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Feentje November 2017

Experience report on my volunteer work at Kingston

The first question I get asked after my arrival back home, in the north of Germany was how I liked it and after the obligatory answer "good" the next question was: "When are you going back down again? I can answer this question with 100% certainty with "as soon as possible" without having to think about it for a second.

I can well remember my first phone call with Maria and how I realized only 4 weeks later on the plane on my way to Mombasa what adventure would come up to me; 3 months in a foreign country, surrounded by foreign people, a foreign language, a foreign culture, in a field of work that was foreign to me and so far away from my family. The worries that had accumulated during the flight evaporated immediately after my arrival in Kingston, when Mama Rita greeted me with a warm embrace and the other volunteer had waited until the middle of the night for me to arrive. Also, the first impression of Doc put me in a positive mood, and I felt ready for what was to come.

The next day I got an impression of Likoni, the market, the funny vehicles and especially the people, but I soon realized that it is the people who are coming towards you. As a "Muzungu" (European) you stand out in Likoni and no matter if big or small, young or old, everybody shows interest in your person and welcomes you in Kenya and especially as a volunteer you are welcome there, because any kind of help is more appreciated than I ever could have imagined.

The Kingston Hospital only really comes to life at night, which is why I mainly worked then. I don't have any previous medical knowledge, but under the supervision of Mama Rita and the Doctor I was allowed to assist in minor surgeries, wound care, various blood tests and medication, or to do the paperwork for the accounts, as well as helping with the prescriptions. You lose your inhibitions pretty fast at work and the patients take you in very well, they also like to take pictures, laugh a lot or improve your Kiswahili knowledge.

Of course there are many cases of domestic or public violence, old wounds that have never been treated due to lack of money and resemble neglect or patients come to the hospital out of pure desperation, even if they only look for and find someone who listens in Mama Rita and the doctor.

We also took care of the further building of the hospital, followed small orders which we had received from Maria, helped with a blood donation campaign and often crossed the ferry and went shopping for the project in Mombasa or intensively cared for a patient there who had an important surgery and finally got through it well.

One of the highlights, but also the most frightening moment for me, was the visit and donation day in the village Timbwani. I was very impressed by the openness of the people to invite us into their houses, even if they mostly consist of an all-purpose room, which is very poorly designed, but is inhabited by the whole, large family. There we distributed ugali, beans, rice and donations of clothes and toys from Germany, one of the most formative days for me.

Another highlight was the dolphin safari and a three-day safari through Tsavo East and West, which presented the breathtaking nature of Kenya to us, as well as Diani Beach, which can be reached by Matatu (a kind of bus) and then Tuktuk in just under an hour of time. At the weekend, it offers a nice balance to the always hectic Likoni.

The biggest highlight of my trip to Kenya, however, are the people. Cooking together, afternoons at the beach, going swimming or to church with the kids, chips and soda in Mombasa or the nightly get-together where the funniest jokes are created, all this has made my stay in Kingston one of the most formative and beautiful experiences for me, which has definitely changed me humanly.

I have learned that it is possible to give although you have nothing yourself.

To smile where I would cry long ago and appreciate everything I have.

It is worth to refrain from dirt, noise, and smell and to let Likoni and its inhabitants touch you, that is why I will come back.

by Feentje Keunecke

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