Although Mombasa was nowhere near as scary as Nairobi, it was still a bustley place. According to the information we had been given about the placement we were not permitted to arrive after 4pm or on the weekend, so we decided to find somewhere relaxing to stay until Monday. We stayed at a lovely hotel on the beach called Jamboree which cost £14 per night each - a little more than we wanted to spend, but we were happy and safe! On the Monday we met Irene, the volunteers housemaid, in a nearby village called Mtwapa (which coincidently was only a ten minute taxi ride down the road!). She took us to the volunteer house which was about a 20minute walk from where we were. We were very pleasantly surprised at the standard of the house which was to be our home for the next four weeks! It was clean, spacious, had comfortable beds, showers, electricity and even a drinking water dispenser! And … as we were very happy to learn ... Irene would be cooking our dinners every night! She always made very nice meals, chicken and chips was a personal favourite of mine - to die for!
The following morning we went with the other volunteers to the rescue centre (in a little village on the opposite side of Mombasa called Mikindani). The boys come here directly from the streets, they are rehabilitated and counselled before they can progress into the school. The Mikindani centre works as an open house where they boys can come and go as they please, sometimes boys run away and come back, meaning that rehabilitation can take years. Most, if not all of the boys are addicted to glue while on the streets and coming of it and facing life can be a lengthy process. There were approximately twenty boys who were all very friendly, polite (every single boy introduced himself and shook our hands individually) and welcoming - surprising, considering they have all been through so much! For the first few hours we just hung out with the boys - they are entertained for literally hours as soon as you get your camera out! In the afternoon we played football with the boys in the scorching heat, I was the goalkeeper and I played an exceptional game!
In the evening two more volunteers arrived, Georgie, who had been to Grandsons the previous year and with whom we made great friends and Liz. The next day we went to the school (which was in a small village a little further away from Mombasa called Kikambala). As it was still the summer holidays things were quite relaxed and a small percentage of the boys (those who have homes and families that they can visit for short periods of time) were not due to be back at the school until the following week. There were no actual scheduled lessons or proper teachers so we were able to just get to know the boys a little and have some fun. When we very first arrived at the school we were taken to see the secretary, Grace, for our induction. However, it was quickly apparent that an induction was not what we were getting. Rather than speaking to us about the boys and what they had been through, what we should expect and what our duties would be, she told us about two previous volunteers who were apparently stealing boys from the school, spreading bad words about Grandsons and just generally causing trouble. We were told not to have any contact with these people, whose names she gave us and photos she showed us. We found her whole approach to be quite suspicious and very unprofessional. We had been made aware the previous evening by the present volunteers that there was a lot of politics going on at the moment involving the sisters (who were no longer working there), the secretary and these two previous volunteers. Initially we decided to keep well out of it and just get on with what we were there to do. But we later met the ex-volunteers (who were lovely and very genuine), listened to their side of the story and made up our own minds. The volunteers so obviously only had the boys interests at heart, unfortunately, they were removed from the school because they brought to light some things that they were, very understandably, unhappy with. They are now in Kenya keeping as close contact as they can with Grandsons and setting up their own sponsorship charity for those boys who run away or for when the boys are finished at the school. - At the school there are 8 classes called standards. The children are not split by age but by ability. Once a boy has passed his standard 8 exam he is issued with an Id card which enables him to get a job or if he has a sponsor to finance it, to go on to secondary school.
We spent the rest of our first week in standard 1, where there were four boys - Rama (7), Juma (9), Ibrahim (7) and Erick (12). Rama and Juma were brothers who were at a very low standard; learning the alphabet and numbers up to 10. Apparently their family only lives in the next village. Their father was an alcoholic and their mother was mentally ill, they had two older sisters and one younger baby sister too. When they were found on the streets about two years ago Juma was an alcoholic and they both smoked cigarettes. They would just walk around bars and find what they could whilst begging. Ibrahim was new to the school, he was a cute lad who had a considerably higher level of education than the others, we were never told officially but we suspect that he had received a significant amount of education in the past. Although evidently intelligent, he had a bit of a hard time as the new boy and seemed to endlessly provoke the older boys! The fourth boy, Erick, was a very quiet, sensitive boy, had gotten very attached to one of the volunteers who left after our first day and so he took some persistence to crack!
On the Thursday afternoon we went on our first street walk. Every week on a Tuesday and a Thursday the house father (Johana) walks around the streets of Mombasa and talks to the boys living there. They all know him and are very aware of Grandsons and the work that they do. Although Johana would like to help all of the boys he is very much aware that they cannot be pushed and that if they don't come to the centre of their own accord they will not see out the rehab period. In rare cases he will take a boy with him directly from the streets to the centre but he tends not to as many boys will just use it as a meal and a bed for the night and then leave the very next day to find their glue again. The main objective of the street walk is to keep an eye on things, spread the word and give help if and where it its wanted and suitable.
When we went out the first time it was a massive eye opener to the situation we were working with. It was a far more obvious problem than we had imagined. Every single one of the probably 15 boys that we met had a bottle of glue in his hand or mouth and most of them looked completely out of it. Despite this they were all very polite and respectful of us being there. One of the main ways that the boys make money is to wait around the car parks and when people stop ask them for money in return for the protection of their car. Whilst we were there this was happening all around us. At one point a young man in a very nice car refused to pay the boys for protection so when he walked away the boys broke into his car and began to rob him. We were also told that sometimes they will smash up the cars! The street walk was a sad but interesting experience.
On the Friday we arranged a night out. We had some pre-drinks at the house and played some drinking games with the local spirit Kenya Kane which was dirt cheap (about 60p for a quarter bottle) and got you hammered! We then went out and watched the football (England were playing that night). This was an experience in itself! It was a very basic place with a grass roof and lets just say, the less said about the toilets the better! Afterwards, we went on to a nightclub called Tembo where we had a great night! It was in a big outdoor area, and we just spent the whole night on the dance floor, dancing with Masai men! Their form of dancing is just jumping on the spot, as high as they can! Apparently, in their tribe the man who jumps the highest gets the girl! We left the club at about 3am and got picky-pickys (motorbike taxis) all the way home, steaming! - which was fun!
The next day we went to Bamburi beach (perfect for a hangover) which was on the same stretch of beach as Jamboree, the hotel we had stayed at prior to arriving at the placement. The beach was absolutely beautiful; white sand, blue sea and little craft shops all the way down the beach selling some lovely African souvenirs. There was also a lovely restaurant which sold the best pizza and ice cream I have ever eaten!
On the Sunday we were booked to go on a dolphin and snorkelling boat trip. We were picked up from the house at 5.30am and taken to the coast where we boarded our boat. We were informed that they couldn't guarantee that we would see dolphins, but sure enough, about ten minutes into our trip we were taking photos of a group of four dolphins swimming together! So cool! We then dropped the anchor to do some snorkelling which was brilliant - even if it did take me and Sarah quite a long time to get the hang of it! - We then stopped off at Wasini island . The island has a small community with a population of only 400 people. We had lunch there, which consisted of fresh crab, to be eaten fresh out the shell. You were given the crab whole and you had to crack it yourself with a beating stick! Everyone thought it was absolutely delicious! We also had fresh seaweed which was yummy! and some very fresh fish which Sarah and Anna opted out of, but I ate every edible part - including the eye! For pudding we had fresh coconut and lime, which was the perfect end to a perfect meal! After lunch we had a walk around the island and met some of the people who lived there, before getting back on the boat for our journey home.