Along the shores of Lake Victoria, hidden from the tourism madness, lies a small town called Mbita. The hills and the lake embrace this town and have played a big role in protecting it's innocence and rustic charm. In this little town, is a group of young and passionate individuals who have dedicated their lives to empowering their community by eradicating the challenges such as poverty, lack of education and lack of healthy environment. For a town that lacks supply of fresh water, electricity, good schools and basic infrastructure, this task is not easy. But that has not stopped these beautiful souls. Everyday, they spend most of their waking hours working on projects they have established to achieve their goals.
In 2007, group of these individuals decided they had to take some drastic steps to bring about change in their community. That is how HOPE LINK CHILD, KENYA (http://hopelinkchild.wix.com/rusinga) was born. They have come a long way in this eight years. They run a school called Hope Link School that aims to fulfill basic health and education needs of the underprivileged children in their community. They are running an Organic Life Response Project, which aims at implementing organic and sustainable techniques to grow food and improve the lives of locals by teaching and providing them with healthy alternatives. They also have a Community Capacity Building Program that organizes workshops and classes to empower the locals with leadership and other skills. Two of their members craft beautiful baskets and wooden sculptures that they plan on selling and teaching how to make.
David Orato, the project coordinator was my point of contact for our visit to their town to help this organization. We spent some time with him and his group, learning about their organization, visiting their farm and discussing the goals and future of HOPE LINK CHILD. He was kind enough to invite us to have delicious home cooked meal as well!
As many other non-profits, their organization struggles to achieve financial stability that will enable them to continue working on their goals. That is where we all can help. It is the small organizations like this, who dream big and are not afraid of failure, that can help resolve many major issues faced by our communities today. I invite you to check out their organization and support them. This support can be monetary or by spending time volunteering or even sharing information about this organization with your family and friends.
Below is the important information-
HOPE LINK CHILD website - http://hopelinkchild.wix.com/rusinga
Please make donations to -
Name: Hope Link Development ProjectAccount number: 0760196475894
Bank: Equity Bank / Mbita Branch
Swift Code: EQBLKENA
Branch Code: 076 / Bank Code: 068
We spent a day with these beautiful children living in an orphanage in Nairobi. Some of them were in this orphanage because they had lost their parents and some because their parents could not support them. As much as it was heartbreaking to see these children not being able to live with their family due to some unfortunate circumstances, there was not a moment we felt any ounce of sadness in them. The love and smiles they showered on us was tremendous. They all were joyful and sometimes mischievous. They shared with us their dreams and aspirations, like any other kid of their age. They had the same innocence as any other kid would during childhood. They danced, played and sang with us. When it was time for us to leave, they sent us off in such loving manner that our hearts felt heavy with sadness.
On our way to the orphanage, we requested the cab driver to stop and help us buy fruits, bread, biscuits and juice for these children. Most of the times these children are able to eat chapattis with beans or sometimes just chapatti. Occasionally when they have visitors who bring fruits, juice and bread, it's a treat for them.
Someone who was kind and passionate about helping underprivileged children opened this shelter to provide them roof and food. But due to lack to continuous financial support, the living condition is not very hygienic. Education is provided but very basic. And this is one of the many orphanages in this world. Some are doing better, some worse.
Such experiences make me wonder what kind of a world we live in. On one hand we have children who are picky about anything and everything they are provided and on the other hand there are children like these....who long for moments when they can demand something from a loved one. Why such contrast exists in this world is beyond my understanding. Can someone explain?
Our last four days of 10 day safari were spent in Lake Naivasha and Amboseli National Park.
Lake Naivasha is a part of the Rift Valley and is a freshwater lake in Kenya. And Amboseli is a national park, which due to its swamps and lush greenery has huge number of elephants and birds, in addition to zebra, wildebeest, gazelle and ostrich.
No game drive is complete without the viewing of big cats. If you see a few jeeps lined up in the national park, you know what they are looking at - of course the big cats! Our game drives in Masai Mara were very exciting for the same reason.
The first game drive, we witnessed a cheetah few feet away from the jeep, eating away a poor antelope. Blood all over his face, heavily breathing, this guy could not move! Well, after hogging on 50 pounds of raw meat, what else can you expect? Cheetahs are usually very shy and hunt by themselves. Their body is built for speed but strength wise they are way behind lions and leopards. That is the reason they tend to eat their kill as quick as possible so no other predator can come and steal their meal. Fascinating!
