This blog post comes to you from Dave and Hannah Guenther, long time friends of A Rocha. They are taking a 6-9 month sabbatical from their work in Winnipeg to volunteer with A Rocha Kenya as Centre Managers.
Greetings from Watamu, Kenya!
It’s been over two months since we arrived on the coast in Watamu, Kenya. Without the change in seasons and temperature, it is harder to track the passage of time here, but it seems that we are becoming part of the fabric here at A Rocha Kenya (if not part of the furniture!) Guests and volunteers come and go, staying a few days or a few weeks, but we remain. Our role as Centre Managers has meant that we have become involved not only in the day to day running of the centre, but also in the strategic planning and visioning meetings of the A Rocha Kenya Management team. This has helped us to gain a better understanding of the inner workingsof the organization, the various roles and personalities of the management team, and the challenges that arise while trying to implement the vision.
From these meetings, we have been able to set some of our own priorities and tasks for managing the centre. However, the best insights often come from the frontline Centre staff. Our current housekeeper, Michael, is an older man who worked for the previous owners of the property when he was only 16 years old. You can only imagine the wealth of knowledge he has about the property and the organization. He has literally seen it all!
Hannah has been working in the guesthouse to manage the stock of food and housekeeping supplies which has meant taking a lead in the monthly shopping trips to Malindi, the biggest town nearby, to stock up on our bulk goods. On these trips she has been driving the large Toyota Hilux half-ton truck. This is quite the feat considering the speed bumps, livestock, pedestrians, motorbikes, speeding minivans and other traffic she has to dodge to make it into town. And she does this while driving on the left side of the road, as we do here in Kenya! Once in Malindi, the shopping trips can take anywhere from a few hours to all day (depending on who’s along for the ride and what errands they need to run). For those of you who are not familiar with how time works in Kenya (and Africa in general we’re told) this is quite typical!
Dave has been involved in starting a trench gardening project. To garden this way a trench is dug and filled with layers of organic vegetable waste, grass, and soil. Each layer is watered. The trench is then covered with a grass mulch layer to prevent soil erosion and water evaporation. We’ve planted one bed (1 m x 2m) and the vegetables are doing well. Everything grows so quickly! We have space for 5 more beds in our monkey proof enclosure, and we are waiting until we have enough organic material to dig more beds.
Some tasks that we have been involved with are:
- Hannah has been trying to get all of the 3 fleet vehicles into the shop for regular servicing.
- Digging up pipes to create a drainage pit for grey water.
- Assisting the head of hospitality, Pauline, with welcoming guests during their stay and checking in that they are enjoying their stay here
- Participating in some of the science and research tasks going on around here, such as bird counts at Mida Creek and at the center.
- Starting formal KiSwahili language lessons!
The last month has not only been work. We’ve had plenty of chances to get out on the weekends as a couple and also to be involved in the fun activities around the centre. We swim in the ocean daily and have enjoyed playing beach volleyball and throwing around a Frisbee.
We are blessed by the beautiful creation we find around us, the times of singing and worship as something that often seems to transcend culture and language, and the friendly people we work with who have given us so much of their trust.
Dave and Hannah Guenther
P.S. If you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift, check out A Rocha International’s Gifts with a Difference. Gifts that bring hope to both people and the planet! Several of these gifts support the work of A Rocha Kenya.