It’s definitely a sign of how globalized our world has become when you meet a young Hungarian living in the Cayman Islands who has just come back from realizing a lifelong dream of volunteering at a Kenyan conservancy that was founded by an Italian.
Renata Kecskes says she was just a little girl when she saw the film ‘I dreamed of Africa’ for the first time on television. The film tells the story of Kuki Gallman, an Italian who moved to Kenya in the 1970s with her new husband and young son to start a ranch.
Enduring the double tragedies of losing both her husband and son in separate accidents, Ms Gallman chose to remain in Africa with her infant daughter, dedicating her life to wildlife conservation and helping others.
Among her many projects, she started the Gallman Memorial Foundation and the Laikipia Nature Conservancy which are based on her 100,000 acre ranch, Ol Ari Nyiro, located on the edge of the Great Rift Valley in northern Kenya.
The foundation is primarily dedicated on wildlife and biodiversity protection, the environmental education of youth, public health and preservation of traditional culture and skills.
Ms. Kecskes said Ms Gallman was an inspiration, and Ms Gallman’s dream of Africa mirrored her own of the Cayman Islands.
‘Kuki Gallman is an amazing role model. I wanted to help her in the hope that in return she could teach me how to give back more to the Cayman Islands, a place that as a native Hungarian, I likewise dreamed of being a part of one day,’ said Ms Kecskes.
A natural storyteller, Ms Kecseks’ colourful descriptions of her trip vividly bring what transpired to life.
In her role as an environmental activist representing Cayman and the Caymaneco organization, Ms Kecskes was able to secure sponsorship from Kirk’s Pharmacy, the Public Health Department, Kirk Home and Office, Hobbies and Books, Captain Marvin’s Dive Center, Grand Cayman Beach Suites and many individual donors to allow her to make the long trip to Kenya.
‘My transportation from Nairobi to Ol Ari Nyiro was just as old as I am, which stretched my 300kilometer road trip longer than expected,’ she recalled. In the end, it lasted seven exhausting hours.
‘Not like I minded. Occasionally acrobatic baboons jumped over quietly munching zebras while impalas were practicing ballet on the horizon.’
The conservancy supports over 450 species of birds, 85 of which are listed in the IUCN red list as vulnerable, as well as an extraordinary variety of flora. A large wildlife population of elephants, lions, leopards, baboons, zebras and buffalo are enjoying protection in this vast private reserve.
‘In the remote area of Kenya that I visited they didn’t know where the Cayman Islands were until they met me,’ she said.
As a proud ambassador of the caring Cayman attitude, Ms Kecskes volunteered for 21 days at a nursery housing 20 children.
‘They were all from families that can’t afford public school and even worse, not even a meal at least two times a day,’ she said.
‘As soon as I arrived I opened my luggage so the warm Cayman breeze could find her way out by leaving colouring books, crayons, story books, vitamins, first aid kits and a pair of shoes for everybody behind.’
Ms Kecskes said it was heartbreaking to see the difficult times Kenya is going through.
‘Even though it should be rainy season the rains have not come. The fields are dry, the crop has failed to grow and the cattle are dying of thirst and hunger,’ she said.
‘The demand for water and food are raising the tension between different tribes, which has brought in the need for an army presence.’
The cash donation she carried will feed countless of hungry mouths.
Ms Kecskes said she treasures the experiences and the lessons she learned on her trip.
‘I’ve learned that there is no point on Earth to worry about things on a daily basis. Families are living off $2 a day while we are living in some of the highest standards in the world,’ she said.
Ms Kecskes hopes that with her stories and experiences she can raise awareness and encourage people to help those in need.
‘Giving back, reaching out has a rewarding feeling that can be earned by as little as taking a dog out from Humane Society for a walk or dropping off a turkey at the old folks home for Christmas,’ she said.
‘I was proud to deliver goodies for the kids but mainly care because citizens of our Islands care. We are good people and I want the whole world to know it!’