Confessions of a volunteer

I look at the  circled quote, ‘The more you move, the stronger you grow’.- Ha Jin. Below it I write ” I have moved and indeed I have grown; grown in courage, in endurance and in relationships’.

The flight attendant announces ” We will be dimming the cabin lights….. ”

I fasten my seat belt over my blanket, adjust my pillow and drift off to sleep.


Julius is smiling broadly; Dougy and Kevo as usual watching CSI Miami outside Mamma Kevo’s kitchen. I laugh when I see Ian and Bridget fighting over the paper crown; Taeko patiently sits beside Grace while she scatters the toys.

My quiet moment is broken by a ” We will be boarding Zone….

I close the lens and turn off my camera. I open my sisal bark basket bag to drop my camera in. I spy my travel journal. I dig it out of the junk that I have collected during my three weeks in Kenya. I open it to the last entry.

‘The more you move, the stronger you grow.’ – Ha Jin.

I look at it for a minute, three weeks in Kenya flash through my mind. I circle the quote, shut the book and drop it back in the bag and proceed for boarding.


” Oh, you got the basket bag”.

“Yes I did”, I reply.

Kevo and I  are waiting for Nino and Yusuf . I am nervous, I am getting late for my bus.

“Relax”, Kevo soothes. “You will get there in time”.

And with Nino at the wheel I get to the Coast bus boarding on time.

” I will miss you so much Kevo”, I hug him goodbye. He says he will miss me too. I wave out to Nino and Yusuf and I board the bus.

Ten minutes later my bus leaves Mombasa en route to Nairobi.


” The next time I will stay longer”.

“Yes you should”, answers Willy, while Mamma Kevo and Tina nods in unison.

“I will”.

Another round of hugs. My eyes fill up.

I walk outside. Kevo and Dougy are watching CSI Miami on the laptop.   I take out my camera and click a picture. Dougy looks at me, ” I will  miss you “.

” Me too ,Dougy, me too”.

Kevo walks me to Taeko’s place. At the door he smiles and says ‘goodnight, see you tomorrow’.


” I will miss you so much”, I say between hugs.

“You are my best friend in all of Africa Taeko” .

” And you mine. Thanks for coming to St. Peter’s”.

I don’t believe it. It’s time to leave already.  I look at Taeko through teary eyes and realise that she is crying too.

I don’t have the heart to leave Taeko.

” I will come back in the night”.


Today is my last day I tell the nursery kids. I don’t think they really understand.

Teacher Maggie asks ” Class what will you tell teacher Lisa?”

Karen starts ” Tiger Tiger burning bright…..” . Everybody joins in.

I laugh.

During lunch I walk over to Julius and tell him I am leaving. He smiles and asks when I am  coming back. ‘Soon’,  I tell him, ‘soon’. He smiles for me while I click his picture.

I walk over to Taeko’s class. She is sitting on the floor with Grace, with all the scattered toys around. I tell her I will drop in at her place in the evening.

‘Sawa , sawa’, she says.


“Where did you go after school?”

“Oh, Nakumatt“, I answer. ” There has been no water at home for a week now. I really needed to use the bathroom”.

Taeko nods understandingly. ” You can take a bath here today, I have some water stored.”

I smile at her and say,” Not like I needed an invitation!”.

She smiles back.


” Tiger tiger burning bright…
in the forest of the night
what immortal hand or eye
dare frame thy fearful symmetry”.

I sigh ,maybe I should have picked an easier poem.

I feel a lot better when its time for creativity. The paper crowns are a big hit. The kids are very excited about it. In her excitement Bridget tears her’s in half. I try sticking it with glue. I wonder how long that will last.

I switch my camera on and tell them all to smile. Just when I click Bridget pulls the crown from Ian’s head.


” We have an integrated programme at St. Peter’s. The special needs children study alongside the normal children”, explains Madame Deche as she takes me around the school.

At the end of the short tour she asks,” When do you want to start?”

“Tomorrow!” I answer.


I look excitedly out of the window. I see blue asbestos sheets. Kenya is close, so close now.

I pull my seat back to the upright position and try to contain my excitement as we touch down at Nairobi.


 I write in my journal ,”The more you move, the stronger you grow”.- Ha Jin.

I close my eyes and make a promise to myself that I will keep a regular journal during my three weeks volunteering trip to Mombasa, Kenya.

After what seemed like a million years, the attendant announces that Kenya Airways is ready to board their flight KQ 320 to Nairobi.



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