A Report of our WWS Charity Tour to Kenya, 2013
World Wide Smiles Tour
to Nairobi & Mombasa, Kenya
13 – 23 October, 2013
13 October, 2013
The WWS Team consisting of Clown Bluey, Conk and Masjolie met with our major Sponsor (who wishes to remain anonymous) and the sponsor’s representative on the tour, Jessie, who would become part of our happy team (roady, administrator, photographer and minder!). There was some consternation initially when Masjolie’s flight from Holland to Heathrow was delayed due to a mechanical fault, but she arrived in the nick of time to board our flight to Nairobi. We were all carrying additional extremely large bags with children’s clothes and shoes that had been donated for some of the schools and disabled centres we would be performing at, so Masjolie’s late arrival cost our sponsor additional monies in excess luggage as we didn’t know if she would make the gate on time and therefore opted to play safe and pay for the additional bag. In all, we booked in 11 bags for the hold plus our one piece of hand luggage each.
14 October, 2013
After an uneventful 9 hour all-night journey, we arrived in Nairobi at 6.00am where we were met by Esther (‘Go Safari’ Rep) and George (our driver) from ‘Go Safari’, a travel agency who specialise in travelling arrangements for the disabled.
Arrival in Nairobi
Esther and her Office had organised the itinerary, booked our accommodation and made all the necessary travel arrangements whilst we were in Kenya. A packed 4 x 4 wheeled jeep saw us heading away from Nairobi to Aberdare country, not far past Nehri, which took 4 hours – we found the roads a little like India – crowded, chaotic and noisy in the cities, whilst once out in the countryside, any road off the main road were unsealed stone or mud and would be difficult if not impossible to negotiate without a robust 4 x 4 wheeled drive.
Packed in the Jeep like sardines!
The ‘Go Safari’ 4×4 and our Guide Esther
Shops & Businesses on the side of the road
Sofas built on site!
Near Juja in Kiambu County, we nearly had to go off-road to reach a tiny Centre for children with special needs called the Hope & Faith Centre. As we were a little lost and not sure where the place was (it was a long way into the bush country and signs are mainly conspicuous by their absence), Esther ‘phoned them and they agreed to come and lead us – some 20 minutes later, the lady in charge arrived on the back of a motor cycle: her local ‘taxi’ – no helmets! We followed them for some miles on a really awful ‘track’ – one couldn’t describe it as a road – and we were amazed that the lady wasn’t thrown off.
The Centre was an eye-opener. It was very small, just three or four rooms. The small plot of land had been sponsored by a company, whilst the hut had been built by friends – and we use the word ‘built’ loosely. It was a basic wooden frame covered with roof tin. In the heat, it must be like a sauna. The children were mostly severely physically and mentally handicapped; the fact all our luggage was jammed in the jeep together with all the additional bags, the best we could do for them was to make some music with Bluey’s banjo and perform some action songs for them which they seemed to like. It was a shock to us all to see how these children lived: four children to a single bed, most beds with sagging thin mattresses, no real play area. It was a sobering visit for all of us.
Hope & Faith Centre, near Juju
We cross the Equator as we head north
In previous WWS Tours, we have always ‘roughed it’ with regard to accommodation, so we were pleasantly surprised at the Aberdare Country Club which was quite posh! We were accommodated in comfortable cottage-style apartments. The amazing estate which covers several miles in area also has its own water hole for animals, and various types could be seen at most times of the day including baboons, antelopes, giraffes and water buffalo. Most mornings, a family of water hogs with piglets would be grazing beneath our bedroom window – fantastic! Conk and Bluey went for a dusk safari walk with a staff member (walks had to be with a member of staff as there are also leopards and snakes on the estate) whilst Masjolie and Jessie took advantage of the sauna to unwind from the rough, long ride.
First morning in Aberdare.
15 October, 2013: First Gig
This day was our first proper day of our organised tour. We changed into motley and slap in our rooms and had a good giggle with the hotel staff and other guests – they hadn’t seen clowns before.
Our jeep arrived at 10.00am and it was off to the first gig which was at Rurichu Primary School in the Kiawara region. Again, a very rough drive, it seemed for miles, until the school hove into sight – and what a sight it was: all the children came running out to meet us, some 250 of them, all wearing identical grey uniforms with red jerseys.
