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Harford Habitat volunteers set to leave Nairobi airport Sunday

A volunteer group from Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna that includes three Harford County residents has been stuck in Nairobi, Kenya, since Wednesday following the fire at the airport that halted all international travel.

The group, called the Kenya Krew, is on its way back to the United States after spending nearly two weeks in a village outside Kisii, Kenya, building a home for a family in need of decent, affordable housing.

"It was an incredible experience with the best team of people anyone could ever ask for," Habitat Susquehanna volunteer coordinator Abrielle Willis said in a Facebook message from Nairobi.

The nine volunteers are scheduled to return Sunday night, Habitat Susquehanna volunteer coordinator Abrielle Willis said on Facebook Friday. Only one British Airways flight had been leaving the Nairobi daily.

Willis, a former editorial assistant for The Aegis, leads the group of volunteers that includes two other Harford County residents – Carol Deel, of Bel Air, and JD Snyder, of Belcamp – as well as Eddie Jenkins, of Baltimore, Lizz Bondarenko, of Perry Hall, Tom and Jackie Shaffstall, of Elkton and Bob and Gretchen Hyneckeal, of Boyertown, Pa.

After 13 days of helping build the house in the small village about six hours southwest of Nairobi, the team was set to leave the country Wednesday. But a fire that gutted the airport put all halt on all national and international travel, leaving the volunteers stuck in Nairobi.

"We were supposed to fly out yesterday (Wednesday) at 11:15 p.m. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I turned on the news and saw the airport fire. We were about 40 [kilometers] outside of the city, so I didn't see the fire or the smoke, but there was an eerie absence of airplane noise overhead. I am grateful that none of us were at the airport at the time of the fire and that there were no injuries to those who were," Willis wrote in a Facebook message.

The group has been staying in the Borna Hotel in Nairobi until they can return home.

"We are warm and well-fed, and there is plenty to do. I'll be using the fitness center and the pool later this afternoon. We're sitting tight, along with thousands of other passengers that are also waiting for word on when they can return home," Willis wrote.

She's not scared, she said, now that she and her team are in a safe place. But they are anxious to get home.

"It's been a long trip and we've all been away from our loved ones for almost two weeks. Right now, we are waiting on word from British Airways to see when our flight will be rescheduled. It could be as early as today. It could be 72 hours from now. It all depends on when the airport is able to open a separate terminal to international flights. Still, we are out of harm's way, which is definitely the most important thing," she wrote, and asked the people keep them in their thoughts and prayers.

Kenya Krew's mission

The nine volunteers had been in Kenya for 13 days, helping build the three-room brick house home for the family of nine, a local farmer, his wife and their seven children, in Nyakunguru Village, outside the city of Kisii.

The trip was organized through Habitat for Humanity International's Global Village, which gives volunteers the chance to help build simple, decent housing in communities across the world, according to a press release from Habitat Susquehanna. The volunteers get to experience another culture as they build "houses and hope," according to the release.

When the home in the village is finished, the family will join the more than 2,000 low-income families in Kenya that now have decent and durable shelter through Habitat's housing program.

The delay in getting home hasn't dampened their perspective on their mission.

"My team here agrees... aside from this temporary setback, we've been able to make a lasting impact here by building a home for someone in need," Willis wrote.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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