Volunteers Experiences of Rombo
Eileen and Loraine
On April 23rd, we took off from Dublin into the unknown. Needless to say we were anticipating a challenge to our emotions and our life skills. We were met by a friendly smiling face introduced to us as Kevin; our driver to Rombo. The journey was an introduction to the varying landscapes, road surfaces and lifestyles of Kenya. We arrived approximately five hours later at the ‘Light of Maasai volunteer house’ to a warm welcome from Elaine, who immediately made us feel at home.
Elaine prepared a ‘visit schedule’; with us; ensuring we had exposure to the many successful and ongoing projects with which ‘Light of Maasai’ are involved. We visited many schools, clinics and we had the opportunity of seeing a working sand dam. We were privileged to spend time working in two of the clinics we visited. As a result of our visit to Rombo, we have enriched our insight into life and particularly the Maasai culture and the many varying needs of its people. The most evident of these needs are water, health care and importantly education for all children of both genders.
“My visit to Rombo was truly a memorable occasion, we stayed in the Light of Maasai Volunteers House, a beautiful home to Elaine Bannon and her adopted children, and to the many visiting volunteers who wish to participate in the current projects. The house located in the shadows of Kilimanjaro serves as the centre of activity for the diverse charitable activities spanning education, farming, health and water. The impact that these charitable projects is having on the community is awesome, lives are been saved, children are been educated, the health and wellbeing of the community have been hugely improved by the intervention of these workers. I would have no hesitation in recommending a visit to the light of Maasai Volunteer House,
it’s a life changing experience”
“We had a marvellous stay in the Light of Maasai lodge in March. Elaine creates an inviting relaxed atmosphere for a true 'home away from home' experience. Very well maintained. Very well run. Very much enjoyed”
“After consideration of my tendency for massive allergic reactions to insect bites (particularly mosquitoes), and to wilt in hot temperatures (I’m a sensitive English rose!), along with my preference for a comfortable bed, hot showers, and an easy supply of chocolate, I still made the decision to spend two months in Rombo with the LoM.
I didn’t have much idea about what I would be doing in Rombo. Although I have a nursing background, I was hoping to get involved with non-nursing work. I didn’t take any resources with me and didn’t do any ‘preparation’, so my health oriented experiences had to be improvised and had me thinking on my feet. I loved it!”
What I did with the Light of Maasai
- Participation with two FGM seminars – helping with logistics and some teaching.
- School visits – one to two hour lessons with the older students, teaching them first aid (Maasai style!) and telling them a bit about my background. Also one to two hour sessions with the older girls, discussing female health issues / sexual health
- Visits to women’s groups – taken by motorbike out in the bush to meet groups of women to talk about general health issues, and offer information and advice
- Helping with outpatient (antenatal and baby) and ‘walking wounded’ services at Rombo clinic.
- Planting trees – community project to address soil erosion
- Giving out maize for famine relief
- Visit to AMREF (who have joint projects with Light of Maasai), schools under construction.
- Visited a Maasai Herbalist to learn about the different roots and barks used for traditional Maasai medicine
- Visited a women’s group to help them build a manyata
- Attended a Maasai wedding
- Feast and dancing with Moran (warriors)
- Elephant tracking on a motorbike!
- Day at a safari park
- Market visits
- There is no money wasted on administration or ‘middle men’
- If you donate money, you have some choice about how that money is spent
- If you volunteer you are not overworked or herded around in a group. It is a small enough organisation to allow for a personal approach, and you are made to feel valued and appreciated
- The team compliment each other, each with different strengths and capabilities
- The team all live in Rombo, know the people, and know what is needed, what works, and what won’t work.
- The community come to the team for help – they present their needs/a proposal – it is their idea, not just the perception of an outside charity.
- The locals have to form a community group to own and manage their own projects – they take responsibility and therefore value it more.
- Sponsored children have to provide photos, school reports, letters for their sponsors. They are REAL children!
- The people - Wicked sense of humour, incredibly friendly, easy going.
- Singing and dancing – any excuse will do!
- Off-road motor biking (piki piki) – the only way to travel!
- Easy to stay ‘gluten free’ and eat healthy (great weight loss!)
- Mama Kevins pub – dirt floors and tin walls and roof. But great music, company, and food.
- The Light of Maasai team
- The volunteers house – for its flushing toilet, shower, and comfortable bed!
“I will definitely be returning to Rombo, and to the Light of Maasai team. There is so much we can do that will make a difference to peoples lives, while making a difference to our own”
"The visit to Rombo and the Light of Maasai Hostel was way beyond my expectations! A place of tranquility with the most hospitable and welcoming hosts! The people of Rombo have a very modest material lifestyle but have an abundance of human riches which was my honour to experience! I look forward to my return visit and have encouraged my family and friends to undertake the same adventure"
Natalie and Karoline
“We arrived in Rombo after a long overnight flight from Dublin and a bumpy road from Nairobi. Although desperate for sleep we couldn't keep our eyes off the changing settings surrounding us in the matatu - remote villages, traditional mud huts (manyatas), fruit and vegetable sellers at the side of the red dusty roads and large areas of dry sparse land. When we pulled up at the LOM volunteer house, we thought we might have fallen asleep and still be dreaming! It was an amazing house and not at all what we expected. It was set back from the road in Rombo in private grounds. We received a wonderful warm welcome from Elaine, Rebecca and the kids. Our room had everything we needed - twin beds, mosquito net, a bedside locker for clothes and space under the bed for our backpacks. The smaller the space the smaller the mess we could make! After walking around the house and the grounds outside, oohing and ahhing at the kitchen full of mod cons: freezer, microwave, toaster and kettle (we didn't expect these luxuries here!), it was time to open the box of red wine we'd carried with TLC from Nairobi, and relax in our new home from home!
