Karibu to Kenya. My New Co-Workers

Posted by Amy Schwartz on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 13:29 pm

This is the first in a series of blogs by Amy Schwartz reporting from her summer fellowship at HIAS Refugee Trust of Kenya.

Arrival into Nairobi: 13:30 on Monday, the 31st of May to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

See in the distance: Steven, a driver at the HIAS Refugee Trust of Kenya, holding my name up boldly and smiling.

“Karibu!” he says.

What is Karibu, you ask?

Swahili for ‘Welcome.’

Okay makes sense; he was waiting for me to arrive for my fellowship with HRTK and wishes me Karibu!

But what I found out instantly was Karibu doesn’t just mean the standard. ‘Welcome’ that you might see on signs, storefronts, and border crossings.

Karibu also means ‘you are welcome here’.
You are welcome here in Kenya. Karibu! A greeting not only to say hello, but that I was wanted here in Kenya.

For a moment, I was almost confused!

And it wasn’t jet lag.

Being both Jewish and American in 2010, ‘You are welcome here’ is not the normal greeting you usually get in most places. From a travel perspective, I sometimes have to hide my American accent or Jewish roots to ‘ease the pain’ and to avoid certain conversations. Or I just pretend to be from Canada, or the UK (yes sometimes I use my faux British pronunciations I learned at university in Manchester). Also, my curly hair and light-olive skin tone can pass as many ethnicities.

HRTK OfficeAfter this wonderful greeting at the airport we drove about an hour to the HRTK Office.

With no expectations on how my new office environment and colleagues might be, Karibu! A few times over. Again, not just welcome, but that I was welcome here in Kenya. ”Thank you”, I said. And I did what I usually do. Smiled:)

I then learned ‘Asante’ in Swahili means ‘ Thank you’.

I want to personally say Asante to all my new co-workers below for such a warm arrival in Nairobi.

Wouldn’t you also want to work with these smiling faces?

 Fareed Accram, Intake Counselor

 Louisa Ndanu, Protection Officer

Fareed Accram, Intake Counselor Louisa Ndanu, Protection Officer

 Godfrey Miswa, Manager of Finance & Administration

 Hellen Ngore, Administration Assistant

Godfrey Miswa, Manager of Finance & Administration Hellen Ngore, Administration Assistant


Comments (2)

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Posted by Mariam on October 16, 2012 at 3:30 am

Iam really how you work and asistance you gave the refugees


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