Report of my volunteer year in Jukumu Letu
2nd August 2013
Mimi ninaitwa Seraphina, niko na mwika kumi na tisa na ninatoka Ujermani.
(Ed. Kiswahili: I am Seraphina, I am 19 years old, from Germany)
After completing school education in Germany, I decided to do a volunteer service abroad.
With the organisation ICYE (International Cultural Youth Exchange) I had the chance to go to Kenya and I
joined the Jukumu Letu project in Ngong, close to Nairobi.
The initial part of my stay in Kenya was difficult; Kenyan culture and way of life are quite different to
my home country Germany. I had great support from those around me in Jukumu Letu and after a
short while life became easier and easier as I began to see how as human beings living in very
different circumstances, life can be very different yet similar in other ways. We all need love,
comfort and belonging. We all have ambition and we want to become better and better no matter
where we are in the world.
I soon adapted to my new home and although I didn’t pick Kiswahili (this is the Kenyan national language) as well as I would have wanted to, I still had a great time as English-the official language, is widely used.
Like elsewhere in the world, some people in Kenya live in abject poverty, others are middle class and some are mega rich; the same can be said of where people live. Some, like most of our Julumu Letu families live in the slums. The food in Kenya is quite different to the German food. Ugali, made from maize meal is the staple food. Ugali is made like porridge only with lots of flour that is mixed and looks like a white cake when ready. I grew to really like it and other Kenyan food and now plan to cook some of these for my friends when I return to German.
For me, as a white person (Mzungu) and woman, the normal life was sometimes very hard, because when walking around the streets or other public places, everybody spots you immediately, greets
you and calls you "Mzungu". This situation was very disagreeable for me and I still detest it, even
after one year in Kenya but after the adaptation phase in Kenya, I love Kenya so much and I will miss
the life and especially the Kenyan people.
I worked in Jukumu Letu for nearly one year and I had a great time with a lot of new and very
interesting experiences. Jukumu Letu is a perfect project for voluntary service; it offers a daycare
and a kindergarden for small children from 0 to 6 years old. Most of the children come from the
close Mathare slum in Ngong.
As a volunteer I had the chance to support a lot of different activities in the project. Most of the time
I stayed with the children aged between 0-3 years. I took care of them, played with them and helped
with the feeding. Another part covered office work, including administration using the office
computer and supporting the improvement of the filing system. Several times I had the opportunity
to join the social worker in the field work and we visited the families from our children in the
Mathare slum and around the centre of Ngong. This was for me a very interesting experience, as it
showed the social background of children and explained the difficult situation of many families,
where, for instance, only the woman has a job and is responsible for the family income and the
education of the children. Sometimes I wondered about the role of the Kenyan men in these
families, who have no jobs and provide very limited support, if they are still around.
The team in Jukumu Letu is very friendly and open, so it was easy for me to integrate very quickly. I
enjoyed the work with all of them and especially the work with the social worker Martha was
inspiring. I learnt a lot from her about social work in such difficult situations, but finally I learned a
lot for myself. Actually, I decided to select the same job and after my voluntary service I will start
social work study in Germany. I further appreciate that the Jukumu Letu staff provided so much confidence and trust in advance that allowed me integrate very quickly in the daily project processes.
Now I am so sad to leave Jukumu Letu and Kenya, but all the common moments and the nice people,
I met, will remain in my memory. I really enjoyed my time here and I will miss you so much. So finally
I say thank you to all of you for the great time in Jukumu Letu. I wish you and the project all the best
and I hope we will see each other again.
Kwa heri na tuonane, (Ed. good bye for now!)
My first year at Jukumu Letu
I learnt of Jukumu Letu Organization almost a year ago; from what was explained to me, it was clear Jukumu Letu (our responsibility) was not just another of the thousands of projects around the country. It was obvious there was sound thinking behind it; the whole philosophy of the organization also fit in with my values and I knew I wanted to be part of this project.
It is said that “You can educate children by fear, competition or love. We have chosen to educate them by love”. Love is truly the language of educating children at Jukumu Letu.
