Short “field” news on development projects in Kenya

Africa can always surprise!

And again, like many times in the past, I am back in Kenya because of our development projects. An unbelievable 13 years have passed since my first trip to Africa and I am not able to figure out how many times I have visited this country so far – 20, 25 times..? Each of the trip was unique and different to the rest. But the beginning of this trip was special in it´s own way.

Three days before my departure – a chain of bad news - terrorist attack at Nairobi, phone calls from my friends checking if I was really coming, speculations on raising religious intolerance/animosity, spreading of war from Somalia to Kenya, confusing news on the role of Israel in the Nairobi attacks, information about my girl-friend who was held hostage for very long 5 hours and escaped safely, fear about my friends and acquaintances in Kenya.

After a few phone calls about the situation in the country I decided to go, but the striking emptiness of the plane to Nairobi strengthen my worries/didn´t add peace to my soul. It´s clear that in today´s world it´s an illusion to think that we are safer when based in Europe, but still... The arrival at Nairobi airport just added to my strange sense of restlessness and insecurity – the improvised unboarding from the aircraft to the airport grounds where the airport staff was waiting holding signs: transit, exit...., huge white tents with USAID signs overly reminding of refugee camps, tin walls with barbed wire covering the burnt parts of the airport, a small improvised baggage claim area at the unfinished part of the airport  and the exit to the parking...

The airport building burnt down 4 months ago and it is not clear yet what had happened. It is necessary to acknowledge, that in the field of improvisation in resolving non-standard situation Africa has achieved mastery/a master level – the airport manages to operate even without its main building. I do even have all my luggage and the customs officer, who questions me on the goods I import (hearing my usual answer – charity collection of toys and writing utensils for Rusinga Island orphanage) looks at me a bit  in disbelieve and  since he knows the island he asks me to give his best regards to the people and lets me go. Finally I sit in the car with Ken and we head to the Dagoretti Corner, so familiar, where our office is located and where I always stay during my Nairobi visits.

Nairobi office and the seminar with volunteers of the  program Adoptions of African children in Kenya

After a rather cold night that resembled winter in Prague (I slept under a thick blanket with  a pullover and warm socks on) the morning is sunny and it´s warm outside, so  I enjoy my  first meeting with the Nairobi team – Ken, Ben, Brenda and Caroline in the garden under the palms. During a couple of hours we try to discuss all the details of the Adoption project, it´s operation and prepare a three-day workshop for volunteer teams all over Kenya.

At the end of the day full of information and discussions everybody leaves and I continue with preparation of the last materials – evaluation questionnaires, games, activities - until late at night. 14 teams are going to arrive from Nairobi, Mombasa, Kakamegy, Rusinga Island, Kauti.... in total about 55 people. We all meet at Limuru and due to various hold-ups and delays – e.g. document print-outs and needed purchases of things for the seminar it is the first time ever,  that I – the only European, arrive as the very last person - a true revolution after 13 years of endless waiting for others! Who said that changing deep-rooted habits was difficult? :-)

I arrive with Ken just in the moment when they are all already in the garden fully absorbed in  games – a group of 55 people from different areas of Kenya, from different tribes – speaking different languages, Christians, Muslims, youth who were recently “adopted children” themselves  together with ladies and gentlemen over 50, those who are with us from the very beginning with those who have joined the volunteer teams just a months ago... they are all together like kids in joyful and playful atmosphere.

This great group variety is reflective of a huge success of the past 13 years and brings hope for future – it´s an example showing that joint interest, cooperation and communication with respect are unifying, possible and enriching for everybody. The ability to be attentive to things we have in common rather than to those that separate us is an art as well as a  huge challenge of today´s society. The first day of the seminar was devoted to evaluation, and thanks to the work in groups, to evaluation questionnaires and discussions we were able to summarize the main achievements, motivations, themes/topics to be resolved, problems and questions to be clarified.

So tomorrow we will continue with the numerous details of the organisational process, allocation of responsibilities, definition  of communication channels and cooperation and updates on news and various development projects of Narovinu Centre. I can´t resist sharing one sidelight/funny thing – at the reception just before going to bed  we were all given a hot water-bottle to warm our beds up! So this the way of warming myself up when travelling to Africa!

Dana Feminová