Triennial Gathering, Kisumu, Kenya
12–18 July 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

We’re so excited to welcome you in Kisumu in July! We realize that you may have questions while deciding if international travel to Kenya and the FUM/USFWI/QMI Triennial is right for you. We hope that this initial information in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) will be helpful to our non-African Friends in discerning whether to make this trip. There will be additional orientation materials sent to everyone who registers, with lots more details. If you have pre-registration questions that aren’t answered here, please email 2020Triennial@fum.org   and we’ll do our best to get you the answers you need.
Shawn & Katrina McConaughey, FUM programme officers in Kisumu, Kenya
Eden Grace, FUM Global Ministries Director

What kinds of documents will I need?

All travelers, including children, will need a passport that will still be valid for six months after your return date. You should apply now for a first-time passport or check now on the expiration date of an existing passport.

About three months before you travel, you will apply online for a Kenyan tourist visa. The visa costs $51 and you will receive more instructions on applying after your registration is confirmed.

Is it safe to travel in Kenya?

Safety is always relative and hard to quantify. Each person will need to do their own discernment, together with their family, but you can sure that FUM would not be hosting a Triennial at a time and in a place that we didn’t feel confident was suitable for international travelers.

The US Department of State considers Kenya to be more dangerous than some other countries because there have been a few tragic and news-worthy events related to the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab. But the areas of the conference, and most activities of the Friends church, are not in the regions of security concern.

Kisumu is a city with about 300,000 people but it doesn’t feel like a big city. The conference venue is a college in a section of Kisumu generally considered safe. The campus is a large walled compound with security officers at the entrance. If you choose to go for a walk outside the conference center compound, it is always smart to talk to someone who lives in the area, go out with a buddy, and be aware of your surroundings – just like you would in any new place.

Kenya has a very hospitable and welcoming culture. Be aware that, as an outsider, you are likely to attract attention in public places. This attention may not always feel comfortable to you, but it is not hostile or dangerous, and if you feel uncertain, you can count on Kenyans stepping forward to help you.

Am I healthy enough to travel to Kenya?

Please talk with your doctor about whether you are healthy enough to make a trip like this. Health care is much more basic in Kenya, and emergency medicine is non-existent in some areas of the country. We do have fairly good emergency services here in Kisumu, and you can get nearly all medical services in Nairobi.  But do you have chronic medical issues that are not well managed? Does your doctor approve of your travel plans? Is there someone you trust who has traveled to this area, who can give you an honest assessment of your capabilities to do this? Are you able to bring needed medications and devices to manage any health issues? Make sure to be really open and honest about health issues and limitations, especially if you choose to participate in a pre- or post-Triennial option that includes travel outside of Nairobi and Kisumu.

There is always risk involved in travel, and unexpected things happen to all of us. Are you able to walk several city blocks while carrying a shoulder bag or small suitcase? Most times you will be able to go at your own pace, and there are no races to win. We don’t want to scare you away from this opportunity, but we do ask you to make an honest assessment of your health for your own good – and the good of your fellow travelers and hosts.

If you want to research the availability of specific medical services in Kisumu, we recommend contacting the Aga Khan Hospital, which offers the highest quality healthcare available in western Kenya. Their website is https://www.agakhanhospitals.org/Kisumu. For routine and minor matters, Friends Lugulu Mission Hospital will be providing on-site health services at the Triennial, with assistance from the George Fox University School of Nursing (in Oregon, USA).

Please bring with you a full supply of any prescription and over-the-counter medications that you routinely need, in their original packaging. It isn’t wise to count on being able to purchase medicines while traveling.

Can I bring my children?

Children are welcome and there will be a full children’s program during the week. We’re not expecting any Kenyan children to attend the Triennial, as schools are in session in July, but we are working with the children’s program leaders to find meaningful ways for your kids to experience Kenyan culture and interact with Kenyan peers. You know best your child’s tolerance for big changes and the unknown, and what they might need to help them manage unfamiliar situations. And you also know how that fits with your own ideal of introducing your child to cross-cultural experiences. If your child is a picky eater, consider bringing some back-up staples, since Kenyan meals are rather monotonous and may be quite unfamiliar.

