During the summer of 2012, a Canadian Scouting contingent of twenty-five members returned to Shiru Kenya to update and expand their clinic. Over the last twenty years the original project has made a huge impact in the quality of life for the residences of this community. We hope that this project will improve the quality of life for future generations.
Hello there, Corporal Bernie Flapjack Jr. here (call
me Bernie), world traveller and hitchhiker extraordinaire. A few days ago I arrived back in Canada after
going on a trip to Africa with a group of 23 scouts on a humanitarian effort. A month previous, I had managed to get
onboard their trip by posing as an item in an airport shop, and one (Jenn I
think her name was) actually PAID to have me hitchhike along with them. Together we saw many incredible things, and
did some great volunteer work. Of
course, when I say we worked, I refer mainly to them, as I sneakily kept up my
pretense of being a stuffed animal throughout the trip. While this allowed me to escape the work (and
get free travel and accommodations), it was quite disappointing when they would
forget about me and I would sit for hours or days stuck in a bag. Nevertheless, I got to visit the streets of
Amsterdam, hang out with some giraffes and see my poor friends in the Nairobi
National Prison err, Museum. I
sunbathed on the Indian Ocean, nearly got kidnapped by some monkeys, and did my
best to haggle with the vendors (despite their best efforts, I didn’t give in
to them and bought nothing!). While the
sightseeing was nice, I never expected to enjoy the volunteer work so
much. All the happy children and
laughing was incredible, and the kids I was on the trip with turned out to be
pretty cool. After all we went through
together, I figured I owed them something for taking me along, so I snuck
through their paperwork and got all their e-mail addresses. Then I sent them all a nice thank you and
asked them for their thoughts on the trip.
I would like to share with you what they responded with.
Give a quick outline of your experiences and reactions since you arrived in
"It was different this time in comparison with the
countless times I have arrived home from trips.
The differences between Kenyan and Canadian culture are much more subtle
in nature, which may be due to our shared connection to the British
Commonwealth. In any case, the biggest difference that struck me is our
oblivious use here in Canada of the question “How are you?” in place of
“Hello”. In Kenya, an individual will
usually begin with “Hello, how are you?” and expect to hear how you are.
Another great defining character between these two
countries is the difference in food available. Not exactly one of my usual
ingredients, but our meals in Kenya often lacked cheese. In fact, most meals
are limited to that of what can be cooked fresh, because refrigerators cannot
be relied upon due to the inconsistency electricity (which was the case for us
while in Shiru).
To this day, even as I am writing this, I still feel the
urge to get up and go share my thoughts with another member of the
contingent. However, I quickly come to
the realization that they are nowhere in sight. Through all the positive and
negative emotions associated with being home, one can always reflect upon that
moment in time when amazing people surrounded them."
Canada is a pretty weird place...We should have stayed
Well... I slept a lot, organized/edited pictures and
drank real milk. I enjoyed returning to Canadian culture, as it means a
considerably larger variety of food. My family and friends have been marginally
excited to have me back.
"As soon as I was off the plane I was overwhelmed
with happiness and sadness at the same time, I was glad to be home and so happy
that the trip happened but I was sad that it was over. So many of the people on
the trip live fairly far away And the thought that I will probably never see
any of them again is highly upsetting. Saying goodbye to everyone was terrible.
I hate goodbyes. Before we even left the airport I missed everyone. And when we
got to Bryson I missed everyone even more.
Getting home was so nice. Seeing my moms and my neighbor
bob was the greatest. I swear I didn't stop talking for like 2 hours. Oh gosh
hot showers are fantastic. My best friend and I had a screaming/crying fit when
we finally saw each other!
My stomach is still adjusting back to Canadian food..
That's not fun and I might be a little bit jet lagged.... I will never forget
the experience it has changed my life. And so has everyone from the contingent.
Andrea Loughlean - Medical Advisor
"It has been wonderful seeing my family again.
