywhere near as much without the Eleanor Peel fund. To see so many women’s and girl’s lives change and to see them become empowered has been incredible.

To read more about Days for Girls please visit https://www.daysforgirls.org/ 

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Cheri spends time in India exploring different aspects of mental health…

Upon arriving into Bangalore, India, I spent the first few days at The School of Ancient Wisdom, a Spiritist Centre for health, well-being and enlightened living. It is a school of progression which teaches human potential and helps to find the door way to self- transformation. The School has a vision of preserving the world’s wisdom with a holistic and non-commercial view to find a life of mindfulness and compassion.

 

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I was taught various yoga and meditation therapies including ashtanga, vinyasa and laughter yoga, some which were taught by psychologists who were also yogis. I learned the importance of yoga and meditation on the conscience, on the affect it has on the positive vibrations that a person radiates to others and on self-acceptance. I gained a better understanding and a deeper meaning of how all these factors can be of benefit in relation to a person’s mental health.

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Since leaving India, I have carried on practicing yoga and the art of meditating. This has had a positive impact on my own mental health and I would be interested to complete my yoga teacher training at some point in the future. Spending time here was such a valuable experience. To be able to stay here and live such a basic and simple life while all the time living such a fulfilling life was an incredible feeling and an overwhelming experience. It felt harmonious to be here. I learned to truly value the perspective and faith of others without judgement and also expanded upon my own frame of reference and position.

Moving on,  I got an unbelievable and rare opportunity to spend time at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS) one of the top 5 psychiatric hospitals in the world. A main reason of mine for going overseas was to begin to build a knowledge and an understanding for multicultural aspects of mental health and at NIMHANS this was certainly delivered.

I spent a great time in the Department of Psychiatric Social Work which highlighted learning about socio cultural diversity and socio cultural factors influencing mental health, however I spent time in various parts of the hospital including the paediatrics clinic and attended seminars in the neurology department.

NIMHANS really taught me the importance of developing and strengthening inter/multidisciplinary skills and team work to be able to carry out effective care and to implement consistent practice throughout my career. During my time here I was able to work with two girls, one from Malaysia and one from Thailand, both completing their PhDs with varying thesis’. I appreciated them taking the time to answer my questions about life as a student at NIMHANS, sharing their experiences as a student at their level and I have taken on board the advice they have given me as an academic and for moving forward with my career. The experience at NIMHANS has given me  an ambitious drive to reach my desired goal. I would like to return to NIMHANS one day.

Although the work at NIMHANS was tiring (lots to take in!) there was still time to squeeze in other things while in India; after all, I’d came all this way and the brain deserved a little break.

I wanted to get better acquainted with the local culture and the local people. In a place so unique and as rich in history as India, one of the best ways to do that was to visit some of the markets, historical sites and temples. I was excited to indulge in even more in the delicacies and to be completely immersed in local ways. Some of these magnificent places included Mysore, Chamundi Hills, Hampi and Chikmagalur.

I also got the opportunity to visit an Ayurveda clinic while in Mysore. Ayurveda originated in India and is believed that there is a strong connection between the mind, body and spirit. It is a holistic approach which integrates yoga and meditation to promote health and well-being. It encourages a preventative approach to maintain a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle.

It was great to see the comparison between the two hospitals however it was really great to interact with the local people within the community. It is an amazing feeling to be welcomed into someone else’s home, traditions and even religions and I found that a great honour to be a part of. I would love to do more of this kind of work in the future, out in the communities, perhaps the rural communities, to meet more people of different cultures; You cannot learn anything like this in the classroom.

Namaste!

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Greece 2019- Sophie joins GVI Volunteering and the Turtles…

On the 10th August 2019, I took my first solo travel journey to Athens International Airport, to meet the GVI representatives and take the 4 hour coach journey to Giannitsochori. A small traditional Greek coastal town where the camp was based. Once we got there, we were allocated our tents and were given a tour of the small, but well equipped site where the volunteers stay over the summer. The camp had lots of DIY projects dotted around the area, such as an herb garden growing out old wooden pallets and informative signs about turtle biology or environmental awareness, made from beach driftwood hanging up randomly. The entire place had a ‘make-shift’ look and nothing really looked new, it was deliberately basic to keep a low impact on the surrounding environment. The camp got dark quickly in the evenings with very few lights allowed to be kept on for a low light pollution level, the meditaranean air still stays arid and dry especially in the tents at night, but we attempted to get some sleep for the early start the next day. 

 

My first alarm went off at 5am on the first day, meaning it was time for my first morning survey of my trip, I stumbled out of my tent into the slightly cooler, dark morning and we headed down to the beach. We were allocated a different team and a section of the beach each day to monitor for any hatchling tracks, emergences of nesting and any live hatchlings heading to the sea to ensure they got there safe. It is also illegal for any members of the general public to be out on the beach between sunrise and sunset, to maintain the conservation efforts put in place for preventing human disturbance amongst the turtles who are mainly active on the shores throughout this time, but we had a special exemption and rights for the work that the volunteers do with the local community. Within each survey, we walked between 3-5 miles along the sea, checking all of the coded and marked nests, a data collection process that takes a whole nesting season to build up. In order to collate the nesting date of each individual one and calculate when it is roughly due to hatch and if it is vulnerable to outside influencers, such as human trampling or artificial light. If a nest is believed to be mainly affected by city lights along the coast (leading the hatchling to be directed away from the sea), handmade nesting shades from natural resources made by the volunteers are put in place to redirect the turtle to the sea.

 

Each morning survey varied dramatically, sometimes you would see 1 hatchling track in a 5 mile distance and nothing else. Other times, like on my first morning, you could see 17 hatchlings come out of their nest and hobble on down to the sea, a very uplifting way to start the day even before any morning coffee. It often got frustrating to have those very quiet morning surveys however, especially if there was also a lot of evidence of human littering along the beach and nest post damage from some members of the public, who were opposed to the tracking of the turtles and did not agree with the work. Throughout the weeks, each day consisted of a morning survey and sometimes another night survey later on. When we weren’t surveying this was an opportunity to either make resources and fix equipment, further presentations on turtle biology/climatic problems affecting marine life and take time out to swim in the sea or play countless games of cards to distract ourselves from the midday heat between work.  

 

Towards late July, most loggerhead turtles have laid their eggs and following into mid/ late August the majority of the hatchlings will have begun their journeys out to sea. As conservationists, the next step once a nest has been recorded as hatched and the significant 10 day period after this has past to make sure any late hatchlings have come out, an excavation can be carried out on selected nests. A up-close and very detailed evaluation of the hatchling process that some volunteers either find very interesting or are put-off by. Which includes digging into the nest cove where the remaining unsuccessful eggs lay (which can normally be up to 100 unhatched, on average a 50/50 survival rate of eggs), and inspecting them to investigate why they did not hatch. This often included infected eggs or half formed hatchlings that did not survive the incubation period, any data collected was used to ensure if any further improvements could be made to the beach as a safer nesting area for the turtles to have a better survival rate.

 

The two weeks I spent working on the beach was a hard-working experience in many ways, but also a very rewarding. There are many moments of needed patience and bursts frustration in conservation, when the efforts don’t work how you want them to or they don’t always feel appreciated in the right way. However, these times don’t override the few moments when all of the hours of work come together at the right moment and you get to see the slow progression and understanding of the importance of the turtle protection on the coasts occur.