Arrival at Rurichu Primary School
Not only are their uniforms sponsored, but also their lunches, all sponsored by a kind and generous person in the UK. For some of the children, the lunch is the only food they have to eat every day. The kid’s enthusiasm was infectious and we performed an excellent 11/2 hour show. Nearly every show would be performed outside, so we found a shady area (the weather stayed mainly sunny whilst the temperature remained fairly constant at around 30 degrees C), so we used the jeep as a backdrop and performed in front of it. Unfortunately, we were unable to take our new stage set due to the additional 7 bags of clothes and goodies we took for the children, but using ‘Go Safari’s’ jeep worked very well. Esther, George and Jessie were able to use it with the safari rooftop up to take good photos of the children and we continued this practice for the majority of our tour.
Setting up for first show
George viewing audience from safari jeep with top raised
Conk entertains on the ‘tightrope’
Masjolie’s Boxing Entree
Teacher gets in the Band!
After the show, the children retired to their classrooms for their sponsored lunches whilst we ate our packed lunch in the Headmaster’s shed-like office. The school was typical of many we visited – bare rough-sawn planks made up the walls, roughly nailed on to a wood frame and topped with a tin roof. Furniture basic wood bench and a rickety table. The classrooms were built similarly and on the whole were quite dim inside.
Teacher’s Restroom and Office
School Records and storage
After lunch it was time to distribute sweets and biscuits to all the children whilst some of the bags of clothes and shoes were left with the teachers to sort and give out to the most needy children.
From Rurichu School we travelled a fairly short distance to Lamuria School also in the area of Kiawara, where 175 children awaited our arrival and where we successfully performed our second show of the day.
Masjolie & Bluey with Headmaster and Teachers, Lamuria School
Children love the teachers getting involved!
Time to go!
16 October, 2013
Our original itinerary had us visiting and performing in the morning at the Mary Immaculate Hospital and School, however a message had been received that the school had scheduled exams in the morning and we agreed to visit in the afternoon instead. So in the morning, we visited the Lachuta School where we entertained 250 children.
Opening Number: When the ‘Clowns Go Marching In’
Time to return to classrooms
Rough planked walls and Tin Roofs seem to be the norm
In the afternoon, we first visited the Mary Immaculate Hospital where we gave out more of the supplies we had brought over and where Esther and Jessie renewed their acquaintance with a couple of patients who they had met last year: one was a little boy, Haroon, whose Mother believed he ‘had the devil in him’ and when he was 6 months old had thrown him on the fire. He had both his legs and genitals burnt off but somehow survived. He is now 2 1/2, is very intelligent, strong-willed and gets around on his bottom using his arms – although he has been given a wheelchair, he doesn’t like it, but no doubt that will change as he grows older.
Our Little Legless Friend , Haroon
Mary Immaculate Hospital
The Hospital Sister with Haroon and another little orphan. Orphaned children live at the hospital, and when old enough, attend the Mary Immaculate School
We take Haroon and the Sister to our Show! Like all boys, he loves cars and the Jeep ride was extra special!
After a tour of the hospital we arrived somewhat late at the Mary Immaculate School where we found 800 very hyper and excited children waiting for us. The show was a difficult one for us as despite our own efforts and the efforts of the teachers, the children kept encroaching on our performing area, so several times we had to wait whilst teachers shooed them back far enough for us to proceed. However, everyone appeared to love the show, despite exhausting us artistes!
Teachers shoo the children back at the Mary Immaculate School
Any view is great – even from under our Jeep!
Move back or get a whack!
The schoolchildren sing us an action song as a ‘thank you’
17 October, 2013
This morning saw us pack up and drive the four hours back to Nairobi where we use the smaller Wilson-Ukunda airport where we board a small Dash aircraft and fly one hour to Mombasa. Because of the state of the roads, it would have taken a jeep 6 – 9 hours! Because of baggage weight limitations, we have all left some luggage behind with Esther while two of the large bags full of toys and supplies for the children of a special needs school have already been sent overland and will be waiting for us. The first thing we noticed was the change in temperature, we were hit by a wall of heat – it was a very moist muggy heat and stayed between 35-40C the whole time we were there.
The ‘Go Safari’ Office in Mombasa
Go Safari Guide in full Massai dress
We were accommodated at a very nice Beach Hotel at Tiwi, an hour’s drive from Mombasa, and we wasted no time in taking the opportunity of having a swim. The Indian Ocean is very warm, but full of seaweed, so we stick to the hotel pool.
18 October, 2013
We drive another arduous drive up into the Shimba Hills to the Makobe Special School (for children with special needs). All 350 are waiting for us outside under the shade of trees and we do the show there as it is an ideal spot. The school is mixed, so there are also children with normal abilities who attend the school (and our show).
Makobe Special School for children with special needs
Newly-built therapy pool with wheelchair access. It was being filled for the first time as we performed!
