"Shall I spend the summer holidays at home, or shall I go to Kenya?"

 

This question was on my mind for a long time. In January 2016 my plans for the summer holidays failed and I didn't know what to do. After some weeks I saw a post on Facebook - someone was looking for volunteers in Africa. I decided to write to them and within a few days I knew: I am going to spend my summerholidays in Kenya. I was sent to a childrens home in Malindi by the agency. Malindi is a small town, with many Italians and tourists, at the coast. By that time I didn't know that I would meet my relative Xaver, who has been working as a missionary in Kenya for more than 40 years. 

 

For 8 weeks I was part of the children's home - the children became my new family. I assisted the staff with cleaning and cooking, but the main reason to go there was to spend time with the children - helping them with the homework, playing, singing, dancing and just being there for them. The situation in the home was not easy - not enough food, beds, clothes, lacking of school fees and rent, sometimes there was no electricity and water. Despite all the problems the children were happy and content with what they had. If I had the choice I would have stayed in Kenya. 

I knew, that I would definitely go back to the children's home and that I would do anything possible to support the management of the home to improve the situation for the children. Then eveything changed. Back home I found out, that a big part of the donations made to the home by various donors were taken by the management. By that time it was a great shock to me. Later on I realized, that many children's homes in Africa are run like businesses. Though I made this experience I had the feeling that I have to go back to Kenya. I was very lucky because Xaver managed to find a new place for me. One of the Sisters of the Catholic Church in Malindi runs a project for children living with disabilities - the Small Home. I was given the chance to become a volunteer at Small Home. 

In September 2017 I started my time as volunteer at Small Home. I had planned to stay in Kenya for a whole year but once again my plans failed. The management of the first children's home (where I was in 2016) reported me to the Immigration office and the police in Malindi, since they didn't like the idea of me supporting another home in Malindi. I didn't have an official work permit so I was no longer allowed to volunteer at Small Home. Therefore, I decided to go back to Austria in November 2017 and continue with my teaching in  a lower secondary school. 

 

Within the 3 months I spent in Kenya in 2017 Sister Fely and I started to support needy children and families (school fees, food, medicine, …).  More and more people back in Austria heard about my story and started to support Sister Fely and me. We were able to support more people back in Kenya. That was the beginning of our project PAMOJA-mitanand. PAMOJA means TOGETHER in Swahili. MITANAND has the same meaning in my dialect.

 

After all the experiences it is my usmost concernt that I can ensure that 100 % of the donations made to our project are used to benefit needy children and families in Kenya. I travel to Kenya twice a year and visit our families and projects (of course, at my own expenses). By now it is no longer only Sister Fely and me, but a whole team of volunteers in Austria, Germany and on site who make sure that PAMOJA-mitanand continues helping the needy ones.