Just like most things that take a bit of courage, deciding to travel all happened in a blink of an eye. One day my good friend and I decided that enough was enough – we wanted to do some travelling. I had never travelled anywhere at the time and Europe seemed like a good place to start. As we looked into the expense of it all we decided that if we were going to spend that kind of money, it better be on doing some good in the world. We started scouring the internet for reputable organizations to volunteer for. We stumbled upon the Global Vision International web page that outlined a child care program in Mombasa, Kenya. The more we read about it – the more we thought it was perfect for us. We were both aspiring to be teachers. We really wanted some more experience before applying for our Teaching programs and it fit in with our travel bug – perfect. Within a week we applied and as luck would have it, we were on the list to go in April 2011.
I had applied for my Teaching program early as I wanted to take every chance to get in. As luck would have me again, I was accepted into the program for the International Education Module starting that Spring. GVI was gracious enough to let me postpone my trip until after this program was completed. I felt bad for abandoning my friend, but she understood and would have taken the opportunity too. She decided to switch and go to South Africa instead of Kenya as she felt more comfortable travelling there alone. So, in the mean time I traveled to China with my school and taught English for my practicum. Once completed, I TOC’d in the Delta School District until the very last day of school when I boarded a plane and finally, after near two years of waiting, was on my way to Kenya.
Now, I had many volun-tourism issues to deal with before deciding on GVI and signing up. A tremendous amount of guilt was following me as I thought of bringing my western self into a country just to teach a language that arguably shouldn’t be there in the first place. But, GVI was different. It wasn’t about ‘westernizing’ the kids. They are very conscious of cultural difference and very clear on working with partners, for partners, and not as a sole organization with their own purposes. The point of their initiatives is to eventually be handed into Kenyan hands to maintain and operate, lessening the GVI influence over time.
I was very worried about what it meant to be teaching English abroad. But, realizing that the National language of Kenya is English and they must have it to pass their exams (all of which are written in English except Kiswahili which is obviously written in Kiswahili) that having a native English speaker couldn’t be a detriment to their education.
In Kenya, primary schooling is technically ‘free,’ but you are still accountable for costs of books, stationary, and uniforms as well as other school fees. This leaves out so many kids from being able to attend school as families cannot afford to provide these items. GVI covers the cost for these kids to attend school and when you walk through the courtyard at break time you realize that none of these kids who are playing and happy would have the opportunity to be in a school if GVI weren’t here and weren’t trying to make a difference.
I was definitely drawn to GVI by their food programme that offers meals to students who attend the schools. This is to ensure the welfare of their students and to pull students from the community into the school to learn. Most kids would be unable to attend school because
they cannot afford to eat but because of this, they are guaranteed to have meals daily. This not only helps their physical health but also in their studies. No child can really learn if they’re hungry and unhappy. GVI is trying to alleviate that pain and help them stay in the classroom.
With GVI I see real progress. They started off as childrens centres that had to focus on keeping children inside classrooms to having full fledged classes with textbooks, reading programs, art lessons, physical education, and libraries. This is all thanks to the hard work and help of
volunteers and staff as well as the donations given by those who just want to support the schools without even being there. I don’t see a time where these projects are going to stay the same for very long. They’re always in a process of change and growth working towards the goal of literacy and brighter futures for these children and their children’s children.
If you want to check out more on GVI and their work in Mombasa according to Volunteers you can check out their blog here: http://gvimombasa.blogspot.com/
To view the project’s website and sign up to volunteer: http://www.gvi.co.uk/location/mombasa
Official GVI Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GVIKenyaMombasa
Official GVI Mombasa on Twitter: https://twitter.com/gvimombasa
If you’d kindly like to make a donation to these projects: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/olives-kenya/ or http://gvi.org/what-we-do/the-projects/education-and-support-for-disadvantaged-children-kenya