Reflections on my time in Kisii, what I’ve learnt and top tips for future Project Workers

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So with week 8 completed and with the prospect of home on the horizon, PW’s across the board have been very busy with wrapping up their projects, completing paperwork and ensuring the memorandum of understanding is signed of with the school. With just one week left before we leave back to the UK, I thought I would write down a few things that I have learnt during my time here.

1. The work we do in the schools is so valuable.

At times it can be stressful, but the past few weeks working in the schools, seeing the projects we have funded coming to fruition and the looks on staff and students faces alike makes it all worthwhile.

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2. The skills I have learnt and developed in my time here will equip me when I begin my career.

I came to Kenya with very little project management experience but will leave having overseen huge infrastructure projects in a foreign country!

3. The Kenyan people are incredibly friendly.

Having lived and studied in London for the past 5 years, it is very rare that I even make eye-contact with another person let alone speak to them! However, here in Kenya, everyone wants to help and is interested in why you are here. The attention can get tiring, but there are places to go if you need a break from everything.

4. Sustainability.

One of the words that you will here over and over again at EPAfrica, yet so vital in ensuring our projects continue after we leave. I came to Kenya with a basic understanding of the term and what it means, but was perhaps naïve to think that all the projects we have completed will definitely be continued after we have left. It is no good putting in a massive water collection system and thinking that is enough. You have to work with the schools to come up with a cleaning rota of tanks and gutters, leave them with contacts of who can help should it break and work out how financially the school can sustain it. There are so many things to consider in making a project sustainable but these are the issues that help develop our personal skills that will be so useful for personal development. IMG_4456

5. It can be a culture shock when first coming to Kenya, but you will soon get used to it.

From having 20 people squeezed in a matatu that should only sit 12, to attempting to cross the roads with cars and bikes seemingly coming from every direction, this soon will become second nature, to the point where I am worried when I attempt to drive back in the UK!
At times it can be stressful, but the past few weeks working in the schools, seeing the projects we have funded coming to fruition and the looks on staff and students faces alike makes it all worthwhile.

These are just some of the many things I have learnt during my time here in Kisii. I am sure each PW will have taken something different from their time in Kenya or Uganda that will help with their personal development.

Before I finish, I will also give my top 3 survival tips for future PW’s to consider:

1.  Explore where you are staying whether back at central house or in your rural school community.

It is good to get a feel for the place and it helps to get to know the local area. If you are based in Kisii, there are a few great places to eat (although service is on Kenyan time, so order early!) and a few nice cafes’ with WIFI that make a good base to complete paperwork!IMG_2515

2. All the PW’s are going through the same experience, same high’s and lows, so be a team player.

There will be times that you will have to help other PW’s, but there will also be times you are leaning on them for support! You also spend an intense period of time with these people, so get to know each other quickly for maximum comfort!

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3. ENJOY YOURSELF!

The project work, whilst rewarding, can be tough and stressful at times. Work hard during the week, but make sure you give yourself a chance to relax and unwind, don’t try and be a hero! 10 weeks is a long time so you have to look after yourself! If you are Kisii bound, there is a swimming pools, café’s and even midweek karaoke if that is your tipple.

On a final note it is with great sadness that we lose Calum this week as he flies home a week early to, as he puts it, ‘sort his life out’. Calum has been a massive character in the group and we are certainly missing his presence here in Kisii. If they were going to give out Olympic medals for humour and entertainment, then Calum would definitely get a Silver. No prizes for guessing who I think is first….

Jordan Record has just graduated from Goldsmiths University in Social Work and will begin his career as a social worker at Southwark Youth Offending service once he returns from Kenya. He is a Project Worker (Summer 2016) in Marongo School, Kisii.