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My Nasio Story | Chantelle McDowell
May 2023

My Nasio story has many twists and turns and has been such an incredible journey so far. I first heard about The Nasio Trust when my eldest daughter, Libby, joined a local youth group who were planning to fundraise and go on the trip of a lifetime to Kenya on a Nasio Trust 10-day volunteering programme. I was blown away by the charity’s principles, values and their unique views on how to help orphaned and vulnerable children by keeping them in families and local communities, rather than orphanages.

My interest in Nasio increased as I set about getting donations of clothes and items for Libby to take with her on her big adventure. I wanted to learn more about the charity – so I offered to volunteer in the UK office for a few hours a week. It was a great experience for me as a mum to four children and I enjoyed doing something different to everyday life. I learnt a lot while volunteering and saw how passionate the team were in the UK office and in Kenya and their passion was infectious!

After volunteering for a few months, a job became available, and I couldn’t help but feel like the timing was great and that this was all part of my Nasio journey. I was successful in applying and started working for the UK team. It was more apparent just how amazing the whole team were at what they did. So much work, commitment, sweat and tears goes into the charity, and I was lucky enough to see it from the inside, which meant I was able to also see the amazing rewards which came from such work!

So much work, commitment, sweat and tears goes into the charity, and I was lucky enough to see it from the inside, which meant I was able to also see the amazing rewards which came from such work!

It was during my time volunteering with Nasio that I was learnt more about a little girl called Sheila, who needed sponsorship. I took one look at her picture and knew instantly that I would sponsor her. There was something in her eyes that just stole my heart. Once I learnt all about Sheila and her family, I decided that when Libby went to Kenya, I would send a package for Sheila that Libby would deliver herself and get to meet the little girl we had been sponsoring. To say I was a little jealous of Libby was an understatement! But I thought maybe one day in the future, when my children where all grown up, I would get the chance to myself travel out to Kenya.

What I never expected was that it would happen a lot sooner than I had ever imagined, and I would get the chance to go to Kenya while I was working for The Nasio Trust! There was another local youth group travelling and I decided that I would go whilst they were volunteering in Kenya so that I wasn’t on my own and I would have people to share my trip with. Well, that was the best decision I made and I had the most amazing, life changing trip I could have ever, ever imagined!

Well, that was the best decision I made and I had the most amazing, life changing trip I could have ever, ever imagined!

I wasn’t sure what to expect being with a group of teenagers in a country so far away from home, but the group really helped me make the most of my time and helped me completely embrace my time in Musanda.

On my first night, I was a bit of an emotional wreck and was missing home but that was about to change quickly as I got a visit from a member of the Nasio team and they had said that could I go down to the hospital as there was a lady in labour. Before I went to Kenya I asked if I could visit the maternity hospital and, if it was allowed, to witness a lady giving birth. As a mum of four I am intrigued by Mother Nature, so I wanted to experience the first-hand miracle of life and that’s exactly what happened! A lovely lady called Jackie said she didn’t mind me being present during her birth and what I walked into was nothing liked I had imagined.

A lovely lady called Jackie said she didn’t mind me being present during her birth and what I walked into was nothing liked I had imagined.

Jackie was laid on a small medical bed, very calm and quiet and nothing like you see on the T.V. All throughout her labour and delivery she stayed so calm, focused and hardly made a sound. Before I knew it, I was being handed a little baby girl in a towel. That moment will never leave me, and I can still remember every detail so clearly, including the lizard on the wall in the labour room. I was then tasked with watching the baby and keeping her warm while mum was showered and cleaned up. I sat with this little bundle of joy in front of the heater and enjoyed every second.

Once mum was settled with baby, she told the doctor that she wanted to call the baby Chantelle. It is seen as lucky to name the baby after someone who is present at the birth. What a day and what an experience, how would I top that and that was just my first day!! I was lucky enough to see Jackie and baby Chantelle before they left in the morning, and I gave them a bag of clothes and nappies to get them started and with our goodbyes Jackie and the baby climbed on the back of a motorbike and drove off down the red dust road.

I got to experience and do so many amazing things at Nasio and making sure I met Sheila was top of my list. The fantastic staff at Nasio arranged for me to visit some of the children they looked after before visiting Sheila’s and one family decided to gift me a live chicken!! Well, to say I was shocked was an understatement, but I was very grateful for my gift and I accepted it with a big smile, albeit a bit confused with what I was going to do with a chicken! So, me and my chicken made our way to Sheila’s house, and it made sense that I would let Sheila’s family have the chicken as I wasn’t sure I would get it through customs. Meeting Sheila and her family was just so humbling and really made me feel a part of their family. During my trip I was lucky enough to spend time with Sheila and her sister Layla at the Sports Day held at the schools. I was really worried that I would struggle to know what to say to Sheila and her sister, as they spoke only small bits of English and my Swahili was not in great condition, but we didn’t need words.

We just enjoyed spending time with each other and to know I would play a part in her life was just amazing.

I could go on about my experiences with Nasio and how the charity has played a huge part in my life since that first introduction. Even though after a couple of years of working with the charity I made the tough decision to leave the job, my passion for the charity still runs through my veins and my passion is still as strong. My daughter Libby is now planning to return to Kenya as a young leader of a youth group and she is so, so excited to know she is off on her adventures again. It has also made me start to think of my plans to visit and go back to the beautiful and life changing place in Kenya. My journey is far from over and I cannot wait to carry on with more Nasio adventures.

This story is listed in: 15 Years Of Nasio, About Nasio, Volunteer Stories

"The Nasio Trust has transformed children from nothing to something. Those who were shelter-less now have shelter, those who were not going to school are now going to school."
Farida (Social worker)

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