Being away from your family for a month gives you the opportunity to miss them
and realize just how valuable their love and support is.
Returning to Canada has been somewhat surreal.
Everything that was so common and comfortable to me only a month ago, now seems
a little foreign and a slightly uncomfortable. I am now very aware of all the
excess that we have in our lives and how happy a people can be living with so
much less; the essentials only and sometimes not even that.
Being Canadian inherently offers us a ""better
life"" with more wealth, more conveniences, and quite simply more
stuff than our Kenyan friends. However, during this month, in no way have I
seen evidence that any of these things make Canadians a happier people. I envy
my Kenyan friends for their life lessons already learned."
When I tried to explain certain things it was like I
couldn't find the English word to use, so then I would say words in Swahili
which they didn't know what it meant. It
was funny to see their expressions.
Lack of cows and goats crossing the street, nobody using
Matatu-style to get somewhere, seatbelts!, and Mzungus!!
"After finally making my way through customs (Yes, lady,
you DO have to declare a massive collection of designer leather purses, and
thanks for splitting them up amongst all 10 of your bags!), I emerged to find
my parents snapping away with their cameras and very happy to see me. The drive home passed as I told stories of my
adventures, and found out about my family's own summer adventures.
Having been through this all once before, I was prepared
for what would come next: the sudden thrust back into
""normal"" life, the expectations of preparing for school
and the readjusting to Canadian time and food.
This time was different though, for two reasons. First, my mom and brother had been in Costa
Rica for a bit, so they were undergoing some of the same reactions, which made
it much easier for me. Second, preping
for school this time means moving for first-year university. I arrived home to discover my dad had found
an apartment for me, and began the long task of figuring out everything I need
to do to get ready for a new chapter of my life.
The usual jet-lag and reverse cuisine shock still plague
me, but they are a minor bother.
Everyone is still buzzing with the excitement of the trip, and much
story and photo sharing is occurring.
From experience I know this will die down eventually (though never fade entirely),
but I intend to preserve our current euphoria for years to come, with plans for
several film projects based on my experiences.
While I would rather be back in Kenya, things are pretty good here too.”
My arrival back was, in one way, actually pretty
disappointing, because I was thinking "Finally, Canadian food!" but
alas, food just made me feel sick for a few days. However, I was the center of
a conspiracy theory to drag me down to Iron Horse Festival because my friends had
arranged some surprise "Look he's back" thing, so I got to see some
of my friends for a while and bask in Western festival consumerism, which
smells quite a bit better than markets in Kenya. Plus my mom bought me pajamas
and Big Bang Theory bobble heads, so, all in all, it's been pretty spectacular
to be back in Canada.
Jamie Schaffler - Patrol Advisor
When I first returned home, I was really excited to see
my family, my friends and my boyfriend.
They were all really excited to see me as well and greeted me with hugs and
many questions about my trip. After settling in to the fact of being back in
Canada with friends and family, I began to miss the contingent members, the
traveling and Kenya itself. Kenyan life is full of simplicity and being back in
Canada brings you back to reality: figuring out school courses; work and
responsibilities. Although being back in Canada has it perks, warm showers,
forks, roadway regulations, and your own bed, it is difficult to go on the same
way as before our trip.
After seeing everything we saw and experiencing all that
we did, it is hard not to be thankful for our lives in Canada. It is difficult
not to compare your life to that of a Kenyan. It is impossible to forget the
poverty and disease that affects so many people in Kenya. Its weird to walk
down the street without children yelling "Mzungu" at you. And most of
all, its weird not waking up to 23 people who have been your family over the
I just remember driving down the roads and thinking we
are lucky we have such great infrastructure because there weren't any potholes.
