Amelia Southgate currently works for Civil Service Fast Stream in the Finance region. Before she entered the workforce, she volunteered at Nyumbani Village during the summer of 2014. She chronicled her service and adventures on her WordPress blog, “Counting my lucky stars.” To commemorate the fifth anniversary of both her volunteer efforts and the blog, we spoke to her recently via email and a phone call to find out some of her more cherished recollections. We also learned what she believes are the lasting impacts made on both herself and the children she spent around six weeks working with and educating.
Amelia’s introduction to Nyumbani came from her family, especially her father. One of his coworkers was involved with the charity, and since the age of fifteen or sixteen she became intrigued by the glowing reviews of Nyumbani from various charity dinners he had attended. “I always knew it was something I wanted to do as soon as I was old enough to volunteer there,” Amelia said. This chance happened when she was twenty-one, and she jumped at the chance to have a hands-on impact in this charity that had attracted her interest during her teenage years. Despite her enthusiasm, some issues still prevented embracing the opportunity fully. “I was very nervous leading up to my departure and apprehensive about whether I would enjoy my time in the village and feel safe,” Amelia added. This unrest mainly stemmed from the 2014 Mpeketoni terrorist attacks, in which upwards of sixty people were killed in Kenya mere months before her departure.
Adjusting to a radically different culture and country proved to be somewhat difficult for Amelia. The food was the main issue for her picky eating, but other factors like adjusting to a slower pace of life and lack of organisation took some getting used to. However, some Kenyan traditions did resonate for her. “I loved the Kenyan dancing, which we got to see lots of in the Village,” Amelia said. “I also adored the birthday cake which some of the children made for me while I was in the village, which consisted mainly of deep fried breadcrumbs and ants!”
Once she got to Kenya, Amelia decided to begin her blog mainly as a way to keep her friends and family in touch and let them know she was safe during her time in Kenya. She posted the updates from either her brick phone or the Wifi supplied in the guesthouse.“I thought it would also give me a really nice record to look back on when I returned,” Amelia added. Of the many posts that help capture Amelia’s volunteering five years ago, one of her favourites is “Public Speaking final.” She says that this post captures many of the core elements that defined her time at Nyumbani Village. The fact that the speeches were done so well in a relatively short time under her guidance and the passion with which they were delivered floored Amelia.
An excerpt from a speech titled “What Nyumbani Village Means to me” is an example of the power and emotion behind the addresses: “We, as Nyumbani children, say because of Nyumbani village we can become better people. We can feel love in a family. We can make it in life.” The simplicity and power behind these words show what can be accomplished if children are given a chance to make something of themselves through programs such as Nyumbani.
Looking back on her volunteering experience, Amelia feels that this time has changed her life for the better. “I always look back on my time in the Village with the fondest of memories and re-read my blog regularly to remind myself what an amazing time I had,” she said.
This reflection on her time spent with Nyumbani Village has also led her to advocate considering this opportunity to others. “I don’t regret it for one second and I loved every minute,” Amelia added. “You can’t understand the Village until you are there.”
This span of six weeks five years ago proved to have an undeniable impact on both Amelia and the children she worked with, and shows the power that Nyumbani Village can have.