This summer, an incredible group of students from The Weald School travelled to Kenya to help build safe and permanent classrooms for the local children. ‘Classrooms for Kenya’ is a charity set up by The Weald that has been transforming the lives of children in Kenya for 13 years. The Weald School raise funds for this project, which amount to approximately £20,000 every year. Most of the money is raised as a result of their annual sponsored walk, which all students and most staff participate in. Since 2006, almost 100 classrooms have been built for over 20 different schools.
As well as supporting the people and communities in Kenya, staff believe there is huge value for The Weald students too, which can’t be underestimated. Those who choose to travel to Africa behave selflessly in their fundraising, gain a wealth of new skills and experiences and come away from Kenya with memories which will last a lifetime.
Mr Neil Dixon, one of the school’s science teachers, detailed the experience: “As the plane touched down in the land that contains the bones of our great ancestors, there was a palpable sense of expectation amongst our large group. Nearly 50 in total, there were a lot of wide eyes and expectant faces looking around the Kenyan landscape. Then the questions began, “What time will we get to the hotel?”, “Will there be wi-fi?” “Where are the buses?” Those of us who had been to Kenya before replied with confidence “We don’t know, we’ll see” or “Not too sure, we’re running on Kenyan time now.” These responses were repeated throughout the trip, until eventually the questions about plans stopped and were replaced by observations about what they were experiencing or their surroundings instead, as they embraced this new culture and way of life.
“An uneventful trip up from Nairobi saw us stop to view the wonder that is the Great Rift Valley, cross the Equator and get our first glimpse of the local wildlife in the form or zebras and baboons along the roadside. We passed the wondrous Lake Elementaita and finally arrived into the welcome arms of Theresa and The Karibuni.
“The first week was a blur of travelling to meet the schools we were building at, visiting the schools that were built at last year, visits to the baby orphanage for cuddles and evening entertainments (song battles, taboo, talent shows, Kenyan House Parties) and lots of brick laying! Morale was high with early morning running club pulling in a group of no less than 10 people one day.
“The first weekend saw us visit a successful rose farm who export to the U.K. regularly, before an evening meal of traditional food from the Trans-Nzgoia region in the house of Madam Sitti. The students showed their true colours, saying some lovely words about the generosity and welcome they had experienced from everyone since arriving in the region. Sunday saw us all attend church services in different locations, with one of the leaders nearly ending up coming home with more than they had bargained for, before a bit of market shopping and a BBQ.
“The second week saw the classrooms really taking on shape as the students started to plan colourful murals to paint as a memento for the primary school children to remember us by. Leaving them was emotional, saying goodbye to the teachers and students who we had got to know, exchanging gifts and an experience that we will all hold in our hearts forever.
“The final weekend saw us travel to Mount Elgon, the Nakuru National Safari Park and the Nakuru Lake Lodge for some more traditional tourist activities. Outside our hotel I led the students into the market and the world of haggling! They all came away happy with their purchases, one student particularly happy with getting a rare yellow Kenyan Football shirt for 500 Ksh when all his friends had paid 800 KSh or more.
“Our arrival in Nairobi was with mixed emotions. Everyone was looking forward to getting home to see their loved ones, but it was equally clear that some of us had formed a real attachment to this land of our ancestors.”