From Kabul to Kenya: A Change is as Good as a Break


Karibu Kenya

“Every Ten Minutes”; said the sign outside Jomo Kenyatta Nairobi Airport, promising a shuttle bus between terminals with – under any standards – impressive frequency.  I began to wait in the pleasant dusky warmth, perched on the edge of the pavement. A group of Kenyan ladies strolled past, their wheely-suitcases fitted firmly on their heads.

“Karibu Kenya”, they announced. It had been a long journey from the dusty heat of Kabul, where I currently work in our Embassy. I visibly relaxed.

Picking my battles

Two hours later and amusingly no shuttle in sight, a kindly man suggested I cut my losses and “assisted me” my bag filled with my familiar Kenyan-school-appropriate-clothing, sleeping bag and mozzie net, to make the walk myself to board my flight to Kisumu.

Shortly (a beautiful Kenyan term allowing the full elasticity of time) I reached Kakamega and was excitedly greeting the smiling embrace of this year’s wonderful Summer Team.

Prioritising central pots ideas

Feeling at home

Tusker in hand (the cider edition – a welcome new addition since my last visit!), Summer Team regaled tales of inspiring project worker school projects, hilarious matutu journeys and collaborative plans to tackle the educational barriers of gaps in teacher training, behavioural management techniques and, new this year, school lunch nutritional deficiencies.

I grinned. It doesn’t take long, I thought. I felt happily contented; fully welcomed back into the EPAfrica fold. Lots to do – two central pilot funds worth of projects on teaching & tech to be delivered by the Summer Team; a Seed Fund to distribute between novel & innovative PW applications, and of course, the fundamental business of best-helping this year’s awesome bunch of smart project workers to really make a difference in their schools. Not a moment to spare and plenty to get involved with.

There aren’t many places you can go and meet a group (some familiar faces, many new!) with whom you immediately bounce into fascinating conversations. Nor is there a project I could get on-board with so fast.

Me at work in a military base writing a press release after a visit of the defence Secretary!

A change is as good as a break

A unique way to spend a holiday, you might query. But, “a change is as good as a break”, I’d quipped back at those who’d questioned my logic of using two weeks away from my oft-times-manic job in Kabul to come and join the EPAfrica Summer Team. Thankfully, the popular proverb proved right.

Away from the chaos of Kabul, waking up to the squawk of cockerels and the whispering breeze brushing through the rainforest trees; planning school visits and strolling down red-dirt tracks on route to village Secondary Schools – I felt at home.

Back in the loop

Two years out of the EPAfri-loop, yet our fundamental help to school retains the essence of what inspired me as a project worker: tailor-made assistance to solve local-level school issues. It engages volunteers and brings out their creativity, adaptability and determination in spades.

Mulling my two weeks – six school visits, two training sessions, innovation funding allocated and summer team interventions underway (spiced up with exhilarating Kenyan dancing in Signature) – I’m returning from Kenya to Kabul.

“That’s a rare journey”, the Emirates rep mused. I smiled. Little did she know how fun and inspiring it’s been too. Thanks to all who’ve made it amazing. For now, kwaheri Kenya. Safari salaama.

Jenny has been involved with EPAfrica since 2009, when she was a project worker. She went back to Kenya many times, as coordinator in 2010 and 2013, and Project Manager in 2012. She then worked on our Goals training, and joined the Management Committee, in charge of the UK Program in 2011. She recently became a member of the EPAfrica Board.