Hannah Mair (from Munich in Germany) was 18 years old when she spent some time on Mfangano to volunteer in a Nursery School. From September 2013 to March 2014 she lived with the locals and sent us the following text:
Located in the West of Kenya – they call it the country of the Luo people – Mfangano is known to be the biggest of the Islands of Lake Victoria. You will find no European-like streets or houses; everything is either built traditionally or very poorly.
YTC is a school for manual work and it prepares young fellows for life in facilitating a formation, e.g. carpentry, metal workshop, construction or tailoring. Agriculture is compulsory for all students.
Most of these young adults grew up facing many difficulties and it´s the aim of the school to give them new perspectives.
Additional to that, YTC offers education for the youngest as well – there´s a Nursery School, in which I spent most of my time Volunteering.
The kids are between three to six years old and they are taught in English, Science, Counting, Reading, Painting, Writing and Kiswahili.
I was working together with two local teachers. The greatest difficulty has been the language all through my six months. I wasn´t able to talk in Luo, neither Kiswahili.
For all that I loved my work with the kids – they never got tired and liked to shock the “mzungu” (white woman) from time to time.
Apart from my teaching at Nursery, I offered Computer lessons for the grown-ups as well. They could learn basics on text processing or ten-finger typing.
The girls and boys of the Center were very kind, open and funny. I was always invited to eat with them their lunch or dinner prepared by themselves on an open fireplace; so, I learned to use only my right hand for eating – no spoon, fork or knife allowed.
You can´t compare the African personality with the European one. Speaking in a positive way: Africans are very relaxed. Why should I be on time to meet someone, if one hour later everything is still fine? Or why should I only marry one women, if I can even have ten of them?
Especially for the people living on Mfangano a white person is still someone who owns a lot of money – doesn´t matter if it´s a student or anyone else. I almost got to be the main sponsor of a new school on Mfangano without even knowing.
I learned many new things living among my new friends: Washing my clothes with my hands, milking a cow, baking Ugali (a traditional food) and preparing Skumaviki (like spinach) and Samaki (fish), balancing things on my head (yes, that´s surely difficult!), trying to produce some fibreglass- chairs.
The only thing I never got rid of was the bats flying in the roof of my house.
I have been inspired by the religious life on the Island. The church was so simple, the priest spoke directly, openly and full of passion for his faith. People among every age went to church, they never got tired dancing and singing, even if the mass lasted four hours (which is nothing unusual!).
What else do I want to say?
The decision to come here and to be part of another, totally different world was one of the best of my life. I am so thankful that the Marists made this possible.
Visit to Mfangano Island – a short report by Katharina Schwab, Berlin, Germany
On the 16th of August in 2016 I arrived well in Kisumu after long flights from Berlin to Amsterdam, to Nairobi and then to Kisumu. When I dropped out of the airplane, I was very happy to be in Africa. Outside it was very warm and the sun was shining. I walked to the airport building and waited for my luggage. My two bags where there. That made me happy too.
Afterwards Jackton and Maurice welcomed me nicely and we drove to the Sooper Guesthouse in Kisumu. On the way it was interesting to watch what is going on in the city. Then I needed to rest from my long journey from Germany to Kisumu of about 24 hours time. Afterwards we had lunch in a restaurant and talked a lot. Then we went to some shops to find a Sim card for me. In one small shop we could buy one. They took my passport and went away with it. I was a bit afraid, but then Jackton told me that they just make a copy of it because of registration. Then I felt fine. The lady from the shop helped me with everything. After I got the Sim card, I could have contact to my family and friends at home and to my african friends.
The next day we drove to the airport to pick Brother Hans, Cornelia and Father Martin who came back from their journey to Germany. First we stood at the fence. To see an airplane, is really interesting for african people. Afterwards we went inside the building and welcomed them all. Cornelia was happy to see her family. Later we needed to organize some things and drove to Mbita.
There we took the ferry to Mfangano Island. What a nice view. In the evening at 6:30 we arrived in Mfangano at St. Martin. Some people sang to welcome us. We stopped in front of the guesthouse. All the pupils and teachers came to greet us. It was already dark. Kathi did you forget me, Felix said. I said no, but it is already dark and for me difficult to see you.
I stayed about one week at St. Martin Youth Training Centre. I was very happy to meet the people again. I went to the lessons for the pupils about self-confidence and other important issues. Also helped to serve food for the pupils during lunchtime. I also learned how to milk a cow. We celebrated once the holy mass for Monsieur Bernhard and were singing nice songs. Some days I painted the rooms and the wall behind the guesthouse with Jackton, Evans and some pupils.
On Sunday we walked early in the morning to the church. I enjoyed the walk because the sun was rising and the nature is so nice at the sea. The holy mass was also nice and I enjoyed to sing. The students have a choir and drums. I also enjoyed to spend a lot of time with Brother Hans. He is always taking good care of everybody and he is doing a good work with his teachers at St. Martin.
I can advise young people to study at St. Martin. Volunteers can learn a lot at St. Martin and are highly welcome. The people like to share their life with others.