Creativity is the core of my profession in architecture and this has enabled me to transfer my skills to the classroom with children. Together with Carol, the director of Jukumu Letu, we agreed on utilizing my artistic side to come up with a program for children in class 1 and 2. Though I am an architect, I am aware that above all, the overriding push behind my involvement with the children is first and foremost being, a mother regardless of any academic qualification. This to me makes, a huge difference, I am able to recognize their needs and make every effort to meet them at the point of those needs, like I would with my own children and I believe this DOES give the children and I an unspoken mutual understanding
Our program is based on the fact that during the first seven years of life, children learn through imitating adults. They absorb from the adults not only behaviours and gestures but also feelings around them, till these become part of their being. At this stage it is very important to use fantasy, art, colours, tales, role plays and wonder to teach them values of friendship, solidarity, beauty, tolerance, respect for people and things. They also develop the will, and all the ethic qualities so decisive for their future.
Through activities like manual work, painting, paper cutting, modelling, drawing and so on, we provide the children with a warm, serene and safe place where they express themself and their feelings knowing these will be accepted. These, I believe are the ingredients required for the nourishment of their souls.
From my experience with the children, they are clearly enthusiastic, enjoy every lesson and look forward to the next new project. Listening to fairy tales has become pretty popular, the children’s eager and attentive faces will melt any heart!
We are also working with the children, training them on how to manage small frustrations, solve small difficulties and how to seek the help of their teachers and friends.
I am a strong believer that with this as part of their foundation, the ground is well prepared and learning other subjects becomes much smoother sailing. Working with children at Jukumu Letu is always a humbling experience and I am truly happy to work with them.
We have succeeded in creating a good relationship based on mutual respect, self-esteem, trust.
There is always room for improvement and we will work hard on it.
Volunteer administrator in JukumuLetu Organization and also an intern counselor at Childline Kenya, an organization that offers psychosocial support for abused children
I am a Kenyan working at Jukumu Letu Organization which I joined at the beginning of October,2013. I learnt about Jukumu Letu through a friend of mine who is a friend to one of the directors at the organization, at a time when I was looking for a place to volunteer. I have had wonderful experience with the children and the entire Jukumu Letu team and encourage many more people to become volunteers.
The children are amazing, loving and wonderful; the smiles on their faces easily conceal the difficult circumstances many of them live in.
I am proud to be associated with Jukumu Letu, where children are truly valued and all go out of their way to take responsibility of the children.I am encouraged by this wonderful story about Jimmy Durante, one of the great entertainers of a generation ago.
He was asked to be part of a show for World War II veterans. He told them his schedule was very busy and he could afford only afew minutes,but if they wouldn’t mind his doing just a short performance and immediately leaving for his next appointment, he would come. Of course, the director of the show agreed happily. But Jimmy got on stage, something interesting happened. He went through his schedule short monologue and then just kept on going with his performance.
The applause grew louder and louder and he kept going. Pretty soon, he had beenon fifteen, twenty, then thirty minutes. Finally he took a last bow and left the stage. Backstage someone stopped him and said, “I thought you had to go after a few minutes because of your tight schedule. What happened?” Jimmy answered, “I did have to go,but I can show you the reason I stayed. You can see for yourself if you’ll look down on the front row.” In the front row were two men, each of whom had lost an arm in the war. One had lost his right arm and the other had lost his left. Together, they were able to clap, and that’s exactly what they were doing, loudly and cheerfully!
Thisimpressed and moved Jimmy so much that he stayed longer than he planned. One thing I have learntis that we all have a part to play in reaching out to the vulnerable and orphaned children. Sometimes we feel as if we are not doing much simply because we do not have direct contact with the children or we don’t even know them.
One of my joys at Jukumu Letu is walking through the gate and seeing the children who are always very eager to greet and give smiles, it is unthinkable not to be warmed by those priceless smiles.
We sometimes think that what we give is little, a drop in the ocean and so on but I may be the left hand and you my right hand and together we can clap to a thunderous applause. In Kiswahili we say kidogokidogohujazakibaba, truly if we all played our own little parts, we will make a huge difference in the lives of the children and their families. Do all you must to be part of JukumuLetu team! Each team member needs another team member, as much as is possible.Thank you for being a part of a team that touches lives forever.