Since 2012 Derby County Community Trust (DCCT) in partnership with African Adventures has taken a group of volunteers over to Kenya to work schools in the Rhonda slum areas around Nakura, which has an estimated population of one million.
As a Trustee on DCCT’s Board I was keen to see at first hand the fantastic work which is being undertaken and so back in May I joined over 70 others participants who travelled to East Africa.
With such a large party of people we were divided into four teams based at different schools for the duration of our trip. I was assigned to the Mama Kerry Academy.
We arrived at our accommodation, having been travelling for over 30 hours since saying farewell to our loved ones at Pride Park Stadium. The next morning, following a good night’s sleep we were taken to our schools to learn what it was hoped we could achieve over the coming two weeks.
The welcome we received from the pupils was incredible, singing and dancing with huge smiles on their faces as we looked on and within a matter of moments we were swinging our hips too.
The key aims for our project team were to build a new kitchen and classroom as well as dig out a trench in order for pipes to be laid meaning running water being available at the school for the first time.
My first thought was that this seemed extremely ambitious, however very soon it became apparent that our group were fully focussed and that we simply could not let the pupils and staff down.
Over the days it was wonderful to see at first hand the progress which was been made and it was great to be helping to make a tangible difference to people’s lives. Whilst I am certainly not a builder I assumed the role of labourer and found myself assisting the build team, spending a lot of time with a spade in my hand and pushing a wheelbarrow around the site.
During the second week we had a number of desks delivered for the new classroom and I took on responsibility for ensuring that they were sanded down and then painted in bright colours.
Aside from the manual work there was also opportunity to get to know the children and their teachers. We provided them with a variety of different sporting equipment including badminton and tennis sets, along with a football, which proved to be the biggest hit of all with the pupils.
Many of the children were curious about why we were at the school and how life compares in the UK. The younger children were also intrigued by the splint I wear on my leg due to being born with cerebral palsy.
It was great to spend time in the classrooms and read stories to the children who in turn attempted to teach me some words in Swahili. I was also able to serve porridge on a number of occasions as a feeding programme is incorporated into the school day which includes breakfast and lunch.
On our penultimate day in school a ‘donations’ day was arranged whereby all of the pupils received a set of clothes, shoes, stationary and a cuddly toy. These were items that the volunteers had brought with them and it was certainly an occasion which brought a tear to the eye.
We also carried out visits to the homes of some of the children and met with their parents, witnessing the cramped conditions the families reside in.
Back home I reflected on what had been a truly humbling experience.