Written by CorpsAfrica/Kenya Volunteer Mr. Kelvin Mutuma
On December 10th, 2022, after setting everything in order and getting ready, the car engine roared, destined for Kitui County, Kenya. Aboard were us; four CorpsAfrica Volunteers about to begin our service in the county. Since I was selected to be a Corps Africa Volunteer, in Kenya’s Cohort 1, I could not help but think of how my volunteering experience at the site would be. The thoughts were a blend of curiosity, excitement to be of service to others, a strong desire to apply what I learn, and the desire to break from what I was used to. I knew it would be out of my comfort zone but through the experience, I looked forward to being part of the solutions that face our communities and courageously be there with them as they go through their daily lives.
A story had spread of the harsh living conditions of the site that I was going to. Some said that if one survives and lives in Kyuso they can make it anywhere. There are challenges, yes, but not as monstrous as the story had depicted. Not only among us the volunteers was the story told, but it was also told by residents of the same Kitui County. I had heard of the intimidating stories about the hardships in the place, but on the other side I was curious to find out how harsh life can get and yet communities live there. In the Pre-Service Training, we had a session where we looked at the effects of a one-sided story, ‘The Danger of a Single Story’. This is a perfect example of which I will help deconstruct whenever I get a chance, the story about this beautiful part of our country should be told by people who live in Kyuso. Since arriving, I have found no survival-threatening challenge; none that cannot be dealt with.
My arrival in Kyuso and into the Kamba community couldn’t have been timed better, as it was during the festive season. The community was incredibly welcoming and happy to have me there. From the moment I arrived, I was invited to parties and family gatherings, and I quickly felt like I was part of the community. The people are incredibly hospitable and it didn’t take long for me to feel at home. I made friends quickly and they were more than happy to teach me about their culture and values.
My host family took me in to help me get settled and serve the community, but as time was spent it grew to more than helping me get into the community. Our friendship morphed over the days and they took me in as one of them; a son. Instead of moving out to rent a place of my own to live there as I work with the community, my host offered me to stay in their homestead. They wanted to save me the hassle of getting a house and the challenge of water and electricity in the rural area. They work far from home and have another residence. I do live in the compound alone taking care of it as if it were my own. Building trust and a list of other virtues have found this. Despite the existing challenges in Kyuso, I have been better positioned to serve and foster community-led development, thanks to the kind hearts and cooperation from the community.
In Kyuso, I have fetched water with the people, harvested crops, went to their churches, held meetings, and visited them in their homes. It is a place I have grown to love, and the conditions and people in this community communicate one thing even without making a sound; That the best of our days together, working together and uplifting the living conditions, and impacting each other are ahead of us. We all have something to look forward to.
As said by Prof. Mugendi “Trust is the currency of trade”. As a Volunteer, trust is a valuable foundational component that smoothens all your work and integration with the community. It makes members feel comfortable and that they don’t have to hide or coat anything in their interactions and working with you. Again, don’t believe everything you hear about places, people, or individuals. If possible, go find out yourself, lest you become a victim of the danger of a single story. These are some of the lessons that I have learned and others reaffirmed for the days I have been at my site in Kyuso, Kitui County, Kenya.