February 11-17 2013, marks the duration where I got the best experience in my current stay in Kenya. Being a volunteer in the Community Outreach Programme (COP) office, my adaptation to life in Kenya, as compared to my home country of Uruguay, reached its peak during this experience. A team of 19 COP members was set to go to Chebarus, a town near Kitale in Trans Nzoia County, to offer their service as free labour in the building of a local church. The boys were all psyched up about having a week off, away from school, away from home, making new friends and helping the community.
When day two came to life, we were all enthusiastic about the task ahead. The previously incomplete structure of the church, having been started with the help of Strathmore students in 2011, was already finished but for the floor and furnishing. We were meant to cement the entire church's huge floor in 4 days. Honestly, the task seemed impossible.
Sand, ballast, cement, water, wheelbarrows and spades became our best friends for the rest of the week. The progress was slow but steady, and, by the end of the day, it was motivating to see a small portion of the floor done. After the day's work, our muscles were sore due to the tiresome manual work we had put them through. Regardless, we were all set for the challenge.
Halfway through the week, energy levels started to falter and it seemed impossible to finish the task at hand. All of us got to appreciate the work done by masons and casual workers in the construction industry.
On the last scheduled day of work, Friday, we were lucky to get help from people in the area. Even the local priest helped in transporting the cement using his truck, saving us the much needed energy reserves for the actual job. With the extra help, we began at 8am, with a short uji ‘porridge break in the morning and lunch in the late afternoon; we managed to finish at 5pm what was a monumental feat.
Other than an avalanche of gratitude being showered upon us, it was humbling to see the joy from the faithful of the community.
After plenty of rest, we woke up on Saturday and toured the Kitale Nature Conservancy center. Later in the day, town elders came by to express their gratitude. Mr Muturi (our host) was also very grateful, inviting us all again to attend the church inauguration.
My sincere gratitude goes to the Muturi family for warmly hosting us during our stay and to Strathmore Community Outreach Programme for making this possible.
Article by COP Volunteer - Julian Barquin