A life affirming experience
Submitted by Mark Sirot-Smith - Ely United Kingdom | April 21, 2016
I am an experienced overseas volunteer, having previously worked as a group leader for the housing charity Habitat for Humanity. As a consequence I had taken college students on a number of construction based projects in Zambia, Romania and Malawi, before I came across African Adventures.
I was initially very sceptical, as the glossy flier I received at college was more like what I would expect to receive from a travel agency. However, the reasonable pricing persuaded me to give them a call for more information. I’m glad I did, because following that call and the subsequent visit from a member of their UK team, I have taken two groups of students out to work at two schools in Kenya and will shortly be starting to assemble another team to go out next year.
What makes an African Adventures project so accessible is that their aim is very clear – they exist to provide volunteers for their education projects – everything is geared around that aim. I think this is so important because the students I take need to understand that this is not a typical school trip but an opportunity to make a real difference and in doing so change lives, often their own. By drumming this in from day 1, the team is prepared to get stuck in, work hard, suffer some discomfort and maximise their experience.
The in-country support from Fred and his team is excellent and can always be tailored to your team’s requirements. This year, for example, we requested a visit to the Nakuru dump rather than the Menegai Crater, as it would tell us more about the children we were working with. The balance between work and recreation is just right, the accommodation is basic but ideal for large groups (and will provide the team with lot of great tales e.g. the shock inducing showers, the morning call to prayer and the collapsing beds!) and the range of jobs at the projects is perfect for a mixed group. This year our team levelled and concreted a new classroom floor, plastered the inside of several classrooms, touched up wall paintings, fitted doors and windows, repaired classroom furniture, organised football matches, organised outdoor PE, delivered science and maths lessons (including simple experiments), marked books, taught geography, religion, English, PSHE (puberty, sex-ed and personal hygiene) and dance, plus anything else to help the fantastic staff on these inspiring projects.
If you repeat book African Adventures will try to ensure that you return to the same projects, so that you can see the progress that has been made. Returning to Ungana Academy in February felt like a homecoming and it was great to see how the classroom we had built in 2014 was being used. Each visit enables you to see things more clearly and to gain a clearer understanding of the problems faced by many of the children you get to work with.
From a personal perspective I can’t wait to get back to see how Stacey, Yvonne and Sarah are getting on – all children who have made an indelible mark on me. I recommend African Adventures to you without reservation.
Program: Volunteering in Kenya
Harrow School - Kenya 2015
Submitted by Will Alderton | January 13, 2016
At the start of the summer 2015 we went on a charitable trip to Nakuru, Kenya, where we had the opportunity to teach in some of Africa's most impoverished schools. After a long plane ride and a six hour coach journey along some rather bendy and badly paved roads, the group arrived in Nakuru, where they spent the rest of the day getting settled in and enjoying fresh Kenyan food. The highlight of the drive was arguably the chance to look out over the picturesque Rift Valley at a rest stop and take some incredible photographs.
The next morning Mr Alderton and the boys, who were accompanied by a driver stopped into the primary school where they were welcomed by the young pupils (aged 3-7) with an extraordinary song and dance. The school sang praises and thanks to group for coming to help out in their school. The boys continued to help at the primary school for the remainder of the morning where they taught a few classes, helped cook a meal and washed dishes in the kitchen. In the afternoon the Harrow students were taken up to the secondary school where they spent most of the subsequent days teaching classes of students ranging in ages from 10 to 18. The Kenyan children were incredibly appreciative of the help they received from the boys and were very receptive to their conducting of the different classes. As well teaching, the boys took turns in helping to construct new toilet facilities for the school. Before the project, the school had only two very basic toilets for the 70 pupils, and Harrow's help in building the new bathrooms ensured that the school would not be shut down because of poor facilities. During the lunch hour, the Harrow boys often got to play football with the students. Although the Kenyans had an advantage, as they were very apt to playing on dusty and uneven ground, the Harrow boys still managed to beat their team on a fairly regular basis.
On the weekend the group had the pleasure of visiting the Masai Mara and Serengeti game parks. It was a seven hour drive from Nakuru, though the boys all agreed it was a very worthwhile excursion, as a wide variety of wildlife was seen. Just over the course of two days four of the big five game animals were spotted out on the plains, as well crocodiles, hippos and monkeys near the rivers. At night, the Harrow students stayed in a deluxe encampment and were fed deliciously fresh meals. The boys also had the joy of meeting Masai warriors in their village. While there, they were shown around the native houses and were then allowed to join in the native Masai war dance. Finally, the group was given the chance to purchase some of the handmade jewellery and trinkets made by the men and women from the settlement, before heading back to Nakuru.
In all, the trip was incredibly educational and eye-opening for all the boys who took part. There was a definitive sense of friendship and understanding between the students of both countries. Despite the fact that the Kenyan pupils were often rather impoverished and underprivileged, they were incredibly happy with the little they had, and they enjoyed nothing more than learning in their school. Perhaps their attitude can be a valuable lesson for us all.
Program: Volunteering in Kenya
It's like my second home... I can't wait to go back.
Submitted by Luke Newman - Biggleswade | January 12, 2016
I have been to St. Trizah's School in Nakuru, Kenya twice with African Adventures and Derby County Community Trust in 2014 and 2015. I am married and have three children and these trips are up there as the greatest experiences of my life.
My first paragraph from my blog reads "At first I was apprehensive about what to do when the children approached me, this is a new experience for me, at home there are restrictions and limitations on what you can do and rightly so. But in Kenya, they are so happy to see you, they want to feel wanted and loved. So, I cuddled them back, held there hands, gave them high fives, it's what they want, seeing their huge smiles just from that, gives you a warm feeling inside". This sums up my two trips perfectly.
During my time, I have assisted with teaching, help to develop teaching styles and curriculum, help with the feeding programme at the school and constructing new classrooms at the new site of the school ready for their move.
One of my favourite moments is going back for the second time and seeing a boy called James that I met the previous year. Like in a clip from a movie, both of us saw each other and ran at the same time, I picked him up and swung him round, giving him a massive cuddle. He said that he was scared that I wouldn't remember him. I reassured him that I have never or would ever forget him.
I also can not express how much I admire African Adventures on what they have achieved and what they will continue to achieve in the years ahead. If it wasn't for the distance to their headquarters, I would like to work for them full-time. That's how much I believe in African Adventures.
Nakuru is now like my second home and I can't wait to return and continue the work in May 2016.
Program: Volunteering in Kenya