After what had seemed like a period of “wading through treacle” to organise all the relevant paperwork now required to travel to Kenya, we managed to successfully and painlessly board our flight at Heathrow and had a smooth uneventful flight over to Nairobi. At this point, things also seemed straight forward with us simply having to show our proof of PCR negative result, have our temperature checked and our E.visas checked again. After a bit of a wait for our baggage, we finally moved to the Customs section where a couple of our bags were selected for scanning. From these, 2 were pulled to be opened up. Both were full of donations; the first with Norwich City and England kit, and the second with school uniforms from Thurston primary school.
We were told that we needed to put a value on these and we should have arranged to pay tax on them, which of course is the first we have ever heard of this as we have never done so in the past. Ray volunteered to simply leave the donations with them and walk away with his bags, and after some haggling – during which time I had scuttled off outside (before they wanted mine opened up as well) and was praying hard for a positive outcome – he emerged with both bags and contents, having received a reprimand!
A very steady journey over to Nakuru in wonderful sunshine followed. The incredible construction work for the new road out of Nairobi being one of the stand out features as it meant that so much of what we are familiar with from previous trips had gone. Chinese investment has meant that this amazing structure has been put in place in just over 1 year and will be opened by mid 2022. Jeremy was a very good driver with whom we both felt safe and managed to catch up a little much needed sleep.
On arrival at Top Cliff, our rooms were ready for us and we were greeted with a very warm welcome.
After a quick doze, a bite to eat and then unpacking of our own initial bits, we waited the arrival of Kim and co. First to arrive were Kim and David. It was soooo wonderful to see them both. I was literally lifted off my feet and swung round by David and Ray enveloped in hugs by Kim before the swap round and we pulled up our chairs for a catch up on all the news. A short while later Joyce and young Maverick joined us – what a little cutie he is and not at all frightened by our white faces.
After a chat about how things have been over the past 2 years and the impact of Covid on us all, the skies darkened and it looked as if rain was going to set in, so they headed off back down to their homes. The initial impression is that they are exhausted (particularly Kim) as he juggles life as a parent of a young toddler with all the other demands of life. David has beaten up again on his way to serve breakfast and had his glasses smashed and phone stolen. His glasses are crucial in stopping him have headaches which he had been suffering from for some time.
Ray and I then caught up with some sleep before dinner. There have been major changes to the hotel in our absence with a new lounge area and an extension to the dining room as work in progress. This is due to the need to have tables socially distanced in restaurants. Mr William,the hotel owner greeted us like long lost family and bought us a drink. He had Covid earlier in the year and has spent 11 days in hospital on oxygen, and said he still struggles climbing stairs.
After breakfast on the socially distanced terrace we walked down to the slum wearing our masks which are mandatory over here, crossing over to the newly installed tarmac pavement alongside the edge of the slum and free area. The guys had already been in the office since 4am preparing and serving breakfast to the children before they headed off to school. It means a really long day for them with such an early start.
The office was in really good shape, clean and tidy and with everything having a place of its own. 2 burner stove for breakfasts, pots and bowls stored underneath, a table that is turned round to serve as the counter and to prevent the Children accessing the rest of the office. Then there are still the sewing machines which were put to good use during Covid in making masks rather than sanitary towels, and finally a corner full of soap making equipment.
The store just round the corner was virtually empty apart from the bikes, and they really were desperate for supplies, of which we had brought as many as physically possible. After a time of reflection together, David went off to clean some water filters (of which we now have about 127 out in the community), whilst Ray and Kim had a meeting in the office. That left Joyce and myself with young Maverick to have a good catch up about all that they have been doing and, in particular, the soap making project.
This has been set up by a team called Enactus from Exeter University that Ben knows and on a Friday morning Joyce has a zoom meeting with them for them to talk her through the steps required to make soap. The goal being that they will be able to make this on a commercial basis and some of the women would be able to be financially independent.
They make two types of soap – hard and soft. The hard soap is what they use to do their washing with. You have to remember they don’t have washing machines and they still wash in a big bowl outside with hard soap. Soft soap is what they use for their bodies.
Further discussions with Joyce and David revealed just how much the cost of living has gone up over here over the past two years. A tuctuc into town would have cost just 20ksh but now is 40ksh. Sugar has gone up by 75% and Kenyans love sugar!
Meanwhile Ray was having a really useful and detailed discussion with Kim about just how Covid has impacted on them all and the work that they do and which we support from UK. Much has changed but the fundamentals of serving the community right where they are remain exactly the same. On the way back up to the hotel, we bumped into Mrs Linnet and baby Raymond who is now 2 years and 7 months old, she is a sweet little thing.