DECEMBER 2011 NEWSPAPER COLUMN

BUCKET LIST TRAVEL TALES
ADVENTURE #9


We are back from Kenya!

Sorry for the short break in columns but it was a busy September and October at Bucket List Travel Adventures preparing for and experiencing our amazing Adventure to Kenya.

We travelled with a group of 10, 4 from Elmira including Rachel Clark. Rachel’s knowledge of the area and her local contacts enabled us to volunteer at an orphanage, visit at a school in the slums, work at the local hospital, go on Safari and live a day in the life of a Maasai. All of these were adventures in themselves and separate articles in their own right which you will be able to enjoy over the next several months.

We were a very diverse group of 10, retirees, a working mother of teen aged boys, a Canadian Idol finalist, aging in range from 26 to 73. However, this diversity really helped us mesh as a group and allowed us to offer so much in all our volunteering projects. One person had carpentry skills which were perfect for measuring and figuring out where and how the shelves would be put in the closets at the orphanage. “Sho Sho” or Grandma in our group was great at mending she worked away at fixing the children’s school uniforms. Another participant loved to garden and took on hoeing, watering and planting as her project. A retired teacher enjoyed supervising and aiding in the homework time. Our performers were always in demand to sing songs or share a dance move while others were just happy to lend a hand wherever was needed scrubbing walls, washing clothes and dishes.

It is this willingness to help and diversity in skill sets that was hard to predict prior to a trip like this, you plan the activities and basically hope for the best when you arrive. This year again I was not disappointed.

Our group was the most kind, generous and hard working bunch a person could ask for. They experienced the hardships and poverty they heard the stories of struggles from almost everyone they met. There were moments of tears and feeling overwhelmed however instead of letting all of this get to them they asked how and what can we do to help.

We found these questions had some varying answers depending on the circumstances. At the orphanage one evening the answer

was we need bread and milk for breakfast tomorrow, another night it was we need food for dinner, we don’t have anything. Another time we heard we need money to keep our children in school or to take a child to the clinic. We need a men’s wing added to the local hospital so they can stay and receive the proper treatment. We just need you to sit down and chat over a cup of Chai (tea) or play with the children.

We also heard many stories some uplifting, some heart wrenching. One women was forced out of her home, she was told to take her 7 month old baby and 3 year old son with her but was forced to leave her other four children behind and was told she would be killed if she returned. Having nowhere else to go she managed to find her sister Mama Martha who runs the orphanage and arrived the same day we did. Over the next week we spent with her, we watched her go from a woman in despair to making meals and cleaning around the orphanage. She greeted us with a warm hug and a Jambo when we returned after our Safari and we knew she had gained some hope. After the shock she realized she would be okay, she was in a better, safe place and could stay here surrounded by the loving children who could also use her help. She joined in games and singing with us and the children on our final day.

We were invited to “Mama Grace’s”, Rachel’s African mom (and all of ours by the end of this journey) university graduation party. After many years of hard work and sacrifice she had earned a Master’s degree in HIV and Nutrition and the celebration and achievement was not hers alone. Her community, family and co- workers who supported her along the way were there to celebrate in her accomplishment. We watched as our Maasai friend James dressed in his western clothing, left his family and village to head to Nairobi to begin tourism studies at college. We learned all the children that had been removed from Rachel’s beloved Siddai Children’s home were safe and being well taken care of the way they deserved to be at the new homes they were placed. We learned a lot about hope and faith, we learned to keep the hope and faith for our friends in this community by telling our friends and families at home of our experiences. How little they have and how little it takes for all of us to help and make a difference in these people’s lives. They say you leave a piece of your heart when you leave Kenya and everyone in our group can attest to that. If you would like to learn more about how you can help, please contact us.

Watch for our next column on Bucket List Travel Adventures Day spent volunteering at the local hospital in Ngong and waiting for a baby to be born.

Bucket List Travel Adventures™ is a specialty travel company that focuses on
small group, off the beaten track, escorted adventure tours.


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