"After getting off the airplane in Toronto, I was a
step closer to being home. While the majority had a 2-3 hour bus ride to London
or their parents picking them up in Toronto, I had a 5hr flight back to
Vancouver, BC. After many hugs and tearful goodbyes, Krysta and I left to check
in. I regret not taking a final photo of everyone waving goodbye as I
left...grrrr. The 5hr flight was slow and boring. Krysta was sitting 2 rows ahead
of me and she was taking a nap. I was on an adrenaline rush and was not able to
sleep so I read the comments left in my sketchbook, some photos on my camera
and the journal I kept from day 1.
As soon as I got to the airport, my parents were already
waiting at the luggage pick-up area. I gave them a long hug and told them it
was an amazing experience and thanks for letting me go. We picked up my bags
and I said good-bye to Krysta. When my brothers came back home, they didn't
have much of a reaction besides ""oh, you're back.""
The first thing I did when I got back was open up my
laptop to put all ~4200 photos in! It was an accomplishment to be able to take
that many photos in a month and I didn't want to risk something happening to
it. After all my photos were transferred, I took a shower and then a quick
dinner with rice, steak and veggies. Unfortunately, it wasn't really asian
(besides the rice)...but my breakfast the next morning was! Then, headed to a
long and much-needed rest.
Now my final days before heading to University consists
of running around getting back to school supplies, organizing my photos,
fighting jet-lag and meeting with friends and family to share my time in Kenya
and make them as jealous as possible ;) "
Arriving in Toronto, things seemed almost unreal- the
buildings were straight and symmetrical, there were no goats on the road, etc.
I felt almost out of place- things didn't quite seem as I had remembered them,
somehow. But it was good to be home. After tearful goodbyes at the airport, we
headed home. On the bus ride back, Kevin turned back to me and yelled "Hey
Rachel, your parents won't be at Bryson right away, they went to the
beach." "Very funny" I replied, rolling my eyes. "No
seriously," he said. "They thought you were getting home at 6".
This was about the last thing I expected, and I left a
message on my mom's cell phone letting her know exactly what I thought about
the ordeal. Luckily, Kevin let them know just in time, and they arrived just
minutes late. It was great to see my family again- I hadn't realized how much I
missed them until I finally saw them again. After saying my goodbyes to the
contingent, I headed home.
Inside, my brothers had laid out cutlery to form the
words "WELCOME HOME" on the living room floor- it was absolutely
adorable. After some visiting, I showered (which was a fantastic experience)
and went to bed, only to wake up at 5am feeling like it was mid afternoon, and
wondering where I was and where my 20 contingent members were, before remembering
they were all in their respective homes- we were back in Canada. It was over.
Overall, my homecoming was bittersweet. As much as I
missed hot showers and forks, I will miss everyone, too.”
“The food was refreshing and the sheer size of
everything suddenly seemed a lot more impressive, that and roads...roads are
amazed at the difference in prosperity and wastefulness of North American
culture compared to Kenyan culture. The whole experience of being back in
Canada has involved a lot of culture shock. The amount of questions I have
gotten has been as surprising as some of the questions themselves. I’m quite surprised at the lack of knowledge
of life in other parts of the world, though I was guilty of the same thing
before going on this trip. The difference in culture has been massive and it
has been an interesting transition between lifestyles.
Since I arrived home, I've hit the ground running;
getting back up to date with news, university, friends and family. I found that
most of all I missed the people rather than the things; eating at Subway was
nice, but I'd trade it for chapati with what we pretended was bruschetta any
day. Seeing my parents again was undeniably the best thing that happened that
day, closely followed to everyone else (and my cat). I'll miss Kenya, but I'm
glad to be back. :D
Alanna Cunningham Rogers
"The trip was long, the plane flights arduous - but
the most difficult part yet still awaited us, and that was leaving behind 23 of
the best friends we'd ever made. Backbreaking work in the equatorial sun and 10
hour drives in cramped quarters on kenyan roads were nothing compared to
walking away from the airport, knowing what I left behind. On our return to
Canada, I was sick and tired and I didn't care because those were the last few
days I would get to spend with my contingent. Right now, sitting in my backyard
with a cold drink and book in hand, I would give anything to go back to the
porch swing in Shiru one last time.
