I have been to Kenya 5 times and I know I am really fortunate. The first time I went, I went on safari and completely fell in love with the country and the people. They say once you have African soil on your shoes you can’t get it off and this is totally true.
I used to babysit for a family who lived local to me and I found out that the mum co-ran a charity out there. The organisation organised trips out there (operating out of Kisumu on lake Victoria) to do volunteering with the children in some of the schools and so I have been out there with them on those summer trips on two separate occasions. I’ve also been out there one year for New Year. Another of the charity’s co-leaders was going to take Christmas gifts out to the children and I was able to go along. We spent time visiting the children already being supported by the charity, as well as visiting other schools and projects which were hoping to be supported by them in the future. On this trip I got to experience travelling around by “piki-piki” which is basically a motorcycle taxi. On previous trips I had travelled by “boda-boda” which is a pedal cycle taxi, and that was scary enough (especially as Kenyan traffic is a sight to behold and experience and I can’t even ride a bike myself)! The first time I got on the motorcycle I was so nervous I was physically shaking. The driver told me he couldn’t drive if I was shaking so much, but I took a few deep breaths and off we went. It was a phenomenal experience.
We actually spend New Year’s Eve at a rooftop bar/restaurant overlooking Lake Victoria, and whilst we didn’t make it to midnight, because it was so hot and we were so tired, watching the sunset over Lake Victoria on New Year’s Eve is an experience I will never forget!
I’ve also travelled to a different part of Kenya (Eldoret) with a Christian charity doing work with children, but also with medical clinics and prayer tents. A different but equally astonishing experience, but I have only been with them once.
Kenya blew me away when I went on safari, but when you are out there doing charity work, it’s like you are in a different universe. You are made to feel so humble and grateful for everything you have and you know you are making a difference. It’s not about being a “white saviour” as David Lammy so cruelly called Stacey Dooley after her trips to Africa with Comic Relief. I can see why some people may find it a strange concept, but I think it depends on the people who are going there and their reasons for going. If they genuinely want to go and help and make a difference whilst experiencing a new culture, then why shouldn’t they? If their motives are to say “look at me, I went to Africa, aren’t I wonderful” then no, I don’t think it is an appropriate course of action.