AFF Overseas Assistant, Abi Hamilton, spoke to WO1 (SMI) Paul Nelson about how British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) works with the local community…

BATUK conducts projects which aim to develop connections with the local population.

Whether it’s a donation of clothes or digging boreholes, the goal is to help each other and discover new ways of tackling tasks in different climates.

BUILDING POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS

The reach of BATUK extends beyond the camp into counties such as Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo and Nairobi. The team partners with local experts or uses small specialised groups from the army working alongside Kenyan companies. 

Some of the key projects are renovations. These aim to improve the functionality and productivity of existing infrastructure such as boreholes that are pumping significantly less than expected or repairing vandalism to storage tanks or solar panels.

Construction forms a significant part of the outreach projects and these include sand dams, boreholes, solar sails and water harvesters. For example, a shaded area was recently built outside Nanyuki library for reading and study.

GIFT OF GIVING

Donations to the community can range from pens and books to furniture. A recent large donation of desks was given to Kimanjo Primary School in Laikipia North – this helped to reduce the amount of students crowded around a single desk (from five to three) and also improved the learning environment by reducing distractions and giving each student room to work.

Sieku Primary School was given a donation of uniforms, sports equipment and whiteboards from the families of BATUK personnel.

BOREHOLE BACK IN USE

A community borehole in Rapunye was a recent renovation project. It had not been working for a long time which meant that the community was having to walk further to get water. The borehole was converted to solar power – ideal and efficient in a sunny climate. Now fully functional, the community are able get water for themselves and their livestock.

GIVING BACK

Volunteering is a great way to spend your time while overseas. Olivia Grace is a registered nurse who put her skills to good use.

“Like many spouses, I found that my career was put on hold to take up an overseas posting.

“Our arrival in BATUK was filled with new sights, colours and sounds, but also with evidence of poverty and health inequalities on a scale that I had never witnessed before.

“I became fascinated with the challenges my new community faced and began to question if there was a way I could help. I reached out to the local referral hospital with the aid of the medical officer and began volunteering in their accident and emergency department.

“On my first day in Nanyuki A&E a Samburu warrior was brought in with a dislocated right shoulder and deep lacerations to his arm requiring stitches. I was told that he had been bitten by a lion.

“It was then that I became aware of the learning opportunities this placement could offer me, building on my current healthcare portfolio with new illnesses, treatments, and language.

“Integrating within my local community and volunteering has defined my time and memories of living in Kenya. Finding purpose in the everyday has allowed me to focus on nurturing those skills and given me an insight into the ways that the British military can support communities overseas.

“Do seek out the opportunity to volunteer, for the benefit of the community and the chance to be inspired.”