It is a little over two weeks into project. Today is the referendum in Kenya—a topic much discussed since our arrival—and the volunteers are spending the day at their homestays relaxing and planning for the busy two weeks ahead.
I cannot say enough good words about these women. It is quite apparent they have come to this project with clear ambitions and objective—wanting their workshops to be effective and meaningful to their target audience. I love watching their planning meetings—they are not afraid to give suggestions, make changes and bring new ideas to the table. I have full confidence in their ability and anticipate effective workshops in the weeks ahead. I hope many of them continue to pursue careers that engage their talents in this type of international setting.
Kenya has been nothing short of a great experience. The daily matatus rides have added character to the project: The blaring music, cramped interior, the circus-like decals, the slogans adorning every available space, and the way the buses get around seemingly impossible impasses—collectively create a part of Mombasa I have come to love. You only have to show up at a bus stage before the shouting begins—where are we going? to Mtwapa? to Ferry? to V.O.K? (V.O.K takes you directly to the Kwatcha office, in case you are ever in the area.)
The location speaks for itself: The town is lined with white sandy beaches, warm turquoise waters, palm trees and camels. When in the right spot, the Indian Ocean provides a refreshing relief from the heat. The food (chapatis), the juices and the old sea-eroded charm of Mombasa town have added, in my opinion, great flavor to this project. The smell of this place is complex: It is the smell of roasting street food, sea salt, burning fires and smoke, tropical plants and city life. Mombasa town itself is busy busy busy—street vendors, noise and more matatus—and it reminds me of a city that has reproduced itself many times over. I am excited for the MUNHOPE volunteers to start their workshops at the project site, which is located in a quiet rural community along a long winding road. It was very peaceful when I visited two weeks ago.
And of the Kenyan friends we have met —the YCI volunteers and Kwacha youth have started the project with a positive relationship. I feel welcomed into the Kwacha office, as I am sure the volunteers would agree. I had the pleasure of meeting each of the volunteers’ homestay families—and I have to admit—I am quite envious of the food, warmth and hospitality each of them is getting. What better way to experience a true cultural exchange than to immerse oneself into the daily Kenyan lifestyle—something not to be obtained at the many resorts dotting the beaches. How unlucky these tourist are—they do not know what they are missing!
I hope this blog paints a clearer picture of Mombasa, although it is a bit hard to express the warmth, the smells and the atmosphere of this place in words. I also cannot truly speak for the volunteers – of their own sense of belonging and purpose in this project – but from what I have observed, I have a feeling they are pretty content at the moment.
-Melissa Keehn, Kenya Program Officer. To read more about Melissa, check out her staff profile Q & A.