Alumni Spotlight: Chris Orchin


Why did you choose this program?

My first trip whetted my appetite for both voluntary work and Kenya in particular. Working with youngsters in a school and sharing my knowledge while focusing on the curriculum I found very rewarding. This time there was an added element of working not just for the Queenstar school but also in contributing to the work of the Community Organisation, which seeks to support all members of that local community.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Projects Abroad made all the necessary arrangements, except booking my flight, as I was able to use some air miles. They met me at the airport and took me to my hotel. Thereafter I went with one of their staff by matutu to the town of Nanyuki where I was reunited with my original 'house mum' and was reunited with all the staff. Transport from home to school was arranged to and from by taxi (again, I knew the person from previously).

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Perhaps it is not to over pack with things to take out with you to Kenya, particularly gifts for the school (or other place) where you are working. In Nanyuki, there are supermarkets and even specialist shops which will supply your needs.

The other piece of advice is to be careful where you take photographs. I arrived at a particularly sensitive time after the terrorist attack in Nairobi. Public buildings are out.

One further bit of advice: do not take large sums of money out with you; there are ATM's everywhere (well, perhaps not everywhere, but you know what I mean).

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

As a teacher, you will work a five day week mirroring the local situation. If you go on any programme, then while you are still likely to work five days the hours are flexible.

After working hours, there was always an opportunity to meet up with other volunteers and share your experiences. This extended to trips being arranged at weekends to other areas in the region. Weekend Safari's are a regular feature and give you the opportunity to see the television version of Kenya.

Other than that, I spent time at weekends in Nanyuki or walking the road towards the nearest township.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I can say that I had no real fears about going. On this occasion, there was, as I have already mentioned, the remaining impact of terrorist attack. This was handled well, particularly when the town was specifically named as a target area. The staff were very good in that there was a special meeting of all volunteers where advice and choices were given. My personal view was that the risks were so small I was not going to let that threat get in my way of enjoying the town. I also continued with my country walks as the risks there I deemed to be even less.

Any last thoughts?

Doing work abroad is so worthwhile. It brings new perspective to your own life at home and makes you appreciate what you have compared with those you are involved with.

During my trip(s), I have always been impressed by the friendliness of the people of Kenya and that had led into interesting conversations about life. Perhaps more so given my age.

Kenya is a beautiful place and well worth a visit. Nanyuki is perhaps different from many locations given its altitude (one of the highest town in Africa). [I was told that the altitude had affected a few volunteers in the past but I was not. It was good to walk in the clear air]