Helping Kenya slum families ‘rewarding’

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A former Dunstan High School head girl has returned from a three-week trip to Kenya as part of an international aid programme.
Maddie Dykes, who is now studying at the University of Otago, was based in Mlolongo, about 20km from the capital Nairobi, and was volunteering for Positive Life Kenya.
Most of her days were spent supporting families living in slums.
Many of the women had HIV or needed support in caring for their children, she said.
‘‘It was hard work but it was also very rewarding.
‘‘We would go out to homes and some of the slums around the town I was living in and we’d visit the women and their families.
‘‘Some of the women would have HIV, so part of it was providing them with support, and then some of the families were mothers with no partner, so they found it quite hard to get the kids fed and get them to school.
‘‘They’re living in the slums. If they want to eat for the day, they have to go out and work.
‘‘Another thing we would do is identify children that might need sponsorship or some help getting them to school, because they need help with school fees and things.’’
It was her first time to visit Africa and she found the experience eye-opening.
‘‘One lady that we went to visit, she had eight children and her husband had just left her.
‘‘Her youngest was an 8-month-old, so she was in that situation where in order to feed that family, she had to go out and work for the day.
‘‘But when you have an 8-month-old, you have to take them with you, or you don’t go out.
‘‘When we went to visit her they asked ‘what have you eaten today?’ All that the whole family had had was a pot that made up some black tea.
‘‘That’s just the day-to-day struggle.’’
The lack of funding for infrastructure such as roading was apparent, she said.
‘‘The Government just doesn’t provide the help, or the job security or anything like that.
‘‘It just makes you see how a lot of people are living.
‘‘And that’s the thing — it’s not just a few people. There are actually heaps of people in the world who are living like that.
‘‘We sort of take for granted what we have.’’
But the experience also exposed her to Kenyans who had volunteered with the organisation long term. It was inspiring to meet people who dedicated their lives to helping others, she sad.
‘‘Meeting those people — that’s their life, helping out other people.
‘‘They’ve got such a lovely attitude — that was definitely inspiring.
‘‘It also makes you realise that if you have the chance to give money to the right organisations, it can actually make such a huge difference.
‘‘For us, getting your $4 coffee everyday is nothing, but four New Zealand dollars over there would probably feed a family for a week.’’
Before her trip, Ms Dykes held fundraisers throughout Otago, including a movie screening in Alexandra. She said the community support had made a real difference and she wanted to thank everyone who donated money or raffle prizes.
‘‘I went over there with about $1250 to spend and with that we were able to finish off a daycare centre.
Some of the money went towards getting the daycare centre ‘‘up and going, and we also with that money were able to get eight new beds at one of the schools they run’’.
‘‘That means they get eight more kids out of the slums to go to school.
‘‘It was really cool to see how it was changing lives.
‘‘That was probably one of the most rewarding experiences.’’