Coral and I have recently volunteered with HATW and spent the month of June in Maua, Meru district, Kenya. Our aim was to support disabled children and help the local team alleviate the stigma around disability. I have never travelled to this part of the world before, I was apprehensive but looking forward to my experience.
Once we had arrived in Nairobi we took a 7-hour bumpy ride to Maua. On arrival we were overwhelmed with the welcome we received and a little nervous with all the attention. We quickly came to realise that there was nothing to worry about, Kenyan people are so friendly and on our frequent walks to the shops and markets we would stop to talk with the locals - what should have taken a 10-minute visit took more like an hour. The Kenyans are so relaxed in their life approach, such grateful and humble people.
Our visit involved visiting children with disabilities in the community and at local schools; we saw the best and worst of the county. We spent some time at Athi School - there were nearly 100 pupils at this school who lived in most of the time except during holiday periods. The facilities were not ideal and far from what I am used to, but Esther the head teacher has made huge amounts of progress; they still have some way to go before the facilities are more comfortable for them.
On our arrival at Athi the welcome we had from the children was amazing, I did not have enough hands and arms to hold them all. They gave us so much love and affection and in return we gave love and affection too. I expected my visit to be emotional - I spent most of my time with a huge smile on my face. The impact we had on the children warmed my heart and made me feel so happy, every morning I would be excited to see them.
One evening Coral and I made some shakers for the children to use as musical instruments, the following day we took them to the school and the smiles and excitement on the children's faces was amazing, the gratitude for something so small was fantastic. I am still in touch with them and will visit them again in 2018, the experience has changed my life and is one I will never forget.
I say to anyone thinking of doing this: “DO IT, YOU WONT REGRET IT! , ITS AMAZING”