Are buildings and facilities accessible for people with mobility issues?

There are few legal requirements in Kenya for making public spaces physically accessible. The conference venue has tried to make some accommodations with the addition of steep ramps along all of the walkways that have steps. Most of the spaces that will be used for programming and activities are on the ground level.

The hostels on campus where Triennial participants will be housed are multi-storied, and there are no functioning elevators at this time (although they promise they’re working on it!). Approximately half of participants will be housed off-campus in local hotels, so a hostel with an elevator may be available. We will reserve ground floor rooms for those who indicate a need on their registration form. It is unlikely that there will be anything along the lines of a wheelchair accessible (ADA-style) bathroom.

At the Triennial venue, most buildings are close together so there will be only a modest amount of walking required between events. Some of the pre- and post-Triennial options involve more rugged conditions or more extensive walking, and we’ve tried to indicate that in the descriptions.

I am vegetarian/vegan/lactose or gluten intolerant/have food allergies. Can these be accommodated?

Food allergies, restrictions and preferences are not well understood in Kenya. The average diet is simple, repetitive, and carbohydrate heavy. What you see is what you get – there aren’t many hidden ingredients. Most Kenyans are not used to asking for or expecting individual choices, and kitchens are not used to providing alternative meals.

However, the College is accustomed to hosting conferences with international delegates, and they have assured us that they will work cooperatively with us to provide food suitable for those with dietary restrictions. Please be sure to indicate your need on the registration form.

The staple Kenya starch, which will be available at every meal, is a maize-meal grits called “ugali”. This is a naturally gluten-free vegan food.

Are LGBTQ persons safe and welcome?

Homosexual activity is illegal and punishable with jail time in Kenya (and in most of Africa). As a theologically and socially conservative society, all things LGBTQ are quite taboo, and that is true among Kenyan Quakers as well. On the other hand, some international Friends have had one-on-one conversations with African Friends who, while clearly NOT welcoming or affirming, have stories of becoming friends with gay Christians; while they don’t understand or approve, they seem at least respectful. One thing to keep in mind is that public affection, even between straight men and women, is not common and might make people uncomfortable. And almost all of the Kenyans at the conference would be very uncomfortable with any public display of affection by a same-sex couple.

Our request: Please don’t come with an intention to raise the issue or with a desire to provoke conflict among Friends. But you can be your authentic self, and you may find that you will have surprisingly insightful and caring one-on-one conversations across the lines of difference.

What languages will I need to understand?

English and Swahili are the two official languages in Kenya. Most people also speak their “mother tongue” or tribal language. Most people you meet at the triennial conference will speak English quite well, but it can still be a challenge to understand their accent and British-influenced vocabulary. Our Tanzanian, Congolese, and Cuban Friends do not speak English. All sessions, and all printed materials, will be in English, Swahili, and Spanish.

What will accommodations be like at the conference?

Accommodations will be simple and small en-suite rooms designed for either one or two persons. (There are a limited number of larger rooms for families with children.) Some rooms may have a desk but some will just have a bed with a mosquito net and a private bathroom. The campus can accommodate about half of our anticipated numbers in dormitory-style buildings, while the rest will take shuttle buses to nearby hostels with a similar standard of accommodations. None of the rooms will be fancy, but they will all be clean and comfortable. Every room will have a mosquito net, electricity, a hot shower, and a flush toilet.

I have a medical device that requires electricity. Is electricity reliable, or are there backup generators?

Lots of travelers successfully get around Kenya with their CPAP or other medical aid. Yes, the power does sometimes go out unpredictably – which can be a startling way to wake up, so if you have a battery for your device, bring it. The conference venue probably won’t have a backup generator in the dorms, so we are working to gather participants with medical aids together in a hotel that does have a generator. Please let us know on your registration form if you want to be counted among that number.

Most of the pre- and post-Triennial options will not have backup generators, and the budget-rate safari option will not have any electricity in the tents.

What will the weather be like in Kisumu in July?

