When I knew we were coming to Kenya, it occurred to me that I would be unable to remain employed so this has opened up an opportunity to embrace the local community and put something back in…I have commenced voluntary work at Mount Kenya Animal Orphanage, my favourite place.
My first visit as a volunteer worker at the Orphanage saw me tasked with raking up leaves and animal droppings. There is a grassy area where some of the animals freely roam so I had to tidy this up. I spent the morning raking the leaves and droppings whilst being watched and followed by a very curious baby buffalo, one of the residents at the Orphanage. I was able to snatch a cuddle with the buffalo, and I also managed to fuss the baby zebra. Tedious work this may be, but it is vital that the animals are kept in a clean environment. It is incredibly rewarding work made all the better by being so close to the animals.
A further visit as a volunteer worker saw me leaving the main part of the Orphanage, to drive out through the wilderness to private animal enclosures known as the Bongo Nursery. This is an area not open to the public. These enclosures house the rare and endangered Bongo; those that have to be kept in isolation and those Bongo who are pregnant and need a quiet sanctuary.
I was tasked on this particular day with chopping down the enormous nettles in a Bongo enclosure. As this is Kenya, there are no power tools to assist with this task but I was provided with a ‘slasher’ to hack down the nettles and long grass.
Thankfully, once the nettles are cut down and dead, they do not need gathering up for disposal as the Bongo will eat the nettles when they no longer have stinging capabilities! And yes, those nettles did sting! This really was hard graft. It was however, made substantially better by the surroundings.
The Bongo kept his distance as the work was carried out but while the hours ticked by, I saw numerous wild animals such as warthog, wildebeest, gazelle and I even caught a glimpse of a herd of rare white zebra. The wonderful surroundings make the work seem easier!
Lunch time came and although I had taken a packed lunch, one of the permanent employees at the Animal Orphanage, Timothy, cooked a local delicacy for me to try. This consisted of stir fried nettles! The very stinging nettles which I had been chopping down all morning! Timothy was a wonderful host and I was truly humbled by the hospitality shown to me. I have to admit however that the dish of stir fried nettle was not my favourite, no doubt an acquired taste! Timothy also explained that the nettle dish would usually be accompanied by an African dish known as Ugali. As far as I can tell, this is a sort of bread type thing where boiling water and maize flour or corn flour is mashed together, to create a consistency of bread. The Ugali would then be used like a scoop – to scoop up the accompanying dish. Timothy said he would make this for me the next time I go!
Whilst this work is exhausting, particularly in the baking African sun, it is so incredibly rewarding and I feel so privileged to be able to help these animals. I appreciate that so much more is needed but I hope to continue doing what I can to assist in caring for the wonderful wild life.