As many of you already know, I am embarking on a journey to Nairobi, Kenya at the end of June to volunteer in an HIV clinic for a minimum of one month.
If you know me even a tiny bit, you will know that I have always been extremely fascinated by children, animals, and infectious diseases-- and that I have wanted to go to Africa for my entire life. I have been looking into volunteering in Africa since the end of my freshman year in college; and though it has taken me 6 full years, I have finally worked up the mental courage to go and do this. It is very difficult to describe, but at this point in my life, I feel as though this is my purpose. This is something I have to do for myself : )
I must mention that 100% of all donations that I receive will be put directly toward HIV clinic supplies (band-aids, alcohol wipes, syringes, condoms, gauze, antiretroviral drugs, food, water, etc.), as well as orphanage supplies (mattresses, cribs, diapers, toothbrushes, coloring books, markers, clothing, toys, food, water, etc.).
You do not have to choose one of the reward levels-- you can choose to donate any amount you'd like. I cannot stress enough how much every single dollar helps, and that the USD truly goes a LONG way in Kenya ($1 = KShs 86.05). You can be assured that your donation will make a difference, as I will personally purchase and deliver the supplies and be able to witness the joy of the patients, clinicians, and children who receive them. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me at [email redacted]. I plan to post pictures and possibly a blog of my trip so that you can see exactly where your donation has been used, and I will do my best to keep that info updated.
With the last 2-week crunch underway, I've thankfully been able to pay for all of my travel expenses, registration fees, and personal equipment (I guess all those liquor promos and conventions ended up being useful after all)!! However, my efforts to contribute to the clinics and orphanages cannot be completed if I'm not able to provide them with at least some of the necessities we often take for granted in our daily lives. I plan to purchase all supplies once I am in Kenya, so that I have a better understanding of what items are needed most, and so that I am supporting the local economy as well.
About Kenya and Me:
I actually decided on Kenya 6 years ago, very easily, for a few reasons. 1.) Out of the African countries, they are pretty high up on the list for needing help with HIV prevention/education/testing, 2.) They are home to the Big 5 (lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino, leopard) and this makes me very happy, 3.) The people are actually quite nice, the country is relatively safe compared to most other African countries, and they actually like Americans for the most part (Obama is Kenyan). There have been no major crime occurrences/terrorist attacks since the 2008 election disputes.
I originally wanted to work in an orphanage up until a few months ago. I then changed my direction to working in an AIDS orphanage. And finally I realized, I simply just want to work in an HIV/AIDS clinic. This is where I will work Monday-Friday, and then I will work at an orphanage for 1-2 weekends so that I can get my "playing with children" fix. I really enjoy hands-on work, and like to feel as though I'm helping directly. In the HIV clinic, I will not only be able to draw blood and participate in HIV testing, but I will also be able to use my psychology degree and knowledge of the disease to counsel people living with HIV/AIDS. I plan to become involved in educating pre-teens and teens about safe sex practices and the consequences of needle-sharing. I will be able to distribute ARV drugs and provide food and water to those suffering from disease in Kibera-- the largest slum in the world. I am very nervous, and also very excited to take all of this on.
The decision which took me the most time was which volunteer organization to go with. I have selected International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ), and feel as though they are the best fit for me. They are based out of New Zealand. I have also read several different people's personal blogs who volunteered in Kenya through IVHQ, so I have heard the good, the bad, and the ugly unbiased experiences of others. Despite a few hiccups, for all of the volunteers, this was the most amazing experience of their life. One of the volunteers whose blog I read intended on staying for 4 weeks, and ended up extending his trip to 3 months! My IVHQ application has been accepted, and my registration fee has been paid. They will provide me with airport pick-up, lodging, all meals, orientation, etc. In terms of lodging, I will be staying in a home-stay (with a host family) with 2 or 3 other volunteers of the same sex. I'm really excited for this as I will get to experience an authentic Kenyan lifestyle with a local family.
Since I will only be working in the clinic Monday-Friday, I will have weekends off. One of the weekends I plan to take a long weekend and set out on a 4-day camping safari in the Maasai Mara where I will get to see all of the Big 5! Another weekend, I will bike to Hell's Gate and get to see/climb the original Pride Rock that Lion King is based off of. I will also get to visit Mt. Kenya. On the Outreach weekend, I will get to distribute food in Kibera (which I mentioned is the largest slum in the world). I also plan to visit Diani Beach and do a full-day dive with whale sharks. I will spend all remaining free time on evenings and weekends volunteering in local orphanages. And lastly, I am adopting a 2 month old orphaned elephant named Ajabu which means "mystery" in Swahili, and I plan to visit her at the David Sheldrick WIldlife Trust.
I am not going to Kenya with the expectation of changing the world from this one trip (although I do believe that in changing the world, every person is significant and every small step matters). I am going mainly to learn a little bit more about myself, and to also assist wherever I am needed. I am at a very confusing point in my life, and I would like to hone some of my interests in hopes that my life direction will become a little more clear to me. It doesn't hurt to simultaneously help those in need, and to be in an environment that I've always wanted to be in.
I thank you tremendously for taking the time to read my story. I am so passionate about what I'm doing, and I cannot wait to get involved with this project!! Also, I know a lot of people aren't on Facebook, so please feel free to forward my page to anyone who you think might be interested!! I love you all so much.
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