To Learn, To Love, To Serve - EVS Project to Kenya
This was an experience for 2 volunteers to spend a year with the Christian Life Communities in Kenya and the volunteers worked mainly with AIDS-affected children in St. Aloysius' Gonzaga Secondary School in Kibera Slum of Nairobi, Kenya. The school offers free education in preparation for college entry, as well as free books, uniforms and breakfast and lunch on school days. Since there is no free secondary education in Kenya and these youths are mired in dire poverty, every possible effort is made to give them the opportunity to better their situation.
The EVS experienced aimed to help the volunteers develop a deeper understanding of the various factors which contribute to poverty and suffering worldwide, in addition to fostering a deeper sensitivity to and appreciation of the different realities and cultures of the world. The Project also aimed to enhance the volunteers' appreciation of their own European reality, while offering them the opportunity to share this with people from such a different part of the world.
John Paul Cauchi, 24, a doctor, and Pauline Bartolo, 25, an engineer, were the volunteers who went to Kenya to provide free educational support in this secondary school. This meant supporting the students even in standing up for their rights and dignity in what could at times be a very demeaning environment. The volunteers also taught English, Biology, Maths and Physics when necessary in the school. The project, like all EVS projects, was supported by an intensive training and formation of volunteers before the commencement of the Activity as well as training and support throughout the activity. At present volunteers are evaluating their EVS experience and will be organising some events to spread their experience.
John writes ‘This experience has taught me a lot about how the world works, about the Developing world with all its shortfalls and potential. On a personal level, it taught me how to be independent, how to manage finances and how to be assertive, and also how to live in a culture very different from the one we are used to. Additionally, it was very interesting to meet people from all over the world who also do voluntary work in Kibera, and to interact and discuss with them the various issues and controversies we experienced there. It also made me come in touch with some of the poorest people in the world, who live in outrageous and miserable conditions and who, despite everything, still dare to hope for a better life.
I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in doing an EVS project approach it with an open mind and heart, and to give whatever they have generously. I would recommend that they do not go with a "change-the-world" attitude, since they would be disappointed. However, it is important that they keep track and reflect on the little positive changes they will do, and that they keep that in their heart when at times the going gets tough.
Pauline reflects on her own experience a month after it ended and writes ‘My experience in Kenya helped me immerse myself in a new culture and that in itself helped me grow. I learnt how to deal with unexpected situations; that in our country one wouldn't even think of. This past year has helped me also in understanding myself; what I would like to do in my life in terms of my career. After seeing the dire conditions, in which the people of the slum where I was working live, I couldn't help but realise how extremely lucky we are in having so many opportunities for education and employment
I would highly recommend EVS because it was a very fruitful experience. Such an experience broadens one's mind and is an eye-opener to how society throughout or world can be unequal and unjust. Thus, I would highly encourage anyone to apply!
View some writtings from the volunteers themselves here or read the journal blog.