Making a difference to children in kenya

With Derby County Community Trust and African Adventures

In May 2015 I travelled to Kenya with more than forty other volunteers, to work at three schools in the slums of Nakuru.

Nakurui is about five hours drive from Nairobi.

Life in the slums is incredibly hard. Most homes lack basic amenities such as electricity, water and mains sewage. Unemployment is extremely high with many families lacking any regular income. Homes are often one room shacks with sometimes up to ten family members sharing this cramped space. Food is scarce and it's a daily battle to survive.

The baby in the ragged romper suit (pictured below) shocked me more than anything else I witnessed, as I remembered all the barely worn or even new baby clothes I had passed onto people at home.

One of the volunteers gives a street kid some food

African Adventures works with many charitable organisations to improve conditions at schools in Kenya, Zanzibar and Ghana. Derby County Community Trust has been sending volunteers to schools in Nakuru for five years and their efforts have made an enormous difference to three slum schools.

Ungana School

Volunteers have built some schools from scratch, added new classrooms to others, built perimeter fences and improved toilet and cooking facilities.

Replacing the rotten wooden walls of a classroom with metal ones.

The volunteers are pictured in May 2015 helping to build a brand new school. Just a few weeks ago children started to attend school here in the new classrooms.

Volunteers erected and painted this perimeter fence at Destiny School. At least they'll be able to keep the baboons out of the school grounds now! Its close proximity to Nakuru National Park means that the baboons are a common sight in the village. It was nice to see zebras in the distance as we worked on the fence.

Many of the volunteers are teachers and provide valuable instruction to the often unpaid and unqualified Kenyan teachers.

The UK teachers take all their teaching materials with them. The children are absolutely delighted to receive them, as pencils and paper are in extremely short supply. Many of them keep their pencil stub in their shoe at playtime to avoid losing it.

Exercise books are falling apart and new pencils are a rarity, usually provided by the volunteers.

My main role was to photograph the work performed by the charity but I didn't want to be an observer, so I had a go at "teaching" too. At each school I read and acted out the story of The Gruffalo and showed the children how to make Gruffalo masks from paper plates.

My drawing skills were better than my teaching!

Truancy is not a problem in these schools. Education can be a route out of the slums and is highly valued by parents and children. Although these kids look impoverished, they are the lucky ones, as they are able to attend school. For thousands of street kids life is much worse. The teachers do their best to give the children not only an education but a respite from the harshness of their lives outside of school.

"The best thing we can give these kids is love."

These words were uttered by the head teacher at Ungana School, pictured below with an old digital camera I gave her. She has since sent me photos of herself standing proudly in front of the school.

School uniforms are valuable as having one allows the children to attend school.

A fundamental part of African Adventure's mission is to ensure the children get a meal at school. This may be the only food they eat that day.

Cooking facilities are primitive, although this kitchen was the best I saw at the three schools.

The cooks do an amazing job of providing a basic but nutritional meal for the children.

There are no leftovers here and the term "fussy eater" does not exist.

The most rewarding part of volunteering at the schools is the time we spend playing with the children. They are so happy with the very little they have and so amazed by small things our children take for granted, like bubbles and small toys. I will never forget their faces as they tasted popping candy for the very first time!

As volunteers and mzungu (white westerners) we are mobbed by the children, who just want to hold our hands and be close to us.

In addition to the building and teaching work, the charity also collects and distributes clothing and shoes for the children and their families. In 2015 Derby County Community Trust sent five tonnes of donations, which the volunteers gave out in the schools. This was another very rewarding and emotional time.

People came from miles around to receive clothes, shoes and toys for their children.
Gil donated a large quantity of net balls to the school.

It wasn't all smiles and lovely feelings of doing something amazing.

Every single volunteer had moments where it felt overwhelming. Why do we have so much and they have so little?

Walking through the slums was one of the most difficult experiences.

Alcohol addiction is a huge problem, with little else to provide solace.

These kids watched the volunteers building the new school. Our lunch was brought to us in pails and we found it difficult to eat, knowing that they probably hadn't had any food that day. We had far too much and gave them everything that was left over. They were extremely polite and grateful.

However, our lasting memory is the happiness of the children, their gratitude for the simplest things in life and above all, their enormous and beautiful smiles.

What's next?

In May 2016 many of the volunteers, including myself, are returning to the schools, to carry on with the work. Having spent so much time photographing the children last time I have vowed to give each child a school portrait to take home.

What can you do?

I need to raise £2500 to go to Kenya in 2016. I also need to raise additional funds to cover the cost of giving around 500 photos away.

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If you think you can help in any way, please get in touch.

jane@picture-it-big.co.uk

T: 07868 750505

Thank you, you are amazing!

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