The average daytime temperature in July is in the mid-80s. It cools off at night and there is usually a breeze from the lake. July average rainfall is 2.5 inches. It will probably rain at some time during the Triennial – probably a brief but dramatic cloudburst in the late afternoon or evening. Kisumu is located on the equator at an elevation of 3,700 feet. Most of the excursion locations will be at higher elevations and therefore five to ten degrees cooler, with the exception of Turkana, which will be warmer.

While I’m in Kenya, can I visit Quaker sites or do a safari?

Since you are traveling a great distance, we hope you will consider a travel option prior to and/or immediately after the Triennial. There are about fifteen options to choose from, including both animal safaris and ministry-related or service experiences. You will need to register for travel options at the same time as you register for the conference. You will not be able to add these options once the registration deadline has passed.

Will I have to book my own flights?

It will be up to you to book an international flight to/from Nairobi.

Depending on which pre- or post-Triennial excursions you select, you may or may not have to purchase your domestic flights between Nairobi and Kisumu. You should not book any flights until you are sure of the pre- or post-Triennial excursions in which you will participate, since each of them has their own arrival or departure dates. More information about specific airlines and flight times for the domestic flights will be in the orientation package.

How will I know what to do or where to go when I land in Nairobi?

Most itineraries from North America will include two eight-or-nine-hour flights, plus a connecting layover in Europe, leading to a travel time of twenty-four or more hours to reach Nairobi. Almost all international flights arrive in Nairobi late at night.

For this reason, we are offering a “Nairobi Arrival Package” that will include: someone to meet you at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), a shuttle to your hotel, hotel reservations, breakfast, and a bottle of water. There will be options to stay in Nairobi more than one night and visit some attractions while you recover from jetlag. If you’re participating in a pre-Triennial option, it will depart from the hotel after breakfast. If you are proceeding directly to the Triennial, we’ll provide a ride back to the airport to catch your domestic flight to Kisumu. Someone will then meet you at the Kisumu airport and you will be transported to Tom Mboya Labour College in time for registration.

Can you help me plan a personalized itinerary before or after the Triennial?

With the number of participants we are expecting, it will not be possible for staff to assist you with bookings for travel other than the packages we are offering. If you are hoping to travel independently, you should be prepared to make those arrangements yourself. We would ask that you be mindful of the fact that all of the FUM-related ministries and personnel will be fully occupied with organized groups. Therefore it will not be possible for you to plan an individual visit to any of those sites at the same time.

How can I stay in touch with people back home?

There will be WiFi internet at the Triennial venue, though the bandwidth may be limited due to the large number of Triennial participants. In the orientation packet, we will also give you detailed information on how to set yourself up with a Kenyan cell phone while you’re here. With this option, you could tether your computer for internet access for a reasonable cost.  

What is the deadline to register and pay?

Late fees will be assessed for registration forms submitted after 1 April 2020 for non-Africans and after 1 May 2020 for Africans. The late fee will also be assessed on any payments received after 15 May 2020.

If I need to cancel, can I get a refund?

The cancellation policy is as follows:

Cancellation of the Triennial and of the pre- and post-Triennial options (with the exception of the safaris):

·       Cancellations on or before 31 March – entitled to a refund of 85% of the amount paid to date

·       Cancellations between 1 April and 15 May – entitled to a refund of 50% of the amount paid to date

·       Cancellations between 16 May and 30 June – entitled to a refund of 35% of the total fees charged

·       Cancellations on or after 1 July – no refund

Special Cancellation policy for the safaris:

·       Cancellations on or before 31 March – entitled to a refund of 85% of the amount paid to date

·       Cancellations between 1 April and 31 May – entitled to a refund of 50% of the cost of the safari

·       Cancellations on or after 1 June – no refund

All cancellations must be received in writing (by post or email).

I know I want to come, but I can’t pay for it all at once. Can I pay in installments?

We require that you pay 50% at the time of registration. You can complete your payment in installments, as long as you have paid in full by 15 May 2020.

What if I have a question that you didn’t answer here?

Please contact us at 2020Triennial@fum.org and we’ll do our best to answer your question!