And the next day was even more special. The lovemaking of King of the jungle was quiet a sight. The best thing about Mr. Lion was he did not care about anything! He was least bothered about fifty jeeps standing right there while they were in the act. Height of paparazzi! And what is also amazing is their attitude. Did you know lions sleep 20hours everyday and the rest 4 hours are spent in hunting....and well its the job of lioness to hunt and feed the king and the cubs. Main job of male lion is to protect his territory. That's it! And the way they sleep....it is the most hilarious thing to watch. When they sleep, it is like the world does not exist anymore. Cars come and go, people talk, engines run but they do not even blink.
Leopards are the most difficult to see and unfortunately we did not see any in Masai Mara. And did I mention, Masai Mara is one of the large national reserves in Kenya, and joins Serengeti in Tanzania. It is famous of the annual immigration of zebras and wildebeests from Serengeti to Mara.
We took hundreds of photographs of these big cats and I am sharing a few below. They are the most ferocious yet beautiful creatures.
Located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng'iro river in Kenya, the Samburu National Reserve was our first stop of ten day safari. After being on Kenyan roads for half a day, while driving from Nairobi, we were both really tired but extremely thrilled as soon as we entered the game reserve. As our tour guide stopped at the entrance gate to open the roof of our four wheel drive....the childlike sense of wonder and excitement filled us both.
Our afternoon game drive was right after lunch. There was excitement of looking for wild beings and watching the tour guides communicate with fellow guides on radio. The landscape of Samburu was beautiful....the huge Acacia trees, tall grass, hills in the backdrop and driving on dirt roads....only thing missing was the animals. Not for long though! As we were slowly driving....we saw a head popping out of the tall bush....and there he was! Our first giraffe sighting, and this was just the beginning!
Soon after, in a span of three hours, we had seen zebras, elephants, monkeys, baboons, different species of antelope, jackal, leopard and dozens of colorful birds!!!! We watched a leopard in hiding, trying to catch his meal. We watched elephants eating the bushes and wandering like no one can mess with them. We saw gazelles, waterbucks and zebras get alert and still to any unfamiliar sound. Observing these unique and beautiful animals in the home was eye watering....all our lives we have admired them and watched them in the zoo, locked up in a small cage of a size nowhere compared to the expanse of these national parks. Now, after having seen them roaming around freely and experiencing the nature, this concept of "zoo" seems ridiculous and selfish. And as we did more and more game drives, we our resentment towards man made habitats for these wild beings intensified.
We spent the next day doing morning and afternoon game drive as well. The whole experience left us speechless. Standing up in the four wheel drive, searching for the animals, watching them eat, sleep and walk around freely was an extraordinary experience. We both were in awe of these beautiful wonders of nature. And this was just a start....a very memorable start of our safari.
Kenya....one of the most awaited countries of our backpacking adventure. Why? Wildlife of course! The anticipation to witness these nature's wonders in their home was making us restless and excited. I can't even recall for how many years we have waited for this experience. And now we were here! We couldn't wait to start our ten day safari experience and visit few of the many natural wonders. Our safari included game drives in Samburu National Reserve, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, the famous Masai Mara National Park and Amboseli National Park.
I will be posting blogs for each of these stop overs....it will be really really hard to select a few pictures since we have taken thousands in these parks. But I will try my best to give a glimpse of these beautiful and extraordinary beings that are only found in this continent in their "natural habitat".
The company we booked for our safari was Kenya Walking Safari. Being a budget traveler, one of the hardest part was finding a safari company that would fit in our budget and give us an experience of a lifetime. The thing is, seems like these safari companies mostly cater tourists that want luxurious experiences. For backpackers like us, they still have a long way to go. We were paying $300/day for both of us....and for us that was a lot to start with. But in safari world....well for that cost if you get a tented camp which will not fall down, you are lucky! Fortunately the company we booked turned out pretty good! Of course we had our few ups and downs but overall we were really happy with them. The guide was very informative and the chef that accompanied the guide was amazing cook! And most of the places we stayed were permanent structures :P
We spent quiet a lot of time in the car while driving from one place to another. So we had a lot of bonding time with our guide and chef. I had no idea polygamy is common in Kenya! And another interesting fact....the groom has to offer some sort of monetary compensation to the bride's parents....it could be money or even cows! :D
Below is a glimpse of our long drives thru different destinations.