Written by CorpsAfrica/Kenya Volunteer Mr. Samuel Kibebe
As it’s known to many, the Christmas festivities are moments when people put down their tools of work and join their families or go for holidays. Here in Kenya, the most common practice is going upcountry to celebrate the joyous moments with families and friends. They are moments of bonding and reigniting the fire of family, love, and unity. This makes everybody look forward to these festivities. 2022 has been a different year for me as the December holiday has found me in a land away from home; in a small village called Kyekaili in Machakos County. Working as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer, these are among the most important times for integration and learning so we don’t go for the holidays. And true to that, as Christmas day approached, more invites from the community members came. They wanted me to join them either in their churches or their homes for celebrations.
At first, as the days were approaching, I found myself in a moment of mixed feelings – One minute I was happily serving humanity, and the next minute my thoughts shifted to missing seeing my mom. This was made worse when I received calls from my brothers telling me that they were planning to travel home and wanted me to give a date on which I would also join them. Telling them that it was not possible and explaining why was the hard part for me. Well, I managed to convince them and this gave me a little bit of relief. Unfortunately, this relief was not to last for long. On the eve of Christmas, I decided to call my mom and wish her a merry Christmas. It was a call that almost broke me up. My mother expected to see her son and here I was telling her “Sorry mom, I won’t make it home this holiday”. This I believe tested my readiness to serve for the coming 10 months or so.
On the same Christmas Eve, I decided to go to a vigil mass at a nearby Catholic church. This time around, I not just to integrate with the members, but also to thank God for the graces and blessings I had received all year round – and joining CorpsAfrica was among the greatest of the blessings. The moment at the church was refreshing and at that point, my strength to serve was renewed. As I went home, I felt more ready for the task ahead. This is what I needed that night.
Arriving at my host place, the house was full – her relatives had arrived from the city for Christmas. And there came a moment of interaction and sharing. At first, they wanted to know about CorpsAfrica and what it is all about. Well, CorpsAfrica had already become my identity, and at the tips of my fingers was all anybody would ask about it. Thanks to our Chief Training Officer, Garrett Mason, I learned the great skill of responding first with a smile. I believe this made it easy for me and kept everybody at ease. Within minutes, we interacted and laughed as though we were lifetime friends. As we wished each other good night, one of them told me, “Karibu sana bro, taonga mengi kensho”. Translated as “Welcome so much brother, we will talk more tomorrow”.
On Christmas day, it was all about cooking and eating. It was the common Kenyan Christmas where chapatti and meat stew aura filled the air. As a self-made chapatti chef, I was there to represent CorpsAfrica. Thanks to the great facilitators during our Pre-Service Training, their advice and tips for integration worked. For me, this was a perfect moment to integrate and learn more. From listening to observing, one story after the other, I never let anything miss my eyes or ears. And without noticing it, the day was over. It had turned out an amazing Christmas experience in a home away from home.