Alumni Spotlight: Mohammed Al-Shawa

Mohammed Al Shawa is a 21 yrs old Palestinian American living in Dubai, currently studying at the American University of Sharjah. He enjoys volunteering abroad, travelling, and believes in the power of social initiatives to make a change. He volunteered in Kenya between 2-16 Sep 2012.

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Morning: Waking up early in the morning is pretty easy in Kenya. Since there isn't much to do at late night, so you end up going to bed early. I wake up a bit before 7am, a quick hot shower in that chilly weather felt like heaven (yes they have heaters :D). Followed by Mercy (house mother) yelling "Breakfast is readyyyy!". Breakfast was usually boiled eggs with some bananas and chopped pineapple, we used to buy some peanut butter and jam from the neighbouring supermarket. Just make sure you don't miss the tea, because when there is too many volunteers the pot goes empty real quick. I also had the chance to learn some German because the german volunteers used to speak their mother tongue on meals. After that, I leave to St. Peters elementary school that's a 15 min walk with the other teaching volunteer, Debbie. By 11am you and the other school kids will get a cup of hot porridge to help you warm up.

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Afternoon: At 1pm we take the lunch break and that's when you get introduced to the traditional Kenyan food, Ogali usually. Some people don't get used to it quickly because it tastes dull, But with a salty side of cabbage and beans it turns delicious. During classes you are expected to help teaching and grading homeworks and exams. You are most welcome to teach the students some of your mother language and believe me, the enjoy it! Just for your info, everyone in kenya speaks English, Swahili, in addition to their tribal language. So communicating with the students or the other teachers wouldn't be a problem. The school day finishes at around 3pm, that's when we walk back home stopping by the supermarket to get some snacks for the night. Or even take shuttle 105 (city hoppa) to Nairobi to have some junk food.

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Evening: We were staying in Kikuyu, a town next to Nairobi, that didn't have much of street lights, not even streets. So going out walking at night isn't a good idea, not alone anyway. We used to spend the time waiting for dinner checking our emails and Facebooks (they have pretty good and cheap internet data packages in Kenya). Dinner is served at 7:30 pm and it was a different traditional dish almost every night. After dinner I had the chance to socialize with the other volunteers asking them about their days, especially the doctors and nurses they used to have some crazy stories to tell. If it was a weekend or if we felt active, we would skip dinner and go out to have dinner somewhere else like "Carnivore" the exotic meat place, or the Fancy bar "Mercury". After such a long day, I ended up falling asleep in no time.

Highlights: They highlight of my volunteering experience was my last day when I gave my students their gifts and suddenly everyone was crying and asking why I had to leave! Then the headmaster invited us for lunch at his place where we had the chance to see his farm.

The highlights of my overall experience was the Safari trip that I joined during my first weekend there. Although the vehicle wasn't that good and kept on getting stick in the mud, the experience was AWESOME overall but don't forget your binoculars. Also the fact that I tried OX BALLS at carnivore along with crocodile and ostrich meats was just crazy!