Friday, 9 January 2009

Why Kenya?

I have often been asked why I have such a love for Kenya, and I have to say that it was purely accidental. But then, anyone who visits Kenya will fall in love with the country - and the people.

I have always had an interest in sub-Saharan Africa, so when I was given the opportunity to work in South Africa in 1989, I jumped at it. After it was made obvious that I was no longer welcome there and I returned to the UK, I have always longed to return to "somewhere" in Africa.

Then, a few years ago, I was approached to tidy up, maintain and update the website for Rhino Ark, a conservation charity for the Aberdare Mountains in Kenya. This re-kindled my desire to return to Africa. This job did not offer the opportunity to do so, but at least I was doing something "African".

A little later, for reasons I cannot remember, I was contacted by the director of another Kenyan charity, ACIS, asking if I could provide free or cheap computers for schools in Kenya. I couldn't, but during email conversations, it was agreed that I would build a website for the organisation, of which I later became a director, hence my first visit to Kenya in September 2007.

Before my visit, I was contacted by another organisation, Mercy Gate Champion Children's Home, an orphanage in Kisii. Again, I agreed to build them a website.

I also took it upon myself to help to get ITNs (insecticide treated nets) which had supposedly been supplied by the Kenyan Government, free of charge to all children under five. I made contact with the WHO in Nairobi as well as other organisations set up to fight malaria.

Also, at about this time, I "met" my Kenyan girlfriend - but that for another blog at another time.

So, armed with information, appointments, etc, I set off for Kenya. I stayed for a while in Nairobi with my ACIS colleague, meeting the people at WHO etc, and making arrangements to visit the Mercy Gate home in Kisii.

But I really needed to get over to Malindi, where my girlfriend lives. I spent about two weeks there - again, another blog for another day.

Upon my return to Nairobi, we started to plan an overnight visit to Kisii. We drove there, an experience in itself as we went the long way there (not intentionally), via Nakuru, Kericho and Sotik. It took the best part of a day to get there, but it was worth it just to drive across the Great Rift Valley.

In Kisii, we were well received. I met most of the kids and dished out gifts that had been collected by the people in my village in the UK, and a couple of Frizbees, which were put to very good use!

We returned to Nairobi the following afternoon, by a quicker route, through Bomet and Narok, skirting the Maasai Mara, and after a few more days in Nairobi, I returned home to the UK, promising everyone (especially myself) that I would return as soon as possible.

My next visit was in March 2008, when my immediate love of Kenya was confirmed.

I am now a director of ACIS, and have formed a new NGO, KCIS, with the directors of Mercy Gate home. It has taken over the running of the Mercy Gate home, which was renamed Twiga Children's Home (Twiga is swahili for giraffe).

I also have two businesses in Kisii, an IT consultancy and an export business.

And now I am sitting in the middle of an English winter, just waiting for the opportunity to return once again.

So, that is "Why Kenya?"

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