On Monday, the 4th of July we set out on a long-awaited journey to Laikipia County for a work camp organized by Habitat for Humanity in collaboration with Strathmore University Community Service Centre. The one-week program would see 23 volunteers from across several institutions including Eastlands College, Jomo Kenyatta University and Strathmore University build a house in for Elizabeth Angela, a mother of 2.
The first day of the program saw us depart from Nairobi to Nanyuki where we visited the Habitat for Humanity regional office for an orientation and then proceeded to Mukima Secondary School, which accommodated us during our entire stay. That evening, we had the privilege of sharing a sumptuous meal with Kelvin Koome, a postgraduate student of Strathmore University who hosted us at their residence. In the following three days (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), we engaged in high-intensity construction work at the site, from laying the concrete ground slab to setting up the walls up to the roof level.
Unity and Diversity
The volunteers consisted of a diverse team of students and young professionals from various fields of study including civil engineering, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, agriculture, pharmacy, education and actuarial science. Together we formed a formidable team, which cooperated with ease in this noble task. Everyone knew what was expected of them from the beginning. We all poured our hearts selflessly into the work. From carrying cement, sand, ballast, bricks, water and mixing mortar and concrete, to setting up the slab and walls, the cooperation and self-drive of each individual were admirable. We got to learn a thing or two in the process as well.
This program was a pioneer program from different angles. It was the first Habitat for Humanity project that engaged volunteers from Kenya since the majority of their past volunteers came from abroad. It was also the first time for Habitat for Humanity to partner with Strathmore University for a project of any sort. For many of us volunteers, this was the first time participating in a work camp of this nature. For some of us, it was the first time in a construction site of any kind. As expected, we were psyched up for the task that was ahead of us.
Fun and Games
As expected, it was never going to be all work with no play. From the first day, we teased each other with world-class jokes making sure that the mood was always jovial. Even after a busy day at the site, we had, surprisingly, some energy reserves for soccer matches in the evening before having a cold shower. A fierce rivalry, friendly at the same time, ensued between the teams, and this would act as fuel for teasing and endless debates on which side was better than the other. What a wonderful experience we had visiting William Holden animal orphanage and Kariunga Greens after work! After dinner, we would have a small, lively get-together, in which we got to know each other better. We would also play some board games such as Jenga and Kenya@50.
Each day would begin with us attending mass either at St. Mary’s Mother of God Mukima Church of Christ the King church, Nanyuki Parish. As we returned to Mukima Secondary School in the evening, despite being tired after a long day of work, we would recite the holy rosary during the commute. At exactly 12 pm, we would briefly pause our work to recite the Angelus. Fr. Charles Mundia, the Chaplain of Strathmore University joined us at the site on Wednesday and besides assisting in the build, he offered a moving blessing prayer for the house, the family as well as the builders.
The project may have run for only a week, but its impact was visible instantaneously. The feedback and compliments we got from the villagers was encouraging. One could clearly see that they truly appreciated our enthusiasm. Elizabeth, the beneficiary, was at the site throughout the build and she could not contain her smile as she watched us work. Our hearts were not left untouched by this experience. Working there, our hearts melted with every sweat we dropped, we got tired and enjoyed every bit of it. As we returned to Nairobi, we returned with bigger hearts, happy to have had an impact on the life of a person who was in need. We have also been impacted by the entire experience. We created solid friendships and got to see how much joy can be cultivated when youthful minds, spirit and energy are united for a noble cause. We are inspired to be the salt of our world.