Archive for the ‘Kenya’ category

Donna Gibson: Teaching English in Mombassa

March 9, 2007

Donna Gibson

What made you want to volunteer?

“It makes me feel better about myself. It’s a selfish thing to say, but I really do get a kick out of going out there and helping people.

“When I was seven, I was watching TV and remember seeing one of those adverts about famine in Africa and to this day I remember thinking ‘I am going to go there, I am going to help those people’ and then when I got to the age of 40, I just thought, this is my time to do that.”

What did you get out of it?

“I got back from the trip and I was absolutely shattered, but I have a real feel-good feeling. I was teaching English and to see the children learning was an amazing experience.”

What was it like in Kenya?

‘Hot, so hot, I don’t sweat much normally but when I was out there I was drenched. There was very different food, but I tried it all and I lost a bit of weight as well for an added bonus. The people were really nice, and I tried to learn from Swahili. If I died now I’d be glad that I’d seen a country that really is the heart of Africa.”

How was the culture difference?

“Did have lots of down days, as I was traveling all the time out there and then when I go back home I just wasn’t. I couldn’t get used to Kenya time either, I’m used to being very punctual, and I would turn up at 7 AM and then they’d all roll in at 10 AM. They used to turn up smiling and I just wanted to knock their big white teeth out, but then you remember that it’s not impolite there, it’s a big difference. Now I’m back in a more structured society I do miss that relaxed feeling, over there I was in charge of myself and now I’m back I don’t feel like I’ve got that control as much.”

How was the service from i-to-i?

“On a positive note I’d never have heard about the trip if it wasn’t for i-to-i, but when I got there I was paired off with this retired lady, Pam, and she was lovely but you know, she didn’t have much energy, and I’m a very ‘get-up-and-go’ person and she wasn’t. You’re left to your own devices a lot, and that can bore a lot of people, I was okay because I’d prepared and I’m a tough person, but some of the young people needed that guiding hand and that didn’t happen.”

You went back by yourself, not with i-to-i, why?

“I just wasn’t willing to pay for admin, when I knew where I was going and didn’t need their help to go back again. I was thinking ‘what am I paying for?’ so I just went ahead and arranged it myself.”

How did you cope being away from our family?

“My husband was looking after the two boys, so I knew they were safe and that they’d be okay. I got a bit emotional before I went, thinking that this might be the last time I see them, but I knew they’d be okay and so would I.

“My husband has always known it was something I had wanted to do for a long-time now and he works in the Army, so he’s away a lot, so in a way it was my chance to be away for a while.”

What advice would you give to those about to volunteer?

“Really got to have an open mind. I like to think of myself as quite a tough person, but there were these young girls there and they just weren’t ready for such a culture shock. They’d be ill a lot of the time, didn’t want to get involved and often wouldn’t turn up to their placements. You have to go out there with the right attitude, it’s not a holiday and you will find it difficult, but if you can overcome those difficulties then it’s a really rewarding opportunity. I felt sorry for people who didn’t enjoy it, as they’d paid a lot of money, and to them it was a bit of a waste.”

As a solo female traveler, did you feel threatened at all?

‘It can be quite daunting, I remember when I flew from Nairobi to Mombassa, I found it really scary. I got off the plane and these two suited guys took my bags, and then they asked for a tip of about £10, and I just wasn’t prepared to give it. After a while you learn who you can trust and who you can’t, a lot of it is down to instinct.

“Everyday you have people coming up to you and asking for money, but you know that you don’t have enough money to help everyone. You have to be firm, and consistent, if you give to one person in a group you have to give to them all, otherwise they’ll either take it from that person, or get aggressive with you.

“You have to harden yourself for it, I used to be naive, but now I know the score.”

1. I’m 41 on the outside and 21 on the inside!!
2. I live in Hilsborough Northern Ireland.
3. I’m a mum of 2 boys, housewife and employed part-time as a beauty consultant.
4. I travelled to Mombasa, Kenya for 2 weeks in June 2006 and then in Jan
2007 again to the same place for another 2 weeks.
5. I went on my own.
6. When I got there I joined a group of volunteers with an organisation
called i-to-i in June but when I went back in Jan of this year i went on
my own….to save admin costs and i knew where i was going.
7. I taught English at the school and helped with meals at the orphanage.
8. The best bit about travelling was the total freedom as i had never been away from my family before. At home i am always rushing about, there I could take my time. The fact that i was also making a difference in the lives of these children was also amazing.
9. The worst bit about travelling was that as a woman on my own it was a little frightening but i feel more confident now…..and i hated leaving the children i had met.
10. I am already planning to go back in Oct this year as i am at present building a new school for them!!!!