A Derry music student who has just spent three months volunteering in Kenya has described her experience as “life changing.”
Megan Owens, a former pupil of Lumen Christi College spent 12 weeks in East Africa working with a new school project to help children with learning disabilities.
“Our programme was based on securing livelihoods,” said the Derry musician who is currently studying at the University of Glasgow.
“Out there if you have a disability you are not treated equally. And many of the children can’t go to school.”
Megan who was on a placement with Voluntary Services Overseas helped to extend the classes in one of the schools in Machakos.
“The school was already there but we introduced more classes,” she said.
“Some of the children were only getting one hour of class three times a week.
“We helped the children to learn bead work and farm work. This was work they could then take and use to help out at home.”
For the three months Megan worked alongside a group of UK and Kenyan volunteers.
“We were each paired up,” she explained. “I was paired with another girl and we spent our time in Kenya living in the home of a host family.”
But the Waterside student admits that going without the basics took some getting used too.
“I found the Kenyan food difficult to get used to at the beginning,” she said. “There was a lot of rice and what we had for dinner we then had for breakfast. When they started giving us beans and lentils it was much nicer.
“The accommodation was basic and though we had a television and electricity there was no flush toilet and we had to wash ourselves and our clothes using a bucket of water.
“It was hard going without your phone but we could walk into the town and get wifi at some of the local cafes.
“I had just had a basic phone while I was there to make calls home.
“I struggled at the start not coping with all the things I am used to.
“But someone told me that it was the people who found it toughest at the start who get the most out of it.
“It also made me think about the things that we have at home and how lucky we are.”
Megan said she really loved the fact that Kenya is a place that is filled with music.
“We were able to use singing and dancing, and play games with the groups,” she said.
“Everywhere we went there was music playing. It really was an amazing opportunity to have.
“I’d like to return to Kenya some day and do some travelling around the country,