Come And Serve
What to expect when you’re expecting… to serve with Connect With a Child (CWC)
As you read this, you are likely preparing for your trip! Many things are probably going through your mind of what to bring, what to leave at home, and what to expect during your time here…. The goal of this little reference is to help you answer exactly those questions!
- Clothing: you may or may not have access to laundry facilities (washing only, no dryers); quick drying, stain resistant materials are best (denim and cotton do not fit this description). House shoes or slipper socks are encouraged as shoes are not customarily worn in the house. If staying in a hotel, footwear is up to your preference. When working with the children, closed toed shoes are preferable.
- For Nairobi: temperatures are cool, with a sweater and pants being the best option for night time.
- For Siaya: temperatures are warm, and the sun shines brightly, so clothing that is light and covers the skin is best. Night time may be chilly.
- Ladies: pants are ok in Nairobi, but knee length or longer dresses/skirts are preferred in rural areas such as Siaya. Exposed shoulders and chest are also frowned upon, so no thin strap tops, low cut necklines or halters.
- Rain: the rainy season is (), but it is always a good idea to bring a light rain jacket or umbrella for the occasional shower.
- Toiletries: a quick drying microfiber towel is best, also bring a wash cloth. Toothpaste, shampoo, bar soap, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, feminine hygiene products and lotion are available for purchase within the city of Nairobi; although selection and cost may vary. Dry shampoo would best be brought from home.
- Medicines: if you are on any medications, bring those with you in your carry on! Anti-malarial medication is NOT needed for Nairobi, but is necessary for Siaya and can be purchased in Nairobi or brought with you from your country of origin. Mosquito spray with DEET is recommended if traveling outside of Nairobi. Additional medicines like antihistamine cream, anti-diarrheal/anti-nausea/anti-constipation medications, ibuprofen/tylenol, vitamins, and rehydration powder are wise choices to include for your time here in Kenya regardless of the duration of your trip. These are available for purchase within Nairobi, but are very expensive.
- Electronics: the Kenyan outlet style is Type G. A voltage converter may be needed if you are coming from the United States. Should you forget one, converters are available at a Game store (Kenyan Walmart).
- Cosmetics: makeup is acceptable for ladies, however the ability to wash it off is location dependant, so please keep that in mind. Hair dryers may or may not be available depending on your lodging location. If staying at Muthaiga lodging, there is one on site. If staying in a hotel, it would be best to call the hotel and ask.
- Other: Siaya is 8-10 hours drive from Nairobi, so it is recommended to bring something to pass the time. Helpful items include a neck pillow, a deck of cards, download some podcasts, etc. A portable battery charging unit and head lamp are wise choices also.
Life in Kenya and customs
The roads are bumpy and the driving can seem chaotic. Trust your driver, and take a deep breath! Public transportation is not provided by the government, so ‘matatus’ or privately-owned and somewhat unionized busses/vans are the main form of getting around. Cash is the form of payment, and range from KES 50-100 per ride. When volunteering with Connect With a Child, you will experience a mix of your own driver, Uber rides, and matatu transport depending on the size of your group. Should you be coming with a large group, transportation should be arranged ahead of time either on your own or through Pastor Tom. Payment for transport rental is typically cash only.
Trash pick-up and disposal is not very widespread, so you will see a lot of trash on the ground. The government has not yet regulated trash dumping, so there are many unofficial yet widely used dump sites around the city. At these sites, you will see people, birds, and dogs searching for food and resources. Some neighborhoods have contracts with private companies to provide disposal service, but a majority of the city has no way to get rid of their trash. The lodging where you stay (whether at a mission house or in a hotel) will most likely have this service, but it is not available in most areas of Nairobi or the countryside. As a result, trash burning is widely practiced.
There are many differences in custom between Kenya and America/Europe. Similarities include: shaking hands upon meeting and asking how the other person is, washing your hands and praying before a meal, showing respect to the host by keeping your space clean and thanking them when they provide for you. Some things are very different: removing shoes inside the house is customary, food is traditionally eaten with hands not utensils, feet on furniture (coffee tables, sofas, etc.) is not seen as polite, and telling someone ‘I don’t care’ is considered very rude (instead say ‘I don’t have a preference’). Elders are typically given priority over children and younger adults, so always greet and serve them first.
