Goodbye Kenya…

Well that’s it, 6 months over! At times it seems like i have been in Kisumu much longer but at the same time it feels like only yesterday i was stressing about flight changes in Nairobi! So i started thinking about what i have accomplished out here in the 6 months and what have i experienced. Here’s what i came up with:

The MARS Project:

  • Developed a sustainable project to combat absenteeism in primary school girls
  • Trained teachers and school committee members (parents), empowering them to take ownership of the project
  • Mentored key teachers who would likely run the workshops to ensure they could run each session independently.
  • Taught 400 girls how to make reusable sanitary towels and delivered valuable education
  • Reduced absenteeism by 68% between baseline and follow up visits
  • Significant increase in the girls rating their understanding of the education between baseline and follow up.
  • Developed The MARS Project website to spread the word and help other schools and communities
  • Radio interview with KBC radio to increase awareness and raise the profile
  • Trained staff at ‘Ladies in action’ NGO who are now also making sanitary towels within their schools.
  • Negotiated cost of project down significantly saving the organisation almost a third of the projected costs.
  • Made valuable new relationships with local businesses for future work – Swan Carriers, Fulchand Raishi, Yatin Supermarke
  • Worked with teachers and OGRA staff to formulate concept for a one off fundraiser to subsidize cost of raw material to run the project next year.
  • Gave 400 girls 2 pairs of underwear each.
  • Mobilised the ‘Soap you can help!’ campaign to support incentive for the girls to make 6 – included donations from large companies like J&J and Bidco Kenya.
  • Campaign was so successful that we have enough soap to support the project for 2014.
  • Engaged government ministers and other NGO’s at the Healthstart Conference.
  • Funded the renovation of the girls changing rooms at Rabuor and painted it with pretty flowers providing a space for them to change their sanitary towels and take a shower should they wish to.

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Feeding Centre and others:

  • Researched and implemented soybeans project
  • Developed innovative irrigation system
  • Painted murals on walls of the Feeding centre and at Tamu Youth centre
  • Distributed 2 rounds of clothes toys, books and stationary to the feeding centre children as well as soap and underwear.
  • Donated soaps, lotions and underwear to the childrens home as part of World Aids Day.
  • Donated soaps and underwear to the children at the Oasis of Hope Secondary School.

Things i have experienced (some highlights):

  • Seeing a live Lion kill
  • Seeing a live cheetah kill
  • Crocs taking down a zebra
  • Numerous animal fights including the giraffes
  • An abundance of other wildlife – Just amazing!
  • Hot air balloon ride across the Mara at sunrise
  • Kenyan ‘hotels’ :s
  • Climbing trees
  • Getting hair braided
  • Taking the braids out… :s
  • Driving an automatic pick up truck on the roads of Kenya!
  • Riding on a motorbike
  • Using a ‘jembe’ to plough a field in 30 degree heat
  • Ugali and Nyama Choma
  • Beautiful views from Lake Elmenteita
  • A wonderful journey through my parents childhood
  • Seeing Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro
  • The abundance of elephants at Tarrangirie National Park
  • Gin and tonics! 🙂
  • Learning to paint Kissi Soap stone and painting masai warriors using a palate knife!
  • Fishing on Lake Victoria
  • Climbing rocks at Kit Mikayi and sinking in bat poo!!
  • An equatorial rainforest
  • Clubbing In Africa!
  • Weddings in Africa
  • My first Fallodah
  • Cooking 7 chickens for a party where we still ran out of food – Kenyan appetites!
  • Skinning the 7 chickens in preparation! :S
  • Rescuing women in labour on the side of the road
  • Pulling thorns out of childrens feet on the side of the road!
  • Riding around in TucTucs
  • Learning several Kenyan songs and dances with the girls
  • Attempting to learn Swahili and Luo and completely confusing the two!
  • Dancing the Luo way!
  • Being part of the celebrations when Rabuor won 1st prize in the national dance competition
  • Regular thunderstorms with amazing lightening – which also bring regular power cuts
  • Showering for 3 months under either scalding or freezing water!
  • Playing netball with school girls
  • Eating sugar cane with my weak muzungu teeth!
  • Feeling completely rewarded at the sight of a huge smile for a small bar of soap and some undies!
  • Feeling like it was all worth it when a girl shows you how she has used the stitch you taught her to fix her uniform.
  • Meeting some wonderful people and taking a most amazing journey that will stay with me always….

OGRA have been wonderfully welcoming and really made me feel like one of the family so a huge thanks to them for everything. A special thanks to my Kenyan bestie Victor for looking after me so much and ferrying me around for majority of the 6 months! I know i have said this before but huge thanks to Louise and my team back home for being so amazingly supportive through my time here, covering my work and just generally being ace!

I must say a big thank you to all my family and friends for all their support and for basically being my cheer squad! I am so glad that you were all able to come on this journey with me (especially those of you who were able to come out and visit), it was a much needed boost and i am so grateful for all the positive encouragement you gave when i needed it most!