Every night Rebecca cooked the most delicious meals - we loved her piri piri sauce and put it on everything we possibly could! It set us up for a great night’s sleep before an early rise the next morning. Our cooked breakfast each morning was very filling and our bellies were full as we bounced off on our volunteer projects on the back of a piki piki. The evenings were spent relaxing in the large living area, playing with the kids outside in the garden or pulling Elaine's arm to go to the pub! There was even a television with programmes from home if we were looking for home comforts.
It was just ourselves in the LOM volunteer house and we would love to go back and experience it when it has a full house of volunteers - the atmosphere would be fantastic, sharing stories from our days at projects, looking back over photographs we had taken, and generally kicking back with new friends, as you would at home in relaxing surroundings.
We had such an amazing time in the wonderful village of Rombo, which was made all the more special from the warm welcome we received from the kind and friendly locals wherever we went. We said our tearful farewell after 11 short days, however it was just a goodbye for now, we will definitely be back soon! Thank you so much for our amazing experience that will last a lifetime.
Our volunteering Experience
Our days started bright and early, with a hearty breakfast and a motorbike ride to the schools we were volunteering in. The welcome we got in schools was incredible, the excitement and giggles of the children was extremely infectious. We soon felt part of the school, playing games and teaching lessons. Their hunger and enthusiasm for education was astonishing. We will never forget the gasps of wonder when we blew up a balloon for the children for the first time or listening to their beautiful voices as they sang both traditional Maasai and English songs. It was always with a little sadness, we left the our schools each day, often with the escort of the children as they left to go home to their manyatas.
My thoughts drift back to those days while teaching here in Ireland and long to go back.”
“My visit to Rombo is by far the most amazing experience of my life and I feel it has changed me very much. I am not usually the kind of person that does things alone. I am a shy nervous person until I get to know people, which is why I would never normally have done something like this without a friend or someone there to support me.
Doing this was a huge step for me and I cannot explain how good it was for me personally. If it weren’t for the kindness and acceptance of everyone in Rombo it wouldn’t have been the same. The minute I arrived I felt safe and comfortable. Elaine welcomed me with open arms and the house really was like a home away from home. There was nothing by way of technology or hygiene that I missed from home I think the only things I missed while I was away were pizza and pringles haha!
I would recommend this experience to anyone I meet and will continue to spread the word about Light of Maasai and when I am more settled into life back home in England I plan to do much more fundraising and anything else I can to help the charity.
I will absolutely be returning as soon as I have the money, I feel like I have another family on another continent now and I miss them all every day.”
I have volunteered with Elaine Bannon and Light of Maasai several times over the year of 2012.
My meeting with Elaine was accidental. I was working for another volunteer project at the time in Rombo, Kenya where the LOM is based.I immediately felt a warm welcome when I met Elaine. It didn't take long for LoM volunteer’s house to be my home away from home and Elaine my second mother.
In between work for the other project I also helped at LOM as a volunteer. I did pretty much everything that needed to be done, from painting to meeting women groups, from GPS mapping the area to building a kuku (chicken) house.
I enjoyed my time at light of Maasai very much. It really was my home away from home. I am so glad I have met Elaine and to have this wonderful experience with Kenya and the local Maasai Community. Kwaheri!"
Barra and Joanne
“We visited the Light of Maasai volunteer/visitor house in Rombo in July 2013.
We were very much heading outside our comfort zone on this trip.
Elaine, David and the rest of the girls in the house could not have been more welcoming and made us feel very comfortable while at the same time allowing us discover and experience life in a small African village.
It was a hugely positive experience for me and when Africa gets under your skin it is seldom from your thoughts. Whether it was being woken each morning by the chorus of school girls singing in a nearby school or partaking in a Maasai ceremony, I saw and did things there that amazed me. I will be back.”
Ken and Jilly
“Our first impressions of Rombo were of a long rough road with mainly shacks on either side at the end of which was a clinic, a church and Elaine’s little house. The new visitors centre was off the main road, but unfortunately was not quite completed when we were there. We stayed in rather primitive accommodation in the village. We had all our meals with Elaine and travelled to and from our room to her house on the back of a motor bike. That is all three of us on one bike! At first it was very scary but we soon got to love it. In the mornings everyone waved to us and shouted ‘how are you?’ and at night returning in the dark, we could see the stars and hear the sounds of African music and families preparing for the night.
Elaine had prepared a great itinery for us. Between Gilly helping in the local clinic and visiting outreach clinics deep in the surrounding country side and I helping to build a water tower and making desks for a newly built school with wood supplied by Rotary, we were kept busy. We visited the digging of wells (seriously hard and hot work) and schools in the bush - explaining to the different (huge) classes about our lives in the UK. We also heard about their aspirations and hopes, as all schools are taught in English. We even were asked to give career advice to a 6th form class, quite a daunting task!
Elaine made time and gave us plenty of opportunity to meet the Maasi people both socially in the ‘pub’ and in their own family huts. We attended the opening of a new clinic where the Maasai were receiving the new equipment, all of which had to be ceremonially blessed followed by children dancing and singing, many speeches and a roasted goat. A very spectacular ritual, attended by the whole village all dressed in their colourful robes. Also, we were taken round the nearest hospital, about 40kms away and even went to a small private game reserve for a Sunday lunch.
We found the whole experience amazing, great fun and really memorable – everyone was so appreciative of us coming out to visit them and do the little work which we did. However they knew we would go back and talk to lots of friends and societies about their needs and enthusiasm for education and improvements to their conditions. I would really recommend a visit to their marvellous new Volunteer’s House.”