Exactly one year ago, I arrived in Shimoni to begin a ten week placement as a community volunteer on GVI’s Kenya Teaching program. Words alone cannot convey this incredible experience; Rewarding, challenging, enlightening and memorable immediately come to mind, but you simply have to be here to understand their meaning.
I flew home in April 2011, promising myself that I would return for a longer period of time, having given up my job. I have now been in Shimoni for two wonderful weeks, and I’ve lost count of the number of times my fellow volunteers have asked me why I came back. Why is this program so special?
|Jo demonstrates how to be a teapot|
The initial language barrier and contrasting cultures that intimidate many prospective volunteers quickly fade into insignificance and the village feels like home within days. Lesson planning while baboons eat in the nearby compost heap and walking to school with sykes monkeys play in the trees overhead are novelties that never cease to capture your attention. The communities here exude an energy and passion for life that is both contagious and instantly welcoming: The children call out your name as you stroll through the village, and students invite you to play an impromptu game of dodge ball during break time. The teachers approach their jobs with relentless enthusiasm and commitment, and treat volunteers as valued members of their team.
|Jo reads to children in Shimoni village|
Teaching has highlighted personal qualities that I never knew I had, and the sense of achievement that I felt on completing my first lesson will stay with me forever. Most importantly, I always feel that my efforts are valued and that my potential here is unlimited, regardless of how much time I can spend here. I understand that, in six months, I cannot possibly create a legacy that will endure after my departure. However, the instant reward that comes from teaching, seeing the expression on the face of a student who finally understands, is enough for me. Witnessing that gradual progression, day by day, is what drew me back here.