My time volunteering in Kenya…
As some of you may know, I recently travelled to Kenya as part of the ‘Rams in Kenya’ volunteering trip, organised by Derby County Community Trust.
After fundraising since September and managing to raise £2000 over our target, I arrived in Nairobi on Saturday 21st of May for a life changing experience. The trip consisted of 65 volunteers from around the UK, with the aim of supporting 5 partner schools in the slum areas of Nakuru, working alongside ‘African Adventures’.
I was assigned to work in the Cherish School, prior to the trip I was told that this school recently moved sites, securing their own land but meant that the school was to its bare bones. I was told that the children of this school were some of the most deprived children living in Nakuru.
When I arrived at the school on Monday, we were greeted by the children of Cherish with huge smiling faces and an opening ceremony dance which was amazing. The school was in a beautiful rural area, just on the outskirts of a large slum area. The school consisted of 40 children aged 3 - 14 with increases every single day, 2 qualified teachers, 2 classrooms, 1 toilet block and area where a cook made each child a meal as part of the food programme African adventures implements. The classroom for the older children was very bare, it had nothing on the walls, no resources, no stationary but it did have an amazing teacher and 12 children that were very eager to learn.
The biggest impact on me throughout the trip, must be the prominent levels of poverty in such a large area and poverty to an extent that I had never witnessed in my life. It is hard to put into words some of the difficult things I saw when travelling through the slum areas however, we did get to do some home visits after the first week of getting to know the Children of Cherish.
One home visit that stuck out to me was a girl aged 14; throughout the first week she was noticeably quiet, sat away from most children and did not engage in most of the activities. Upon arrival of her home, we were told a little from her story, in which she had no parents and was taken in by a neighbour. She was living in a tiny concrete room with no electricity, no access to clean drinking water, one mattress and nothing else, along with another teenager and a 2-year-old baby. This girls only meal each day was at Cherish school which was a 1hr 30min walk and her only access to drinking water was to buy it, which was extremely difficult for her as she had no income.
After this home visit, my heart strings were pulling, and I found it difficult to understand how a child can live in such extreme poverty and how this must impact a child's mental health. With every day passing through the slum areas, my brain was ticking and with not much insight into Mental Health and their culture around this topic, I began to do some research. 1 in 4 people who access health care In Kenya have a Mental Health disorder, but this did not take in consideration those that do not have access to health care (which is private). I also wanted to get a little insight into their culture around mental health through local people so I spoke to someone who worked for African Adventures who was brought up in the slums of Nakuru. He said that the culture is still very ‘boys don’t cry, it’s a sign of weakness’ and that people don’t often talk about their mental health, and it is not talked about within local schools. From this conversation, I thought that it was only right to do an emotional literacy session with the older class of Cherish to see how it goes.
On Tuesday of week 2, I did an emotional literacy session with 12 pupils which lasted around 1hr. The emotional literacy session consisted of; what emotions and feelings are, looking at 5 big emotions (angry, sad, scared, worried, happy), what these emotions look like through role play and what makes them feel this way. The children engaged amazingly well despite a big language barrier and even created a poster about what made them feel happy. On the majority of the children's posters, it involved family, food, and a hobby which for a lot of children was football; remarkably similar to what we see in England except there was no gaming, phone or tv. Overall, the children really enjoyed it and so did the teacher who joined in with the activities and was speaking about her emotions in front of the class too.
It's hard to put everything I experienced, and all those feelings and emotions that came with it in a small blog, however the overall experience was amazing, experiencing a completely different culture and meeting amazing children has really made an impact on my life.
Here is a list of all the things our team at Cherish managed to accomplish in the 2 weeks;
Built a storage cupboard and provided essential stationary (pencils, colours, crafting materials, books, and teacher resources)
Started the foundation for 2 new classrooms
Made a black board for one class
Decorated the classrooms with decorations
Built a wall surround the school to create privacy
Supported 5 older children getting into high school
Provided PE equipment
Built a playground including 3 sets of swings and tyres
Fixed 5 desks
Planted avocado plants
Thank you for reading, Jake 😊