Our performance is in the shade of lovely trees
The show is a big success and we make a lot of new friends. After a packed lunch, we go to a large classroom to entertain the children and here is a big surprise for Bluey: the children have decorated the room with balloons in his honour – it is his 70th birthday and there is a big birthday cake on a table with ‘Bluey’ in icing. Everyone sings ‘Happy Birthday’ and Bluey is relieved he has no need to blow out 70 candles as there aren’t any!
Bluey gets the cake!
It’s time to PARTY!
It’s very hot in the classroom – specially for Conk leading the dancing!
Thank you for a wonderful party
After this nice surprise, we entertain the children with interactive music and dancing led by Conk, which they loved. Then the clowns help to hand out toys to all the children. We leave having spent most of the day there, and we are looking forward to meeting them again the next morning as they are being driven on a bus to meet us and spend the day with us on a beach near Tiwi! Oh what fun!! Although their centre and home is only 30 odd miles away, it will be only the second time they will have seen the sea!
19 October, 2013
We leave, as always, in full motley and slap, but today we all wear our clown swimming costumes and beach shoes. We cause a lot of amusement in both the Hotel and a shopping mall when we stop and shop for beach balls and inflatable rings for the children to play with!
When we arrive at Safari Beach Hotel, an hour’s drive away, we find some children from a nearby orphanage waiting for us, but our friends from Makobe Special School will be late – their bus was very late picking them up, so they don’t arrive until 12.00 noon, instead of one hour earlier.
Makobe School arrive!
There are 135 children all together. We had only planned Mix and Mingle today, but we improvise a 45 minute show until their lunch is ready and we all eat together.
After lunch, as the tide is still well out and it is not practical to get the more severely handicapped children to the sea, we make the decision to use the hotel pool.
The beach & Indian Ocean at the Safari Beach Hotel
And what joy and fun we had in the pool – we all loved it. We all helped carry children around in the water and played splashing games, and everybody played with the beach balls and floating rings.
Safari Beach Hotel Pool
Nobody wanted to get out, but by about 4.00 pm, everybody was out and getting changed. Bluey started making balloons to keep the children occupied, Conk helped and was aided by Jessie organising the resultant queue!
By 5.00 pm we were all packed and ready to return, us to our hotel and the children to their Centre in the Shimba Hills and the remaining children to their orphanage home. We all agreed that we had had a fantastic time.
20 October, 2013
We have a day off today, and partake in a morning Safari in the nearby Shimba Hills National Park. Many animals seen, but no elephants.
21 October, 2013
Today, we are to travel back to Mombasa via a ferry and are booked into a city centre hotel. However, we travel in full motley and slap as we are performing on the way at the Kwale School for the Mentally Handicapped.
The school is much better built, being not so ‘rural’ as the others we have visited and has a very good reputation and has won many awards it seems, if the number of silverware in the Headmaster’s Office is any indication. The school also teaches life skills so that as the children grow older, they have basic skills to survive in the outside world.
Our performance area was one of the best we had for the whole tour: a large arena-shaped thatched area which was ideal for any circus-style entertainment.
The show was well-received, and some of the children thanked us by performing some national dance and song at the end.
We were able to give out boxes of cordials and tins of biscuits before we left, much appreciated by the staff and children. Still in motley, we continue our journey into Mombasa to our city centre hotel – the Royal Castle. It was once a grand hotel frequented by Royalty but has definitely gone downhill in the intervening years! There is a story about a terrible meal we had that night, but more of that sometime.
We had to be up by 4.00am to be taken to the main airport to catch our flight back to Nairobi International Airport, so we all had an early night.
Our flight left at 7.00am and we were again met by Esther with the rest of our luggage, and then we had a 4 hour drive to a tented Camp hotel at Sweetwaters, in the Mt Kenya National Park. There we stayed for one night, as a thank you from our generous sponsor, and partook in a dusk and early morning safari.
As always, Conk and Bluey entertained staff and guests in the evening with pocket magic and balloons. The Manager was very impressed and requested we entertain his staff the next morning at 11.00am. And so it was, that despite having officially finished our Kenya Tour, we ended up performing another one hour show for all the Sweetwater’s staff!
With the Sweetwater Camp Manager
After lunch, we drove the 4 hours back to Nairobi to catch our flight home.
Many thanks to our wonderful anonymous sponsor and also The International Soroptimists Warrington Branch and World Wide Smiles (Clown Bluey, Conk the Clown and Masjolie the Clown (also Jessie), who all gave their time and performances free of charge), and finally ‘Go Safari’ whose tour arrangements were magnificent.
We had a wonderful fulfilling tour and took smiles, giggles and laughter to over 2,000 needy children and adults!
Mt Kenya at 6.30am
Sweetwaters Camp, Kenya National Park