Sitting on the bus to London wasn't so bad; I still had
most of my friends and it was easy to pretend another adventure was just
starting. We had our first taste of Canadian cuisine in a month together (we
went to Timmies) and we all watched as our friends reunited with their
families. To say it was bittersweet would be an understatement.
Personally, I went home, had a 45 minute shower, and
promptly fell asleep. It was 5pm. When I woke up two hours later (or so I
thought) I was a little confused as to where my family had gone, since we
always stay up late. It was actually 7am; I'd been asleep for more than ten
hours and hadn't realized it.
I've spent the last two days sleeping, organizing
pictures and talking to my contingent buddies. My family has taken my
reappearance in stride; it's been quiet here. My scars and bruises from
brick-tossing are fading and so is my sunburn from Mombasa. Slowly, the
physical evidence of my month in Kenya is disappearing, but I know that for me
and for 23 others, the mental and emotional effects will never fade."
What are your final thoughts looking back on the entire trip?
It was pretty chill.
Totally worth it.
"I wish it wasn't over.
I want to go back and finish building the clinic.
It was the most amazing experience of my life and I am
so happy I got to share it with the people I did.
I want to go back.
It changed my life. It changed who I am and how I look
Andrea Loughlean - Medical Advisor
I learned a lot of life changing lessons and met a lot
of lifelong friends during my time in Kenya. I wouldn’t change a thing even if
I had the chance and I would do it all again tomorrow if given the opportunity.
This trip was an eye opener in so many ways and was nothing short of amazing to
say the least.
It was an amazing and life changing experience.
Absolutely amazing, with fantastic and outgoing people
and leadership and I can't wait to share the next trip with some of these
The trip was incredibly eye opening and it was
interesting witnessing the contrast between the two cultures.The group was
amazing and I hope to see you all at some future event (just hurt yourself and
I might be there).
Now that the trip is over, I really, really miss it.
Looking at all the pictures of the trip, I realize just how amazing it was. It
truly was a once-in-a-lifetime
experience. I'm going to miss Kenya, but I'm especially going to miss
all the people who really made the trip so fantastic.
Alanna Cunningham Rogers
"Oh. My. Lord.
Where can I even begin? Words are paltry, jaded things
that can not begin to capture the magnitude of what they describe. Ink on paper
and pixels on a computer screen are poor substitutes for the real thing, and
the real thing is what we had. Life-changing is such an easy thing to say, but
it is another thing to truly experience it. Shiru will never be the same. WE
will never be the same.
We built the foundations of a clinic in a small town in
Africa. Our sweat and blood and grime were the last push the project needed to
change lives in that community for years to come.
We touched and fed and kissed giraffes. How many people
get to say that? And get to say oh, yeah, we also rode ostriches? And went snorkeling
in the Indian Ocean? We bargained with the best of them and (mostly) held our
own. We made friends with Kenyan scouts. We were proposed to. We learned how
many cows we were worth. We learned just
how far we could push ourselves in a day, and then pushed harder. We threw
bricks at each other. We survived Kenyan driving and learned to laugh in the
face of 18-wheeler trucks.
I'd like to say that we'll stick together, but I know
that's not the truth. While I'll be friends with everyone for life, I know
we'll grow apart, and that's what upsets me the most about the trip ending.
Time and school and work will make it hard, but I know I'll always be able to
look at the bracelet on my wrist and remember every single person who has an
Jamie Schaffler - Patrol Advisor
It was a fabulous experience. There are so many
memories, laughs and tears that were shared amongst the contingent that will
never be forgotten. I am so thankful that I had this experience and am counting
down the days until I can return once more to Africa.
an amazing experience. The team was incredible. Everyone connected extremely
well which made the whole experience so much better. Seeing what life is really
like in other parts of the world was mind blowing and it really helped to put
things in perspective. The leadership team was outstanding and handled the ever
changing situations extremely well. Communication was certainly something that
could have improved between the Kenyan and the Canadian leadership teams but
that didn't take away from the overall experience. This trip was definitely
something that changed my life and my perspective. It was so much fun and I
will never forget it.
