This summer I had the unique experience of spending 8 weeks in Kenya taking part in a community-led development project. Four students, including myself, flew from four different parts of the UK, reuniting in Amsterdam before jetting off to Kenya with a quick stop in Cairo. The reason for this 24 hour journey lies in our commitment to a project we had been fundraising for throughout the previous year of university. The project we were part of involved a partnership between two organisations, Edinburgh Global Partnerships and Mother of Child Health Organisation. The objective for the project was the improvement of hygiene standards for children on Rusinga Island, focussing mostly, but not exclusively, on girls. The plan for our team was to build two eight-stall toilet blocks in two different primary schools. The sanitary buildings which were being used upon our arrival were no longer suitable for use by the pupils. They were largely unhygienic and unsafe due to doors not closing properly or there being no locks. Another element of the Kenya project was to distribute reusable sanitary pads to girls in five primary schools and also to discuss sexual education with the pupils. The project was a success with the toilets being dug, built, painted and handed over to the community within the 6 week deadline. Further to this, 300 girls were given a packet of reusable pads which, with the correct care, will last for 18 months while 6 schools received interactive and engaging sexual education talks from members of our team.
As the date of our departure for Kenya crept closer, I definitely became more nervous. We had been talking about the project for so many months it was astonishing that the day to commence our journey had finally arrived. In the last minute rush of moving my belongings home from university, buying essential snacks for the plane and locating the best anti-malaria tablets, I forgot to check in for my early morning flight to Amsterdam. Upon my arrival at the airport I was informed there may not be a space for me on this flight, meaning I would have to wait until the evening and miss my next two flights which would deliver me safely to Kenya. The only plan of action was to make my way through security and into departures and hope for the best. With blurred vision from tears I hugged my mum, dad and sister goodbye and went on my way to commence an overwhelming wait for confirmation of a seat on the flight. Luck was clearly on my side that day as I was given the last remaining space on the plane- thank you seat 6B!- and I finally commenced the long-awaited journey to Kenya. Following this minor inconvenience the rest of our travels went without disruption and we were greeted warmly at the airport by one of our hosts, Joseph.
Throughout my stay in Kenya I learned many things: how to be certain about what you wanted and ensure that there was follow through in terms of project involvement, how to adapt to an entirely new culture and, most importantly, how to persevere when the going gets tough. Kenya believe what we have achieved?