The question I received the most since I arrived in Thika is “Karibu Kenya, how do you like Kenya?” These are the most genuinely caring and hospitable people. Everyone at AfCiC has made a special effort to welcome and include me as well as care for me. Assimilating into local culture has been easier than I anticipated and I now even have a Kikuyu nickname: Njoroge! When I was ill a month or so into my stay, a host of my colleagues came to cook for me, cheer me up, and generally make sure I was well. This sense of community is central to AfCiC’s efforts to protect, educate, rehabilitate, and empower acutely vulnerable children here in Thika.
Some things took a while to get used to. For example, not having a dishwasher or washing machine/dryer made me realize just how spoiled I was back in the States. Internet may be a little slower and less reliable than you’re used to, but you can purchase an affordable and decent internet dongle from Safaricom or Orange, both a short walk from the volunteer house (which is located near the office, grocery stores, and various eateries). If staying more than two months, I would recommend Orange, which will save you money in the long run. The observant will notice that there is not a single stop light in Thika and seatbelts are for decoration, but the AfCiC drivers are safe and I tend to avoid car travel here in favor of walking anyway. Traditional foods like githeri, sukuma wiki, and ugali are great ways to connect with an important pillar of local culture.
From a professional perspective, AfCiC has offered me great opportunity for learning and growth by including me in important projects on a meaningful level. For example, during my first month volunteering, I was allowed and encouraged to take point on our data analysis for the midterm evaluation of our school feeding program, which feeds over 1200 children in Thika daily, incentivizes them to pursue a quality education, and protects them from brutal life on the streets. Our data suggests that this program alone saves over 400 children from a life of forced labor or street begging every day. Our team published a 43-page report, which we then presented to county government officials, a special and humbling experience. Being a part of this wonderful work has been illuminating.
Beyond AfCiC, Thika offers tremendous beauty with the verdant Kilimambogo Mountain, inspiring Fourteen Falls, and exquisite wildlife sanctuaries, all only a short matatu ride away. Having visited all of these wonderful places, I can safely say they are must-see attractions if friends or family visit during your stay or you just want a little adventure.
Ultimately, I’m incredibly grateful to be here in Thika, surrounded by so many dedicated and warm people, having the ability to work towards such a meaningful cause, and I will be sad to say goodbye when the day comes to return home. AfCiC, keep molding the future, one child’s life at a time!
– Donovan McNiff (M&E Assistant)