7 reasons to consider bringing your teenager(s) to build houses in Kenya
Teenagers can do amazing things – too often we are critical of young people, but I was really proud to see my 17-year-old son Aidan and his 18-year-old friend Fennick help build houses for those in great need. The youngest member of our group was a 16-year-old Australian girl and the teenagers easily coped with working on site (and some might argue were better than the older folk around them!). In particular, seeing them learn new skills, working in tandem with Kenyan teenagers (some of whom were helping build their new family homes), was heart-warming.
Life is short and they won’t be young for long – there will be few chances in life to share experiences like this with them. Whether it is walking around a slum in Nairobi with a local Scout leader and youth workers or visiting families in great poverty who they then build a house for, or witnessing the Masai Mara, the trip will shape their outlook on life.
Bringing a friend with them really helps – let’s be frank, teenagers don’t want to be around their parents all the time. And this is really good for them. Really. On our trip the 2 boys shared a room, and in the various building squads on site worked independently of each other and me. If we want our teenagers to become independent adults, we need to trust them and learn life lessons themselves.
There is a lot of pre-trip organising needed and you will end up doing most of this – while reasonably straightforward to do, with advice from GEF, you will still have plenty of jobs e.g. multiple vaccinations, malaria prophylaxis, holiday insurance (covering work on a building site), signing up for an electronic visa, buying all the tools and kit required, connecting flights, and importantly raising additional charitable funding after paying for your own flights and accommodation. If you have a teenager who will organise this then terrific. Just saying.
Young people in the group liven things up – Our group of 30 was hugely diverse, and all the better for that. We had individuals from all walks of life, and the interaction (and resulting pranks) were great fun (note to self, always check your mosquito repellent spray to ensure the contents have not been tampered with and replaced with Tuskers beer). Apparently, mosquitos like it. A lot.
You still need to keep a (distant) eye on them – Always collect your teenager’s passports back when you get off the plane (getting a replacement passport from Nairobi High Commission is not to be recommended, enough said and a big thank you to Gideon for helping us out)…
Go with your heart – there are plenty of alternative ways to spend 2-3 weeks of your annual leave in more comfortable surroundings. But what good will you have done for others, and will you actually remember much of that package holiday in years to come? If we really want our young people to do good in the world then perhaps, we should set an example. So, bring them along 🙂
Owen Dempsey from Aberdeen, July 2018 building project
“I heard about GEF just two months before I was supposed to come visit Kenya for running vacation, and right after hearing about the project I decided to sign to it.
Half a year later I am happy to say that I am feeling lucky to have experienced the amazing time there and to be an important part of such a life changing project. I think that there is no better way to know the country and the Kenyan culture than volunteering and seeing the problems people have to face with your own eyes. The most special think about the house building trip is the understanding that change has been immediately done, life’s has been changed in just two weeks and that the houses are going to stand there for a long time. I really recommend every person who wants to truly feel something different to go there, no matter of what is age his, where he comes from or what language does he speak.”
Asaf from Israel, July 2018 building project
“Being 17 at the time I was a bit sceptical on what I was going to be doing. On arrival I was welcomed by Myles and got a instant sense of belonging almost like Iv been there for months, when I finally got to meet everyone we all had a instant connection as we all came to Kenya for the same reason. Getting to meet all the family’s and see the conditions they where living in really gave me a boost and made me want too help as much as possible in the building.
Each day everyone would get closer and closer during the 2 weeks I was in Kenya, almost like we where a family. The highlights of the trip for me where seeing the family’s open the door of their brand new house and to see their faces just burst with joy, there’s not a better feeling in the world.
Being 17 and travelling with one of my friends I think we where looked as the babies of the group so where always looked after, but this didn’t stop us playing pranks on some of the older guys showing them who’s really the boss.
I would recommend the Gathimba Edwards foundation to anyone no matter your age or capability as you are always welcomed by the locals and the volunteers. I couldn’t of asked for a better experience it was a experience of a lifetime and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Fennick Deans, 17, July 2018 building project
“Its hard to articulate in words how incredible and truly life changing my trips to Kenya have been. I have completed 3 building trips with GEF, with the aim of building homes and building hope. For me the aim of going on my first trip in 2015 was to help make a difference to children and their families and honestly those families, the local people and culture in Kenya has made an everlasting change to my life. I feel so fortunate to be part of the GEF family and to have made so many special friends along the way.
Everything from the moment you go to a GEF information evening, to landing in Kenya, first day on the building site to the last day of the trip when you have to say your goodbyes is so well planned out and the GEF team do their upmost to ensure every guest has the most amazing time.
My advice if you’re interested in one of the trips is go for it! I had never taken part in any means of DIY and there I was laying channels of bricks, mixing cement, chapping trusses together, fitting windows, sawing timber and of course cutting and fitting iron sheet. And every day with the other volunteers is full of laughter and don’t get me wrong there can be challenges along the way…like running out of timber but the team pull together and ensure the job is done to a high standard on time!
Never let any fears stop you taking that big step into the unfamiliar, it might just be the best thing you ever do. Kenya and the people I have met there are forever in my heart and I can’t wait to go back again!”