Laundry customs are also very different in Kenya. Kenyans consider undergarments very private, so they typically wash them by hand in the shower/bath on a daily basis. Your host may or may not be comfortable with you putting undergarments in the laundry to be washed. If staying in a hotel, undergarments may be sent out for laundry as they are more likely used to Western customs.
As in many other parts of the world, toilet facilities are varied. Public toilets are sometimes available in bigger cities, and charge a small fee for entry. They may or may not have bathroom tissue and soap for hand washing. Restrooms in businesses such as malls and restaurants will most likely have these resources. At the CWC school in Nairobi, there is a western toilet and tissue, but no soap for hand washing. At the CWC high school in Siaya, there is an outdoor toilet. Your lodging in Nairobi will have a shower for bathing (whether at a hotel or mission house). Bathing in Siaya will consist of well water and buckets in a private stall; if you are uncomfortable doing this, baby wipes and dry shampoo are encouraged.
African time is real! Do not expect people to be in a hurry, or have any worries. It will assist your trip to go with the flow and be ready for anything. You may or may not have a busy schedule depending on how long you are staying and what you plan to do/visit. Sunday typically includes several hours of church and energetic worship- be prepared!
Overall, a majority of people are friendly and will want to treat you with kindness. Its ok to smile at people and say hello (sasa). However, please ask before taking someone’s photo. In Nairobi, many people are used to foreigners; in the slum, foreigners are less common so people will want to see and greet you with a handshake. Should you visit the slums, keep bags, passports and money at home. In Siaya, foreigners are not very common, so folks may be curious about you. ‘Mzungu’ is the term for a foreign person; it is neither a compliment nor offense, so please don’t be offended if you hear it! Typically, foreigners are very welcome, regardless of where they come from. Pastor Tom explained that ‘when they see a foreigner, they have hope.’ You are most welcome (karibu) here in Kenya!
Costs and finances
Regarding lodging, the size of your visiting group and flexibility regarding accommodations will determine your experience here in Kenya. Hotels/motels price their rooms differently than in the United States. The number of beds required determines the required payment. For example, a room with 2 people sharing 1 bed will cost X. The same room with 2 people in 2 beds will cost 2X. Mission houses may be a good option for you/your group depending on the size of your group. If traveling to Siaya, groups are hosted in the CWC mission house which has 3 sleeping rooms with a number of beds and bathing stalls. Below are some average costs of different tiers of hotel accommodation:
- 2 star costs $45 per bed (Motel 6 equivalent)
- 3 star is $80 per bed (Holiday Inn equivalent)
- 4 star is $170+ per bed (Hilton equivalent)
- Mission houses average $35/night/person for up to 12 people.
Food cost averages $20/day/person (this includes bottled water). If staying in a hotel, you may or may not have breakfast included in your rate. If you will be traveling to Siaya, your food will be provided for you by host helpers at the mission lodging. Food costs will normally be paid to Pastor Tom in cash at the beginning of your stay so that his helpers can purchase and prepare your meals.
Should you desire to take in a safari or do some sight seeing during your time here, please budget for additional expenses. Some examples and costs of things to do/see are listed below. Transportation type and cost will depend on the size of your group and are in addition to what is listed below.
- Giraffe Center, Nairobi: 1ooo KES/~10 USD (cash) for entry
- Monkey park, Nairobi: 100 KES/ ~1 USD (cash) for monkey feed
- Animal orphanage, Nairobi: 22 USD (cash or card) for park entry
- Nairobi National Park, Nairobi: 43 USD (cash or card) for park entry
- Maasai Mara National Park, 4 hours from Nairobi: 80 USD (cash only) for park entry. Due to the distance of this park, logistics need to be resolved ahead of time either through Pastor Tom or a local tour company. For large groups, it may be possible for Pastor Tom to arrange private transportation, but this must be arranged ahead of your arrival; payment for which is expected upon arrival in cash.
Basic phrases in Swahili
Hello = ‘sasa’ how are you= ‘hibari’ I’m fine= ‘mzuri’
Welcome/ you’re welcome= ‘karibu’ thank you= ‘asanti’ goodbye= ‘kwaheri’
‘Mambo’ is slang/common tongue for hello/how are you. ‘Poa’ is slang/common tongue for ‘I’m fine’ so you may hear those during your time in Nairobi.