A group from YMCA Norfolk has paid a two-week visit to the YMCA and YWCA in Kenya to strengthen ties with their sister organisations.
Seven staff, volunteers and residents made the trip to Nairobi and Mombasa, helping to realise an ambition of YMCA Norfolk CEO Tim Sweeting to develop an international perspective to its work.
The link was first made when UEA student Jill Anami from Kenya started volunteering with YMCA Norfolk.
Performance and Participation Officer, Catherine Watling, who led the trip, said: “The aim was to experience another culture, build awareness of civic rights, the Christian ethos, build awareness of projects that YMCA and YWCA Kenya do (sexual health, FGM, social enterprises) and to donate items collected by friends of YMCA Norfolk (sanitary items, stationery, toiletries).”
As well as staying at the YWCA hostels in Nairobi and Mombasa the group visited a school, a girls’ centre, a Masaai market and Fort Jesus and did a safari walk.
The trip made a big impact on the visitors from Norfolk.
Chelsea Hishon, a former YMCA Norfolk resident and now a volunteer, said: “When we went to the slums, we got to play games with the girls and understand what they were experiencing and health issues and seeing what the girls have to face. Hearing their stories made me feel upset but also inspired me, one girl advised the others to not have children early, it was good to see how they support each other and see how happy they are despite the conditions.”
Jade Prentice, Youth Engagement worker for YMCA Norfolk, said: “I learnt what a huge impact the YMCA and YWCA have out in Kenya. They give hope and safety to an array of young people, and it is amazing to see the work they do with FGM centres, and how they help in the local slums and schools. It is amazing to learn that I work for an organisation which has a heartbeat all around the world, and is encouraging young people to have hope and to dream again.”
Catherine Watling said: “My most memorable moment was hearing the story of Seema, a 14-year-old girl who had gone through FGM at nine years old ready to be married at 10. She had fortunately escaped with the help of her family and is now in education and has hopes and dreams to be a journalist and start a family on her terms when she’s ready. She tells other girls her story and educates them too around FGM. Her courage was inspirational; I hope for her dreams and ambitions to come true.”
Richard Pennington, Ex Chair for YMCA Norfolk, said: “The humility and welcome of the Kenyans was completely overwhelming and I learnt that those with nothing who have hope have more than most in this world. The sense of God’s grace in action was almost tangible – it was an incredible experience.”
Also on the trip were Charlie Wall – Senior Youth Engagement worker for YMCA Norfolk, Amy Moore – former YMCA Norfolk resident and now a volunteer and Jamie Copping – both a resident and volunteer.
Pictured top and below, the YMCA Norfolk group with some of their Kenyan hosts and, above, Kenyan youngsters with a YMCA Norfolk duck.