December 17th, 2007 – by: kristine_hardy
Last year I spent 4 weeks at El-Shaddai Childrens Home, Githunguri. It was the best thing I have ever done and I would definitely recommend spending time at an orphanage in Africa to anyone thinking of doing so. Myself and the other volunteer would arrive early (for us) in the morning after a short walk from our home stay (with a wonderful family). You have to make yourself useful as they won't ask you to do anything but treat you as an honoured guest. I generally hung around and helped get water from the pump (before they put the tap in a the end of our stay). Then waited around (there is always lots of waiting), for hot water to do the dishes. Often we 'discussed' religon with one of the helpers, well bascially she tried to convert us to evangelical Christians, I'm not sure how a muslim volunteer would have gone down, especially as the Odinga one of the presidential candidates (whom I'm not even sure is muslim) was being demonised as a murderer of christians at the time.
After the washing we would sometimes help bath and dry the girls and then it was time to hide from the hot sun in the 'school room' and just amuse the kids as best we could. The other volunteer would mainly hang out with the babies, while I started bringing some easy reading books and dot-to-dot puzzles so that I could get the kids who weren't busy with chores to practice their english.
The kids ranged from months old to late teens and were there for a variety of reasons. Some were orphans while others were there with their mum who had nowhere else to go. Mother Beatrice and Pastor Stephen started the home some years ago with a small group and as the group grew they got into trouble with the children's authority who tried to send the kids to other places. But the kids came back and they managed to get the authorities approval and rent a bigger place in a neighbourhood which was more understanding.
Its odd but by being there we added prestige to the place, we got trotted out to visits to the authorities and such, even though we had no idea what they were saying when they were debating over what is best for the particular children and even if we had of understood the language its not like I have any expertise in the matter anyway. We got to visit some interesting places and to see how people lived and coped with getting forms filled in and approved by the proper authorities and such. The home is in a really small area that a main road passes through, they call it a "shopping centre", Gathange (if I remember properly) shopping centre, its a few stores, butchers, hairdressers, bars (I think, I never went in there, but there were men playing pool) and such. At least 2 churches and lots of farms and some schools.
The main towns of Githunguri and Kiambu were a matatu ride away and we went there for internet access, banking and such. One weekend I made it in to Nairobi
to buy presents for the kids for christmas, when asked what they wanted some of the older boys said dictionaries, I really can't see that happening at home. After that the elections happened and things changed, but more on that elsewhere.