Welcome back Jessica!

Published: 22/05/2019

We welcome Jessica back to our Ballymoney team, after she took 3 months out of caring in the community to travel to Kenya as a volunteer.  Jessica spent 11 weeks in Kericho, Kenya with Balloon Ventures.

Balloon VenturesWe welcome Jessica back to our Ballymoney team, after she took 3 months out of caring in the community to travel to Kenya as a volunteer.  Jessica spent 11 weeks in Kericho, Kenya with Balloon Ventures.

Kericho has a population of over 35,000, it is situated is the highlands west of the Kenyan Rift Valley and stands on the edge of the Mau Forest.  It has a warm and temperate climate which means it is an ideal location for agriculture, and is the most important tea-growing area in Africa.  It is home to over 43 tribes, each with their own ‘mother-tongue’.  The first language of Kenya is Swahili, but many people also speak English and French.

Balloon Ventures, is a government funded scheme where volunteers receive training to assist entrepreneurs in Kenya to start a new business or develop their existing business.  The team that Jessica worked with consisted of 11 British volunteers and 10 Kenyan volunteers.  The volunteers were then divided into smaller groups of 3 and they then worked closely with 6 entrepreneurs each.  Jessica was assisting a poultry farmer to become a passionfruit farmer and start up a nursery, and she also worked closely with a lady who wanted to start a clothes making business sourcing materials from Nairobi.
 
      

One of the things Jessica loved about her time in Kenya was the fact that the volunteers were immersed in the Kericho community.  The volunteers all stayed with host families, Jessica said she felt welcomed and felt that she developed a good understanding of the people and their culture.  Jessica’s host family had one son and lived in a basic three-bedroom flat.  The flat was comfortable and had all she needed for a pleasant stay.  In understanding the people of Kenya and their culture, she was able to bring Western Business models and apply them to the Kenyan way of life to ensure that her assistance would benefit them long-term.
 
Host Family      Host Family
Jessica pictured with her ‘host mother’ in a traditional Kenyan dress and her ‘host brother’ on his birthday

Jessica reported that ‘at the beginning of her trip, she felt like a celebrity as her skin colour was a great novelty to the people of Kericho.  People were always asking for ‘selfies’ with her, or wanting to shake her hand as they believed that touching a person with white skin would bring people good fortune’.

The scheme Jessica travelled out with tried to help the people of Kericho is other ways also.  Jessica was assigned to a ‘Community Committee’ in which she and other volunteers formed a group to try and assist the wider community.  They undertook a Tree Planting scheme where they got old and young people in the community involved in planting trees.  They spent time in a school for deaf children where they worked with the children and played sports with them and did arts and craft classes with them.  They also ran a Book Event in a primary school where they donated books and other school supplies.
 
Community Committee   Volunteers at the Deaf School for Children  Jessica with local school children at the Book Event

Jessica visited an HIV and AIDS centre, and a Woman and Children’s Aid Centre.  They received a tour and spoke with the staff who worked there.  Many of the staff were volunteers and missionaries.  The Centre provides support and medical care for people affected with the HIV virus.

Jessica reported that the image she had of Kenya before she arrived, and the understanding she has of Kenya now differs greatly.  Jessica, probably like most of us, thought that Kenya would have been barren and poverty stricken and lacked modern living as we know it.  According to Jessica, Kericho was not like that at all.  Kericho was like most towns or cities anywhere in the world as it had very affluent areas and poverty stricken areas, and it had most of the latest technologies that we know.  Jessica said that the noise and ‘hustle and bustle’ was indescribable, and she didn’t have a full night’s sleep from she arrived in Kericho. 
 
Kericho   Kericho   Kericho

Along with her volunteering duties, Jessica managed to take a little time out and experience some of the famous sights of Kenya.  Lake Nakuru, known as ‘the greatest bird spectale on earth’, as it attracts vast quantities of flamingos at any one time; Menengai Crator, the second largest volcano caldera in Africa; a day trip to Nairobi, a journey of 4hrs by bus.  A friend of her host family was getting married and she attended the Dowry Ceremony.
 
Menengai Sacred Caves   Dowry Ceremony   Menengai Crator   Menengai Crator   

Jessica’s trip has inspired her to travel to different countries and make whatever difference she can.  She reports that she would ‘go again in a heartbeat and she would love to visit Nepal or Indonesia next time’.  Jessica feels that until you go to a country and experience a culture you cannot truly know what help they need or exactly how to help someone.  The most important lesson she will take from this trip is that to truly help someone you must embrace their culture and way of life, adapt your tools to help them sustain their dream.