After having worked for 3.5 years in a Recruiting job, which didn’t satisfy me anymore, I decided to make a change. Although quitting my job was not easy, I am very happy that I had the courage to do it. I always loved working with kids. Playing, singing and dancing with kids is my passion and gives me a feeling of doing something meaningful, a feeling I was missing lately in my last job.
That is why I decided to take a break, clear my mind and look for a volunteering position in Africa or Asia, where I can teach vulnerable and underprivileged kids English before starting to work again in the corporate world. I told an acquaintance about my plan and he gave me a list of organizations that I could approach – among them was “Better me Foundation”. After some Skype sessions with former volunteers, I was more than convinced that this was exactly the kind of environment I was looking for.
I can still remember how my mum freaked out when I told her about my plan of going to Kenya. “Are you crazy to go to Africa? “You can get killed” “If you go, then not alone but together with me” were her first thoughts. Thank God, she got used to the idea after having discussed with friends, who went there on vacation and of course survived and after having studied the Better me Foundation website. Determined to take this adventure and full of hope, energy and excitement, I booked my flight and my journey started.
I was so excited when I arrived in Kisumu. The volunteers picked me up at the airport and from the very beginning I felt like being part of this great family.
Straight after my arrival, the kids performed a welcoming ceremony with lots of songs and dances for me. Even though many of them come from vulnerable families and experienced, already at a young age, how tough life could be, they seemed so happy at Korando. This place gives them the possibility to learn for free instead of staying home and helping in the household or performing child labor or, even worse, being on the streets. You need to know that unfortunately education in Kenya is not for free and therefore not every family can afford to send their kids to school.
At Korando even necessities like food are rare because there is not enough money to provide meals to all children visiting the school. Some kids, who are very young and walk all the way to the school alone in the heat, don’t get any food from home. Although they properly were very hungry, they did not lose their smile and were full of joy when we were learning, singing and dancing together.
The kids are so smart, talented and simply adorable. You can only love them. In contrast to Germany and Switzerland, where kids play most of the time in Kindergarten, these little kids start to learn already at the age of three to write, read and calculate. I was impressed by how fast these kids absorb new things and how eager they are to learn. Ms Nora, the teacher in Nursery, does a great job. She teaches around 35 kids of different age groups (baby, middle and final class) in one classroom. You can image how hard it is to teach with such a sound level. Another difficulty is that not every child has a pencil and a book and every single age group has its individual needs. I will not forget how happy these kids were when they could color in coloring books. It meant the world to them. Already from my first day, Ms Nora gave me complete freedom to teach each age group. I was teaching them new nursery English songs like Inzy Winzy spider, wheels on the bus and head, shoulders, knees and toes. We also imitated animals (the kids and I had so much fun), danced to children music and learned about different subjects like fruits, vegetables, weather, days of the week, queens, kings, princesses and princes and professions. We also were handcrafting crowns and used water color for a painting where kids used their thumbs, fingers and feet. There really was no limit to your creativity and the kids and I really had a great time.
After school, children usually play outside with their friends and volunteers, climb on trees, use old balls for soccer or basketball and tires for hula hoop. Sometimes, we also played games and painted with water or window colors (although I had to realize that there were no windows to put our wonderful masterpieces).
I also had long conversations with Mama Dolphin, whom I totally admire. A great inspiration to all of us. Although she struggles every day to ensure a better life to these vulnerable children, she has such a positive and warm personality full of hope and energy. Not only Mama, but all the people I met, seem to have this persisting hope even though most of them encountered so tough destinies in which abuse, poverty and death are omnipresent. For me, it was very hard not to get too involved, because I learned about sad background stories almost every day.
I am a person that gets easily emotional, worries quite a lot and always wants to get things done very fast. That’s why from now on, I will try to follow a more Africans “Hakuna Mathata” life philosophy and to live more in the present instead of worrying too much for the future.
I truly can say that, during my time at Korando, I felt completely fulfilled and happy to have contributed with real value to something great, a feeling I had not had for a long time back home. When my friends and family saw the pictures of the kids and I, they said that they had not seen me that happy for a long time. Korando taught me to appreciate smaller things in life and to be grateful for what we have in Europe. It is not a matter of course to have enough food or shelter.
Unfortunately, my time in Korando passed way too fast. I would have loved to stay much longer, but Iife at home is waiting for me.
Now that I am back in Zurich to my ordinary life with relatively small and meaningless problems, there is no day without thinking of my time at Korando and these wonderful kids.
I miss them so much and I cannot wait to go back there. I will never forget their beautiful smiles, their enormous motivation to learn and how we were dancing to Macarena and other children disco songs.
I will support these amazing kids and Mama from Switzerland and continue to raise awareness for them. Kenya, Korando and its amazing people will always be in my heart.
Thanks a lot for this great opportunity. I will never forget you. Asante Sana.
One last message to the upcoming volunteers: Keep up this great work and enjoy your time at Korando. I can guarantee you, you will love it.