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It is past time to tell what we have been doing here in Kenya and pretty much how is the life of a volunteer.

Misleading information

When we decided to leave everything behind and travel the world we knew our first stop should be Africa. However, we must assume we were a bit concerned as to the high amount of negative information we hear about this continent. Even when we chose Kenya for having a better political stability people would ask us if we were not afraid of Ebola…

life of a volunteer

Well, Africa is a huge continent and the epidemic was on the West Side. Kenya is on the East. Technically, Ebola is closer to Brazil than Kenya, if wasn’t for an ocean  in between both continents.

Why Africa? And why volunteering?

More than just visiting the country, we wanted to feel it, to know the way these people live and understand how the African culture helped building the Brazilian identity. For these reasons, we decided to stay here for a while. So, which better way to do that than living their day-to-day lives? Then, why not work as volunteers?

life of a volunteer

Attending a school meeting

The idea wasn’t specifically volunteer in Africa. This type of help is needed everywhere in the world (mainly in Brazil). But, volunteering here, ends up joining business with pleasure as we have our way of living very close to their lifestyle as well as helping as much as possible the community around.

How we found the right NGO?
life of a volunteer

Playing with the children

We also wanted a small organisation that would allow us to work more actively. Though, the more we looked, the more disappointed we got. It seemed that the majority of these organisations aimed just profit and even the volunteers were more interested in inflate their self-esteem rather than really help.

But, after a lot of research, we found out a Spanish organisation named Más Por Ellos, which has been in partnership for two years with a local NGO named Lisha Mtoto. The more we read about them, the more fascinated we became. The transparency, their values and work seemed very serious. After many email exchanges and a few Skype conversations, we decided our destiny and here we are. So far, we are quite certain this was our best choice.

How Mas Por Ellos came to be?
life of a volunteer

Alvaro, the founder of Mas Por Ellos

Álvaro Perez-Pla, the founder of Más Por Ellos, travelled to Kenya in 2010 to volunteer in a different NGO. It was there where he met his future business partner, Erick Kyalo, the founder of Lisha Mtoto (Nourish the Child, in Swahili).

Get more information about Kenya in this post Mzungu in Kenya!

During that year when they volunteered together, they discovered that the organisation they were helping was actually very corrupt. With the other volunteers, they questioned the owner of the project and the story ends with Erick leaving the NGO and Álvaro returning to his homeland, Spain. This NGO was – with a lot of effort – closed down, but unfortunately the owner managed to open another one and carries on receiving money for improper use. However, the friendship between Alvaro and Erik remained as well as their willing to help.

In 2011, Álvaro came back to Kenya for a brief moment to help out Erick found Lisha Mtoto. In 2013, he returned again founding Más Por Ellos and together create this orphanage where we now live, the Lisha Mtoto Children’s Home.

Tala City
life of a volunteer

Tala seen from above!

The city we are, as previously said, is a few kilometres from Nairobi. It is a rural region with majority Kamba tribe (one of the 42 tribes that forms the country). Erick was born around here and is also a Kamba, which facilitates the communication with many of the people around who barely speak the national language Swahili, let alone English.

It is slightly complicated to provide accurate demographic information about Tala since everyone says something different. And there is not documentation about it. Even the people from here do not have documents nor know their actual birthday. They normally know the year they were born and most of the time, are not so sure.

According to the region chief (equivalent to a mayor, but who also deals with family oriented affairs and so on) there is around 30 thousand people living in Tala and its main economy is agriculture.

Life in here
life of a volunteer

Going to school!

The soil is quite dry and it is common to lack water for the shambas (the name given to the plantations). There is a lot of poverty, but not famine. Due to the large amount of shambas, the people do not starve (however, there are families who survive with only one meal a day). Religion here is a predominant factor and every corner you find all sorts of churches.

We also tell about the history of the independence of Kenya here.

The children’s home
life of a volunteer

The pastor and carpenter who made all the roofs of the orphanage, Patrick

The Lisha Mtoto Children’s Home currently supports 20 children from 7 different families, all orphans from the region. The place is opened since December 2014 but most of its infrastructure is still under development.

Before arriving there, most of the children lived in unsound situations, without supervision and not attending school. Now, all of them have three meals a day, sleep in a bed, have clothes, study, amongst other basic needs.

life of a volunteer

A few children going to school

One of the things that impressed us the most was the rapid adaptations of these children into their new lifestyle. Almost all, when moving over here from their relatives, did not show any sort of remorse and, after just hours from their arrivals, they were already smiling and extremely integrated. And this does not seem to be an isolated characteristic of the children. The very own guardians seemed to have some sort of facility in giving up the children. A few times people stopped us in the street begging us to take their children, nephew or grandson.

Before thinking something about this, read our post about perspectives.

It is hard to know if this is due to a cultural factor or if they are simply hopeful in providing/having a better life for the little ones.

What we do
life of a volunteer

Planting two trees before leaving – a volunteering ritual

Our work here involves different duties… Domestic, such as shower and feed them. Other more socially oriented, such as educating and teaching values. Economically, such as improving the way of  spending the money as well as creating projects to make the place financially auto sustainable, amongst many others.

What happened to us within 2 days in the orphanage!!

Más por Ellos and Lisha Mtoto have as doctrines the sustainable development. The idea for this place to work without donations or foreign volunteers, eventually. For this to happen, an integration with the local community is a must.

It might seem like an easy task, but when dealing with people extremely humble, with no education and most of the times with no familiar foundation, things become a little more complicated. Thus, to achieve the main goal, we also have to, in certain ways, provide a better structure to the community as a whole, offering more opportunities and developing different sectors of the society.

 Projects
life of a volunteer

Fe with St Francis Missiani’s boys

For instance, we have a micro finance programme in which we help, financially and structurally, small and medium-sized enterprises. We focus on projects which can bring some sort of innovation and create jobs. Also, there are sponsorship for children from needy families in order for them to attend school. Moreover, we offer social accompaniment for the families as well as physical activities to the pupils of the local college. We have also introduced discussions of sexual orientation and other important subjects.

Furthermore, we look for examples of success and overcoming within the community and try to create some sort of exchange between them in order to make them more involved and interested in the improvement and development of the region. Well, it is so much that it will not fit here. We realised that three months would be insufficient to put into practice all of our ideas and projects. Therefore, we are prolonging our staying.

life of a volunteer

The family Sharon, Mutua and Kioko 😉

Here it is a small introduction of the work the NGO we are helping. For those more interested, information about Más por Ellos, Lisha Mtoto, Álvaro, Erick, the children and all of that can be found at the website www.masporellos.org

What else?
life of a volunteer

Kibera slum’s entrance

Más por Ellos also has projects in Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa, at Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. The work there involves sponsoring children to attend school, primary school’s developing from the scratch, micro finance and a project to clean the shocking amount of rubbish inside the slum, called Kleanbera. They also have a cinema to generate income, create jobs and provide entertainment to the community.

If you would like to be part of this project, both as a volunteer or sponsoring children through donations, please contact them through the website above. Or feel free to contact us and we will happily direct you to the right person.