Casey sits quietly chatting to a young boy, who has been at the Kithoka Amani Community Home (KACH) in Meru, Kenya since Christmas Day. The boy was found on the streets and has been welcomed into the home. He hasn’t yet settled, but has warmed to Casey. She can tell something is bothering him, and despite the language barrier, Casey has made it her mission to find out.
Creating Long-Term Improvements
As a volunteer at International Peace Initiatives (IPI) since October 2018 Casey Simpson, from South Yorkshire in England, has had a huge variety of tasks to undertake and no day is the same. Although she is spending time with the children and helping the staff, her major project has been the complete renovation of the library, with a task to create a bright space for the children to read and relax.
I think back to my school days and remember how the libraries were always bright and colourful and arranged to increase imagination and comfort. I tried to bring this to KACH by arranging paintwork on the walls and creating space and colour within the room. This is a work in progress but has been something the children have been able to get involved in. It has been very humbling to see how much time the children have spent in there since the changes have been made.
Learning New Skills
Alongside caring for the communities’ orphaned and abandoned children, IPI is a centre for learning. This includes permaculture courses, women’s skills development and youth leadership training. Ecologia encourages volunteers to get involved in these courses, either as participants or in the delivery, and to learn as much as possible during their time in Kenya. Casey spent her first week taking part in a permaculture course at the newly built Tiriji Eco-Centre.
I spent time with knowledgeable individuals and discovered just how important it is to harvest rainfall, utilise space and love the earth. This was a completely new experience, as the closest I have ever been to a garden is watering my Grandma’s tomatoes! I ate organic, fresh grown fruits and vegetables. It made me realise just how easy it is to go to the supermarket and buy these foods without a thought of where they originate from.
Using Existing Talents
Like previous volunteer Killian Bartsch, Casey has also taken the opportunity to make her own mark at IPI. During the school Christmas holidays, she used her educational background in sport to create a “KACH Holiday Challenge” based on the Olympics. Spurred on by the prize of a day-trip, the children embraced opportunity to be competitive.
Myself and the staff put together various activities including athletics, sports games, cake decorating, treasure hunts and many more events that would keep the children occupied. It gave them something fun and competitive to dive into throughout the break. It was wonderful to see the children get so involved and learn how important it is to work within a team.
The event was so successful, the team at IPI are hoping to make this an annual event in the Christmas calendar. The festive period is a busy time for the staff, volunteers and young people at IPI. Casey says that the experience has been very different to her usual one at home, but definitely one to remember. On Christmas day she travelled with the children and staff into Meru town to feed the homeless at a local park. “It was a very special day and the kids being involved made it all the more special.”
Being The Difference
Casey has a few weeks left at IPI and hopes to make as much difference as possible in this time. As well as finishing the library, her other ambition is to help develop a rehabilitation programme for the children who come to KACH. Her experiences with the boy who arrived on Christmas Day will help with this. She reflects on her adventure at IPI:
At the start of 2018 I never imagined I would be here at IPI making lifelong friends and gaining endless new experiences. I arrived here at the beginning of October, just in time to escape the cold English weather and have truly both embraced and been embraced by the IPI lifestyle. Every day I learn something new, whether that’s about farming, cooking, healthcare or culture. My experience so far has been life changing and being just a small part of this organisation is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. My wish going forward is that I can impact the lives of these children just a fraction of how much they have changed mine. I am looking forward for what is to come.
If Casey’s experience at IPI has inspired you to make a difference in 2019 why not read through the information on our website and see why volunteering with Ecologia is unlike any other overseas programme.