Nicola Henderson, building projects 2015, 2017, 2018
“I feel very privileged to have completed my second building trip with The Gathimba Edwards Foundation. Here’s why…..
I was in Kenya helping to build 4 houses with GEF for families in need, one of which was for my sponsor child, Dan and his family. Dan’s Home was dedicated to the memory of my school pal, Cheryl McQue. I had the opportunity to hang out with Dan and meet his lovely family. I saw with my own eyes where he had been living. No one should have to endure such conditions. The build did not come a moment too soon. I will always remember Dan’s wide smile when he entered his new house for the first time. 😃😃😃
I have got buckets loads more out of GEF than I’ve ever put in. I honestly feel so grateful, and can’t thank you enough.”🧡
Caroline Tough, building projects, 2017 and 2018
I just came across this letter, while clearing out old emails – received from a dear Canadian friend back in 2015, just as I was about to set off for my first house-building trip to Kenya…
‘Can hardly believe you will be off in a week’s time, making new friends, building and learning about
a whole new culture. The project sounds so worth-while, Joanna; you know already it will make a
difference in lives and in opportunities for a whole community – pretty heavy stuff. That’s what you
call a major “passing it forward”. What a great way to illustrate to young people the kindness that
Myles had come to my workplace earlier in the year & used his magical powers – talking about his experiences in Kenya after meeting Gideon at the opening of the Sport Village, forming a deep friendship & feeling a desire to make a difference. I could not resist signing up to go! I wanted to walk along the road built & named for his friend Neil (also a colleague of mine), see what lay beyond & help with the building project at the Pavilion Village Children’s Home.
I met so many fantastic people on that trip & had a such a lot of fun – so much so, I signed up to go back in 2016 as well! Met up with lots of old buddies & made some new ones!
For anyone contemplating joining any of the GEF trips – just do it – you’ll never, ever regret it.
And re-reading that special letter from Canada has brought all the happy memories flooding back!
Joanna Robertson, building projects, 2015 and 2016
“Late 2014, my wife Ali encouraged me along last minute to a talk that Myles Edwards was doing on Kenya.
I had limited background info, so I turned up quite uninformed. Within 10 minutes Myles had said and shared enough about Kenya to convince me to travel with him and the ‘Kenya 22’ crew to Kenya to see for myself the amazing things that the Gathimba Edwards Foundation were doing there.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how much Kenya would impact me individually and my life in general. By the time the Kenya trip came round in March 2015, I had been redundant for 2 months and the job front was quite bleak.
The Kenyan people however helped to show me that their are more important priorities in life. Their attitude and spirit for life, reset my own life priorities and perspective, in a positive and permanent way.
Their simplistic approach to life revolves around the need for shelter, food, education and basically everything many of us in the Scotland take for granted.
I was moved to tears on several occasions at the desperate situations that Kenyan children face on a day to day basis. We met one girl, Naomi, who although an older child, was an orphan fending for herself, living in effectively a non weather-proofed shed while trying to remain in education. Although she had very little to show us round, she was still happy for the group to visit her. I stood back from the group as they wandered around Naomi’s shed and took it all in. It was that moment while standing in the Kenyan dirt staring at the sparseness of Naomi’s living conditions that I decided I needed to help. When no one else was looking, I whispered in Naomi’s ear that we would look after her, she gave me a humble acknowledgement and smiled back.
Naomi is now in full time education, supported by the Foundation, she will hopefully have a new home built this year, we now also support her in terms of food and clothing and she even has a mobile phone.
I chat to Naomi on WhatsApp on a weekly basis sharing updates on my life and my family, while reading about Naomi and her schooling.
Kenya has changed my life, it has given me a reminder of what really matters in life and I encourage everyone and anyone to grab the opportunity to visit this beautiful country and its amazing people.”
Craig Mathers & family, Kenya 22 guests, 2015 and 2016
My 22 thoughts and highlights of Kenya 22 trip April 2018
1. Humbling – hearing the stories of families we visited
2. Lots of smiles – from the children and adults
3. Every day was different
4. Wonderful hospitality from the families we visited
5. Expect the unexpected – a burst tyre en route to church
6. Resilience – how people we met make the most of what they have
7. Teaching – interaction with the children at the school
8. Insight into how the charity is run and feeling part of it.
9. Challenging – walk up Mt. Kenya in the rain
10. Cheerful Children’s Home – listening to the children enthusiastically singing
11. Church service – a lengthy event where we were the VIPs!
12. Kerio View Hotel – panoramic views and relaxing evening
13. Bumpy rides -in jeeps to isolated homes in the mountains
14. Swimming – the Pavilion children squealing with excitement in an outdoor pool
15. Stuck in the mud in a packed matatu and having to walk through a river of mud!
16. Wet – lots of rain during Camp for Pavillion children
17. Food – I gave ugali a miss!
18. Running – an opportunity to run alongside Kenyan athletes
19. Appreciation from the people we met – simple act of giving a small bouncy ball to a child
20. Kibera – meeting the football team
21. Sightseeing in Nairobi – orphaned elephants and giraffes.
22. Fab trip – highly recommend
Lorna Bell, Kenya 22 guest 2018