Lastly i want to say a huge thank you to my husband, Anand for the unconditional love, support and encouragement i have had every step of the way. I am so grateful to him for always encouraging me to be all that i can be and for taking care of house moves, the puppy and a job change in my absence without making me feel bad for abandoning the team. 🙂

I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity and though my list making has helped me to reflect on the value i have been able to add here i hope the communities and children i have worked with have benefited from my work and believe that i have made a difference. I really have had an amazing time and though i am looking forward to going home i know i will miss Kenya and the people i have been fortunate to meet here. Being here has taught me a lot and in many ways changed me a lot and i will always be grateful for that.

Kwaheri Kenya, thank you for all that you have given me…

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14 comments

  1. Another friend of mine is a Pulse volunteer, so I signed up to receive her blog posts – and ended up also following yours – a fabulous project fueled by your incredible and inspiring energy and enthusiasm. Thanks for sharing your journey – and congratulations on the accomplishment of a job especially well done! wishing you a good return home and continued success. Tuni

  2. OH just amazing
    THis morning I had a glimpse of my eldest daughter on the way to work. Now I have read the most amazing achievments and the dream of visiting my birth place [NAKURU] and EAST AFRICA would not have happened had it not been for my little girl who has overcome her fears and become a wonderful person that I adore. Life seems to bring all sorts of things but this has topped the lot and has brought some tears to my eyes.
    Very well done Harshna
    Glad we all could help you in some way and now look forward to seeing you back home
    Very Pleased for you and very proud of you

    All our Love

    Mum & Dad

  3. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. The list is long and the achievement is self evident. Reading your various blogs has been emotional and has filled us all with a great deal of pride. Your positive contribution to the various communities and your experiences will serve you well for the future.
    Now it is time to come home and we look forward to seeing you.
    We will celebrate your contribution, achievement and positive impact during the Christmas season.
    Dad and mum ( in law)

  4. WOW such a lot of accomplishments and such a lot to be proud of. Well done you!!I Its been amazing to share this special journet with you. You inspire me to want to make a difference too. I hope that when Nayan is older and you tell hm all about it he feels inspired too. Plus your project has now got a mention in the Academy news letter. Hurrah!
    Looking forward to seeing you at christmas time.
    Dina (your very proud big sis)
    xxxx

  5. Harshna
    You are so inspirational,your work is so incredible. You have achieved a lot in a very short time and you make me cry and laugh at the same time, when I read through your experience some of which we went through together.
    Remember I told you it takes so little to put a big smile on the face of that child and you managed to make many smiles.
    You are just so incredible. am so proud to have been part of your experience and work mate.
    Thanks you so much lets catch up when you come home before I leave.
    With love
    Fredah

  6. Thank you for sharing the journey with us. You have done and achieved so much to be proud of but most of all ,hopefully, a lasting legacy in Kenya. This experience has got to be life changing and you will be richer for it. On another note, Margaret wants to know when you are coming back to Brownies! Keep in touch. Perhaps you could come, when you are free, to talk to the girls in Mildenhall about your work in Kenya. X

  7. Unbelievable journey, can’t believe you accomplished all of that in 6 months! You listed a fair few reasons to head back so when you do be sure to take me with you.

    Looking forward to seeing you soon

    Jat

  8. I enjoyed reading each and every blog you wrote. In the last 6 months you achieved a great deal and helped a lot of under privileged children. I am sure the girls will remember you when they use the showers. I love the paintings. We have seen some of the hard work you put in your MARS PROJECT.I hope the girls benefit from it for years to come. You should be very proud of your achievements and you have made us proud in the process. See you soon.

    love mum xxxxxxxx

  9. I know we talk regularly but your blog has been a source of comfort for me. We have missed you here but it’s made all the more bearable in the knowledge you’re making, for your small part, the world a better place. Those who love you have been supportive, as rightly they should and it is invaluable. That being said, make no mistake, you’ve set your sights high and achieved great things, off your own steam, in not only difficult but unfamiliar circumstances (and you had a bloody good time and made some great friends while you did it)! The efforts you’ve made, the warm hearted, generous and caring way you’ve gone about your work and the candid and personable way in which you communicate have made your blog and your project(s) successful. You’ve played this one out of your skin so well done! Kaz nzuri!

    All you have to decide now is….what’s next? Onward and upward! Get cracking!

    Can’t wait to see you. Thank you Kenya and OGRA for looking after my Harshna.

    1. Ananad
      Very well thought out and kindly written – love the way you try to put in some SWAHILI the word you are writing I believe is “KAZI MZURI”

      SEE you both soon

  10. We are sure that your work in kenya has been appreciated by the local community .It is a great achievment .Well Done

    Hansa fui and Kishore fuwaji

  11. Wow Harshna, what a great list of achievements. You should be proud of all you have achieved on your assignment. Your blogs have been great, thanks so much for sharing your experience, I’m sure you have inspired many. Wishing you a smooth return to life back home.

  12. This is amazing, Harshna! Your list of achievements & experiences is impressive – and it’s so clear that this experience has changed you for the better and will stay with you long after you’ve left Kenya. Hopefully this is not the end, but just the beginning of your journey… Wishing you all the best as you return home!

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