"The people were awesome, energetic and always
happy. The food was good but had no
variety. The landscape was
"Although, it was challenging trying to adjust to a
new environment it was an amazing and unforgettable experience. At first I had
troubles trying to fit in and just took photos, but as time progressed and with
being stuck in vehicles for so long, I slowly warmed up to the group and got to
know everyone a bit better. I wouldn't have survived the trip without the
guidance of the leaders and the support from everyone else in the contingent.
I'm thankful to have been given the chance of coming along and I’m glad I
didn't back out even when some others did due to civil unrest in the country
(which did linger in my mind for awhile). I fulfilled my
""goal"" of this trip to be able to record the laughter and
the memories of this trip and be able to share the stories with my friends and
family about the month I spent in Kenya with 22 other mzungus.
Final thought? I'm going back to sleep...stupid jet lag.
Just kidding...VISIT ME WHEN YOU'RE IN BC. or else.....
This was a wonderful experience. I have learned things I
could never have learned in a classroom or from any book. It has been
incredibly rewarding to make my own experiences and see with my own eyes. I
have learned hard work, the value of a dollar, the value of helping and the
value of friends. I know that sounds cliche but sometimes cliches are the best
ways of putting things. I had fun, and I learned a lot and I would do it again
in a heartbeat.
"12 years ago I was a little kid staring fascinated
at the screen as the Lion King played over and over again. 2 years ago I would have never expected to
travel to Kenya within the year (but I did with Me to We). 1 year ago I would have never expected to be
back in Kenya for the second summer in a row.
10 years from now I know I will look back at this year's experience and
say: "That was the defining trip of my life.""
I have known for most of my life that I wanted to
humanitarian work, most likely medical in nature. The past 5 years of my life I have been
working towards that goal, and this summer I achieved it. There was nothing more incredible than
standing there in that small church in Kenya, watching hundreds line up to be
treated by a team that I was a part of.
Every single dose of medication I handed out was another life who might
have been potentially saved as a result.
Every single brick we moved was one step closer to a higher level of
healthcare for the community of Shiru.
Every single second that passed was another lesson learned for everyone
Scouting is a way of bringing together people to work
towards a common cause. Never before in
my life has this been more true, and never again will I ever doubt the power of
youth brought together to stand for what they believe is right."
Throughout the entirety of this project we were reminded
how it would change our lives. Looking back on this project, it has been an
incredible journey. One could truly describe this as a life changing
experience. Would I do this again? The simple answer is yes – in a heartbeat.
Overall, I think they had a once-in-a-lifetime
experience that affected not only them, but the people they met, and me as
well. Personally, I am quite tired from
all this travelling and writing, so I think I am just going to grab a few fresh
branches to nibble on and curl up next to a tree in my den to sleep a
while. Maybe next year I’ll find another
group of scouts and head out on another adventure.
This Corporal Bernie Flapjack Jr., signing off.
“Most importantly, besides the friends you made and
the stories you can tell, besides the scratches and sunburns, besides all your
souvenirs, if there's one thing that you hang onto from this summer, let it be
this: you made a difference.
Whether you're a teen struggling to find your
identity, or an adult with rules and routines, never get too depressed. While
everyone else worries about if they'll be remembered when they're gone, you
don't need to worry because you already will be. Maybe they won't remember your
name, maybe they'll forget what you looked like, but you have changed the world
and that is not something to take lightly. It was a change for the better and
it came in the shape of money, dirt, bricks and rocks and you got to be a part
of it, to see it happen.
So if you're feeling powerless, or bored, or
depressed, think back to the month you spent in Africa bettering lives. Never,
ever forget that you have changed the world."