Hi! My name is Maria Macnamara and I’d like to tell you about my trip to Kenya in January 2010. I went with three Americans who I met for the very first time at Heathrow airport on our layover to Kenya!
To date, I’ve spent time volunteering in Brazil, Thailand and in September 2009, Ethiopia. Whilst these trips were great in terms of giving me experience of voluntary work abroad, working with other cultures, (I have some fantastic memories of the people and children I worked with) in each placement I felt something lacking and came back home feeling like it somehow hadn’t been enough, and with a sense of disappointment.
There was also the financial side, which to be honest, didn’t really bother me until my Ethiopia trip. I had paid a lot of money, approx Â£6,000, to the 3 organizations I went with and questioned myself as to where the money went. I came back from Ethiopia and decided I wanted to do something “more” which is why I decided to follow up on a magazine article that I’d read earlier in the year.Â The article was about the lack of underwear in Africa and the problems this posed. I set about doing some research and sending emails to people who distributed underwear in Africa. My idea was to collect underwear and take them to “wherever.”
In October 2009, I found Rocky online and was introduced to Mothers Fighting For Others. Fair to say my plan was a bit flimsy at this point. Rocky was the first to reply to my email and straight off I knew here was someone who could help me. Rocky’s energy, passion and dedication to the aims of MFFO was impressive. Here was a mother of six who was working so hard to improve the lives of others, at the IDP camps and the girls I would soon get to know at Saint Monica’s. I got an email from Rocky one Saturday night at the end of November, asking if I wanted to go to Kenya as someone had canceled due to illness. There was no hesitation or wanting to think about it – I was 100% sure I wanted to go.
On January 3rd, I left my home in Scotland with 1500 items of underwear to meet Rocky, Ashley and Mary. Going to Kenya with MFFO was completely different to my other voluntary abroad experiences. I’m truly thankful that Rocky replied to my email as this allowed me to go to Kenya and be part of something really special. Standing at those IDP camps handing out underwear and talking to people one on one, will be an experience I will never forget. After we had visited all the camps, I remember saying what a brilliant day it had been and Rocky laughed and said “it gets better.”
She was right.
The reason for me going was to deliver the underwear that my family, friends, friends of friends and colleagues had collected. It was that simple. However I did not anticipate Rocky and Ashley’s dedication to the girls at Saint Monica’s to “infect” me! I can honestly say that working with Rocky and Ashley made me realize what I had been missing in my other placements. Yes, it was really hard work as we shopped till we dropped, as January is the busiest month for requirement shopping.Â We were always on the go as we visited the schools to pay school fees, visits to the bank, and spending time at Saint Monica’s with the girls, but I wouldn’t change a single minute of it.
Every day brought something new, whether traveling on a matatu, or visiting a different school, or just learning the Kenyan way of life. Shopping was great fun! I likened it to a game of “hunt the treasure” as there were just some items I had no clue about, but we learned fast! In the other placements, I sometimes wondered why I was there. I felt inadequate in terms of being of use and able to contribute, but not in Kenya. Rocky and Ashley involved myself and the other volunteer, Mary, in every aspect of what they did. I didn’t want to come home. I felt I was leaving another “family” and part of myself behind.
I used three different volunteer groups for my trips to Brazil, Thailand and Ethiopia. I was trying to find that “something” with each one, but never found “it.”Â Just to let you know, I’ve booked to go back to Kenya with Mothers Fighting For Others in April. I think that says it all!!