Volunteer Experiences
Volunteer Experiences

Past Volunteer Accounts, Stories & Experiences

Past Volunteer Accounts, Stories & Experiences

Laura's Account (2015)
Speech Language Therapist Master's Student - University of Toronto, Canada 

​I spent ten weeks living in a rural area of Kenya doing speech therapy in schools and hospitals under the supervision of Yellow House Children's Services. I spent the first few weeks getting accustomed to the cultural differences and the different service methods in Kenya. By the end of the placement I felt comfortable counselling families, conducting assessments, providing training to other professionals, creating goals and following those goals through in therapy sessions.

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​I saw both adults and children with a variety of needs. I learned from other medical professionals and we worked together to provide care to clients. The supervisors with this organization provided an environment where I could be independent, and yet always had the option to ask for assistance or guidance. The organization provided an unforgettable learning experience and prepared me for the work force.

Rezwana's Account (2015)
Speech Language Therapist Master's Student - University of Toronto, Canada 

My clinical experience with Yellow House was an extraordinary opportunity for me to apply my clinical skills and knowledge of speech and language development. I learned so much in the ten weeks that I was there  professionally, clinically and personally. Working at their various sites broadened my knowledge and understanding of the different services that are available for children with communication needs.

I had the opportunity to work with a complex population of clients comprising language delay, autism, down-syndrome, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment and learning disabilities. I worked closely with several health professionals and learned so much about their scope of practice. I truly enjoyed learning from my clients, their families and my colleagues.  I had an awesome time working with the Yellow House Team and cannot wait to apply the acquired skill set in future clinical positions. I’d like to thank my awesome clinical educators for doing a fantastic job at making feel home and providing me with the support I needed – my experience would not have been so positive and successful without them!

Jessie's Account (2015)
Speech Language Therapist

How do I describe my time in Kenya and my experience with Yellow House?
It is very difficult to summarise my experience working as a speech and language therapist in Kisumu, Kenya.  Even with family and friends it’s hard to describe everything I have done in a few words so as not to bore them to tears.

Before I left for Kenya I had very few expectations. I did have a few niggling  doubts about how much demand there was going to be for speech and language therapy (SALT) and how useful I was going to be to families. I was unsure how speech therapy would be implemented in a country where it is not a recognised as profession. I can now safely say there is massive need for SALT and hopefully I was of some use.

I have seen first-hand how important it is to have a speech therapy service available not only for the families accessing the clinics but also crucial for all the other professions who are working with children with communication difficulties. Professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, doctors, nurses and teaching staff are all being asked to support children with communication difficulties and not knowing how. With health and education professionals not knowing how to effectively support these children how do we expect families to cope?

Yellow House works in existing government buildings such as hospitals, government supported education assessment resource centres and local government run schools. This allows them to integrate and informally train these professionals every day. Although training is crucial, I have also seen the necessity for on the ground clinical work. How can families and professionals understand and engage in speech therapy without seeing the outcomes of clinical work making a difference to their children and family life?

At the moment knowledge, awareness and referrals to the organisation and speech therapy is through word of mouth so clinic time and training are both really important in raising awareness of what can be achieved.
My personal clinic experience was challenging, motivating and I have learnt a huge amount. I was working in hospitals with a paediatric caseload and in a school with special needs classes. I gained more experience working with children with a range of complex needs and disabilities and came across things I had never seen in the UK. I also did a lot of other school visits and home visits.

From my experience I now can see speech therapy is desperately needed and can be set up and effectively run in Kenya. An example of this, and an area I am particularly passionate about, is Autism Spectrum Disorders. I was shocked at how many doctors did not know what Autism was. In many cases, children displaying traits of Autism were told by doctors they needed a CT scan (a relatively expensive procedure) when nothing showed up on the scan, the parents would be told there is nothing wrong with their child or they would be referred to Occupational Therapy (OT). As there would be no physical disability the OT’s would not be able to help. These children and their families would then be left to support themselves. However, with Yellow House in the hospitals these families can be supported as part of a big multi-disciplinary team developing social communication skills with the speech therapist at the centre.

In Kenya if a child presenting with a disability and parents are actively seeking help they will go for an assessment at the Education Assessment Resource centre. After which a suitable school placement will be discussed with the parents. However, for the children with characteristics of Autism who have significantly reduced attention and listening skills and significantly reduced functional communication skills, there are no schools which specifically cater for this and they struggle to find any suitable placements for these children. Yellow House is a key organisation to try and develop better understanding and awareness of Autism and train key professionals working with these children.

When summarising my experience I cannot forget to mention Rachael Gibson the new CEO of Yellow House who has become a huge inspiration to me. She is an incredible person who has given so much time and love to Yellow House. I have been caught up in her vision for Yellow House and she is one of the main reasons why I hope to continue to work for/ be involved with Yellow House.

Boglarka Kormos' Experience (Mumiams, Summer 2014)
Speech Language Therapy Student

As a speech therapy student in my final year of university in Hungary, I recently spent two months in Kenya with Yellow House Children's Services on a professional practice scholarship. When I heard about the opportunity, and started looking for a place to visit, I googled "the best speech therapy center in Africa”. The first place it gave me was Yellow House Children’s Services! There was no question about coming here, especially after their kind welcome.

In late June 2014 I arrived in Kenya and was shocked by the different and unique faces of the region. To my European eyes everything was totally new, and it took a little while to get used of this world. I was placed to Mumias Educational, Assessment and Resource Center (EARC) and I had a small house in Mumias, next to my host and a member of the EARC team. Living near to Martha’s house placed me close to the center, so I walked there everyday.

Initially I observed the therapists who work at the assesment center, though they gradually drew me into the work. During the assesments, therapies and sessions they thaught me a lot. Often I worked with occupational therapists, and saw how they deal with children with different type of disabilities. Before these new experiences I did not know how should I approach to children with Cerebral Palsy, Hearing Impairment, and with other notable communication disorders in spite of what I’ve learned in university. I know many things in theory, but here I saw the work in action.

While I was working with the team, I learned about Kenyan life and culture. Everyday I learnt something surprising about their traditions, and routines of their days. I ate Kenyan food, I cooked uji, and became a fan of chapati. I met friends who invited me to their homes and allowed me to participate in their lives. I learnt some Swahili words too, so that I could use them in the interactions with community members.

It was not hard to manage the shopping or other necessary things in the town, even if it was almost impossible not to be the centre of people’s attention. You just have to accept the fact that if you have white skin, you’ll be greeted by everyone in the streets.

I was lucky to see the diversity of Kenya by travelling through the country, and spending some days in Nairobi at the end of my time there. In my bus travels I saw the amazing Great Rift Valley, as well as sheep, donkeys, and zebras beside the road, a detail that made me smile.

I expect that after my time in Kenya, not only have my professional skills improved a lot, but my personality also was influenced by the new experiences! After my summer in Kenya, the only thing that I can say is thank you. "Asante sana".