Housebuilding charity project in Kenya was the best trip of my life

Gathimba Edwards Foundation volunteer explains why a house building volunteer trip to Kenya turned out to be the a once in a lifetime experience.

Carly McNeil in Kenya
Carly meets two of the children supported by the charity. Photo: Carly McNeil

What can I say?

It was the best trip of my life!

I wanted to go and see the good work that the Gathimba Edwards Foundation (GEF) do in Kenya, and what life was like for people in the Karatina area.

Somehow, I managed to become part of it all, part of these amazing families’ lives, part of the community and part of the great charity that is GEF.

I became a joiner, funder, singer, dancer, runner, athlete, builder and made so many new friends.

Carly McNeil in Kenya
Carly made lots of new friends during her Kenyan adventure. Photo: Carly McNeil

All 25 volunteers were truly wonderful and inspiring individuals themselves. I loved hearing their stories and reasons for being there. They made every aspect of the experience so much fun.

Our transport to and from the site where we built the homes became an hour of “Party Bus” entertainment! I think this will forever be my happy place.

Carly McNeil in Kenya
As well as plenty of hard work, there was time for fun too. Photo: Carly McNeil

We all worried that our building skills wouldn’t be much help in the project, however Darren (who was co-ordinating it all) always managed to get the best from us and reminded us that whatever we could contribute would make a huge difference to their current standard of living.

Carly McNeil in Kenya
Carly gets to grips with house building in Karatina. Photo: Carly McNeil

It was a massively humbling experience when you realised that your pretty averagely hung and painted door or squint plywood was a big improvement from their current living conditions.

Carly McNeil in Kenya
Up on the roof of one of the houses built by the GEF volunteers. Photo: Carly McNeil

We were welcomed to the neighbourhood with open and enthusiastic arms. The locals were keen to speak to us, learn about us and offer help when they could.

Carly McNeil in Kenya
Carly and her fellow volunteers received a warm welcome from the local community. Photo: Carly McNeil

It turns out that building homes is one of my best memories and I will treasure every person I met while doing it.

My family sponsor four year old Rewel who lives in the Pavilion Village, and I actually got to meet him! How many get the chance to meet their sponsor child?

Carly and Rewel
Carly meets Rewel, who her family sponsor. Photo: Carly McNeil

It was just incredible to play with him and his twin brothers Moses and Daniel. We visited the children’s home where they live and met all the children that are looked after there. One day I will take my children as I think it’s massively important to give them a more meaningful perspective on life.

Carly McNeil in Kenya
Carly working on the a roof during the house building project in Karatina. Photo: Carly McNeil

House building in Kenya is without doubt one of the best things I have ever done and I would recommend it to ANYONE!

The difference we have made to some gorgeous, happy children is immeasurable.

To make a mark, and leave a situation in a slightly better way than when you found it makes us better people too.

Carly McNeil in Kenya
Carly at the memorial garden named after her late mother. Photo: Carly McNeil

You will struggle to find nicer, more caring, genuine and althletic people than Myles and Gideon, the founders of GEF.

Please donate your time, you won’t regret it.

If you  have a story you would like to tell about your life, work or volunteering experiences in Kenya for inclusion on this site, please contact us here.