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By:  Ana, Work-Study Nakuru

My name is Ana and I am from Valencia, a city on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.  I left my country almost eight years ago to move to London (UK).  I have also lived in New Zealand and Australia, but there has always been one place, one continent that made my heart beat every time I thought about visiting or living: Africa.  I left my job in Australia to travel around Africa.  I have been in nine countries around East Africa and I fell in love with its people and its cultures.  It is a fascinating continent that leaves you with a sweet and sour feeling for its beauty and the sadness of seeing so much poverty and injustice.

After three months of traveling I decided to come back to Kenya to do some volunteer work with IHF.  IHF works with disadvantaged children that have been placed in a children’s home by the community chief, due to the extreme poverty in their own community of East Pokot (a province in western Kenya, close to the border with Uganda).   IHF runs six centers across the globe, in Kenya, Thailand and Indonesia.  I arrived at the center in Nakuru last Friday, and as soon as I arrived the guards and some of the children came out and welcomed me.  Which, after my long trip from South Africa, made me feel much better.

I am a work-study volunteer and I will be working for two weeks before I return to Spain.  I have been living at the center for three days now, in the same conditions as the children, and what I can say at this point is that it is definitely not easy.  I have traveled around many African countries prior to my arrival at the center and I saw the living conditions of many communities, but you never get used to seeing it.  I was shocked when I saw 49 children living at the center in very basic conditions (but obviously much better than the conditions of where they came from and with much better care).
But what is even more shocking is that the smiles on their faces never disappear.  No matter how little they have, they always keep smiling. That is what gives me strength to keep going every day.  It is a huge thing to get used to life in developing countries.  Some people find it harder than others, but having no proper shower, no washing machine, no proper kitchen, electricity and water cuts, and very basic food to eat every day is definitely not easy.

Changes like that, when we are used to all the commodities that are available to us in western countries, are definitely a big challenge.  It is a process, but it is all about adjusting and overcoming.  Overcoming your fears and realizing that life is not about a shower or a nice roast pork for dinner; it is about a smile, about a sense of community, about helping each other without asking anything in return, about love and compassion, and about trying to keep those smiles as big as possible no matter how little you have.