Sitting alone on a plane for over a day allows for plenty of time for nerves to build. While confident in my decision to volunteer at the Rift Valley Children’s Village (RVCV) for six months, I found myself unable to focus on any in-flight entertainment and instead began questioning what my future home would be like, if the children would like me, what the language barrier will be and many other little details that would likely impact my stay.
After taking a final left turn onto a winding, bumpy dirt road, my heart began to race. I was finally going to meet the children I had spent the last 5 months wondering about, preparing for. Pulling up to RVCV is an experience unlike any other. After traveling 20 minutes down that bumpy dirt road you arrive at the RVCV round-about where you are smothered with immediate love. Upon stepping out of the car, adorable children are coming at you from every direction wanting things as simple as a hug, or to play with your hair. All of them eager to help carry your bags and hold your hand.
As a 24 year old volunteer, my head was spinning. Who are all of these cute kids? What are their names? Will I ever actually be able to remember them all? Despite all the questions and nerves, I could not have been more excited.
There is a certain energy that exists at RVCV that you feel immediately upon exiting the car. You see all the activities that remind you of childhood – a group of rambunctious boys playing soccer in the field, a group of girls on the swing-set, toddlers on the library steps with tiny toy cars and another bunch sprinting around you in a competitive game of tag.
After being ushered by tiny hands to Manyara House, where I will be living for the next 6 months, I met the girls who were allowing me to come into their home and lives. Rebecca (14), Rehema (13), Teresia (11), Natalie (9), Gracie (7), Paskalina (6), Kizzie (4) and a single baby boy named Raif (1) came sprinting – or waddling in the case of Raif – into the house after me. I was shocked to see that so many girls across such a range of ages all lived together. It was also such a comfort to see their excitement. Given that the kids at RVCV are exposed to so many volunteers coming in and out of their lives, I was nervous about what their initial attitude may have been towards my arrival. I was so pleasantly surprised at their immediate openness and willingness to not only welcome me into their home, but to show me around, help me learn names, tell me where I should be and when. In fact for the first few days I thought, who is really taking care of who here?
Many of the questions I had stressed over on the flight still existed. I still didn’t know many names, I still didn’t know how the language barrier would affect teaching, I still didn’t know the schedule or how meals worked, but I knew that right after I set my bags down in my room I immediately wanted to go back to play with the kids. That is what is so great about the atmosphere here at RVCV, there is just an overwhelming feeling that it will all be OK.