It was through a rather circuitous route that I came to be visiting Africa. A year ago I would never have dreamt that I would be visiting Africa, indeed I had no dormant feelings of visiting the vast continent, but unforeseen events arose which brought me there.
My eldest daughter, Sally, had been a Speech and Language Therapist with the N.H.S., based in London. However, the move from working in a Primary Care Trust to a Foundation Trust resulted in her paperwork increasing exponentially, and as well as doing the work she loved, she was having to write daily reports of how she spent every minute of her working day. I call this methodology "management by numbers".
All but one of the team she worked with resigned upon this unwelcome increase in workload. Prior to her resignation, Sally had arranged the next stage of her career, a six month stint of voluntary work for the Yellow House Trust, based in Kenya.
What is the Yellow House Trust about? Well, most of the service provision happening in low resource contexts (majority world countries like Kenya) happens in urban areas, despite the fact most of those in need actually live in rural areas. Furthermore, the really needy families, they can't afford to pay. Volunteers provide an opportunity to train rural district staff and teachers and provide some of those services. It is not sustainable. It's a stop gap measure while the Trust develops the profession and trains local therapists. The Trust helps make the connections to spend time in the districts: Kisumu, Mumias, Vihiga. The main need is help with speech and language issues, because as one very clever academic pointed out, it is an "invisible disability."
And so it came about that Sally found herself working in Kenya, a country with only 11 Speech and Language Therapists, most of whom are based in Nairobi and Mombasa. The patch assigned to her was the whole of Western Kenya. She was originally based in the mountain village of Vihiga, and later based herself in Kisumu. Her job entailed much travelling either on dala-dalas - minibus share taxis, tuk-tuks - motorised rickshaws, or as pillion rider on the back of motorbikes.
On 4th March 2013, General Elections were to be held in Kenya, the first elections held under the new constitution, which was passed during the 2010 referendum, and the first to be run by Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. These will see the election of the President, Senators, County Governors, Members of Parliament, Civic Wards and Women County Representatives.
The last general elections in 2007 were marred by bloodshed and killings. More than 1,300 people died and between 180,000 to 250,000 were displaced during the post-election violence. Election expert and consultant on conflict analysis, Dr Makodingo Washington, said that there was a greater threat of violence in 2013, compared to before the 2007 election. Human Rights Watch had reported that some communities had armed themselves with guns in readiness to defend themselves. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said it had identified potential hot spots and was asking citizens to exercise restraint.
Because of this violent history and the uncertainty of the forthcoming elections, most Non-Governmental Organisations had strongly advised their workers to stay out of the country during the run up and post-election periods. Sally was not overly keen on neglecting her duties, but realised the necessity to find a safe haven for the duration. Despite Sally being more than capable of taking care of herself, my son, Dan, and I thought we'd make her temporary escape more pleasant by joining her over the border in Tanzania.
We planned to venture out on a safari together, then to chill out on the beautiful spice island of Zanzibar. Dan would take a few days out in Dubai on his way out to Tanzania, while I would stop over in Oman for a few days on my way back to the U.K. Sally would have to plan her return to Kenya on the fly, dependent upon how the election proceeded.
One of the links at the top/bottom of the page leads to map and route information. The index, as its name implies, gives shortcuts to various locations visited and other points of interest. The diary provides links to a day-to-day log.
I hope you enjoy the adventure as we did!