A teenager from south Norfolk swapped her home comforts for five weeks to volunteer at a Kenyan orphanage.
Alice Lovell, 18, of Garboldisham, has returned from what she described as a “life-changing trip” where she got a taste of what life is like for the children living at the Mother Teresa orphanage based 15 minutes outside of Nairobi.
The orphanage - a two-bedroom bungalow - was home to 23 children, and was set up by a lady called Martha, who wanted to make sure that other children did not have the same bad upbringing she did.
Alice, who worked at another orphanage for a week before arriving at the Mother Teresa orphanage, called the experience a real eye-opener.
She said: “I lived with a 19-year-old woman who looked after me and six other volunteers. There were 15 to 20 bungalows where we were with a gate that locked you in a courtyard so we did feel safe.
“But as soon as you stepped outside of the gate you were in the slums. I sort of expected it but it was much more real when you were there.
“We had no running water or shower and we had to use a drop down toilet which was just a hole in the floor. A lot of the girls found it very difficult but I soon got use to having a wash every four days.”
While the older children were at school, Alice cared for five two-year-olds and a seven and nine-year-old who were both disabled.
She said: “I thought I would physically help them with chores and other stuff but they didn’t want that because they had it sorted. They just wanted us to play with the children and give them attention, and I think that was more rewarding. I also had to help collect the water. It was only about 200 metres away but we had to put it in these 20-litre tanks on our backs which was really difficult, and you had to do about 20 every other day.”
During her trip Alice spent two days working at a school and took a one-month-old baby to hospital - a one-hour walk - where she paid for Hepatitis B and Polio injections.
Alice also bought 20 new T-shirts to take with her as a present for the children but was surprised when they asked to keep the tags on so they could show off their brand new clothing.
Alice, a former Old Buckenham High School pupil, decided to embark on the trip before starting university in a few weeks and spent eight months working at a Chinese takeaway to raise the £2,500 needed for her registration, flights and accommodation.
She said: “You see on TV celebrities going out there to help so I thought it would be a good experience. I don’t regret going at all but it was quite difficult to see at times.”
Despite being back, Alice is still fundraising and has spent £100 out of her own pocket to buy wristbands with the words ‘small steps, big difference’ on them which she is selling for £5. She hopes to raise £1,000 to send back to the orphanage. She added: “I’ve learnt a lot. Especially to not take things for granted.”
To donate to Alice visit www.gofundme.com/MotherTeresaFund