A Kenyan Adventure with Derby County Community Trust

Dan Mew
Day 1

We arrived at Nairobi airport after our flight from Birmingham, via Amsterdam, on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. Whilst waiting for our suitcases to be packed on our coaches, we played football with a tennis ball and threw a Frisbee. This was a great way to break the ice and bond as a new group. Whilst travelling through the city of Nairobi, everything seemed similar to my previous two visits; the city was full of pollution, vehicles driving erratically and many, many people walking. What was nice to see was people dressed going to church. Religion is huge in Kenya and every boy and man is dressed in a suit and all girls and women look dazzling in dresses. No matter how people are dressed during the rest of the week, on a Sunday most are dressed in their best attired ready to pray, celebrate and be thankful for what their God has given them.

Volunteering in Kenya

From my original trip in 2014 to today, the sight of rubbish and dirt in the streets doesn’t shock me anymore. Is this me getting used to it? Is it a good thing or bad thing that it doesn’t shock me? Surely it’s a bad thing, NOBODY should live in these conditions. I suppose it’s because I’ve nearly spent a month over here in total.

Heading out of the city, we travel to the Rift Valley to the sight of beautiful scenery. It’s hard to believe that in between pollution and poverty is this land of beauty. It’s hard to describe how stunning this sight is. Yes, Kenya has some sites that nobody should see and live in, but this truly amazing country has some of the best views in the world too.

As we arrive into Nakuru, I can see the improvements that have been made to the city, with newly built buildings and pathways. People are looking to do something to make work for themselves. To make a better life for them. It’s a great thing to see first hand.

As we settle in at Kivu, our resort, I am looking forward to seeing the new site of St. Trizah School tomorrow and its official opening. Two years of hard work and planning, I believe it will be emotional.

Day 2

Incredible. Simply incredible day. The day of the official opening of the new St. Trizah School had arrived. We set off through the slums and through the streets, to see improvements compared to my previous visits. Roads are being fixed, paths are being made and people look busy, looking to work.

Our arrival at St. Trizah’s started by visiting the accompanying field and seeing crops growing. A fantastic site. They were planted in May and will be ready in September. Once ready, they will be able to feed the school for a few months.

As we walked to the entrance, we were greeted by a few familiar faces and a red ribbon. My father, Steve, and brother, Paul, were given the honour on behalf of Derby County Community Trust and African Adventures to cut the ribbon. I was a little emotional to be honest. Both of them have worked extremely hard over the last five years and I couldn’t be more proud of them both.

During the last few months, we have learnt that a lot of the children from the original St. Trizah School will not move with it. Those who have followed me, will know that one of the children that I have grown fond of is James. I have been very worried that he would be one of the children that has moved to a different school. However, as soon as I walked onto the new site, a gleaming smile was there to greet me. JAMES IS HERE! Tears ran down both of our eyes as we embraced. I then gave him two photographs of myself with him from the last two years and he was extremely happy with them.

We were then treated to three hours of dancing, singing and acting. There are some seriously good dancers at this school. At one point we all performed with them!

I was also given an honour myself, this time to plant a tree outside one of the classrooms. As I looked across the field, I could see children playing and laughing. We as a team did that! We helped build the classrooms, we helped put the water supply in, we helped build the kitchen! It’s a massive achievement and something that I extremely proud of not only me but all of the volunteers from the last few years. We have helped changed lives.

I was able to sit with James and talk to him about how he was. He told me that his mother is extremely poorly in hospital and is currently living with his auntie. His father died a few years ago. It takes him two hours a day to walk to school and then two hours to go home. I was lost for words. I explained that I lost my mother and sister and tried to give him some words of encouragement. It’s so tough for him.

The rest of the day was spent catching up with new and old teachers and children. Although we didn’t have a chance to start building a classroom, it was such an important day for this school and for us. Sometimes making a difference is simply talking and laughing rather than building. It’s definitely a day I will always remember.

Volunteering in Kenya

Day 3

The first day of building classrooms and what a start! Beforehand we were told that we are trying to build two classrooms in our time. However, upon arrival, we learnt that we need to build three! One has partially been built, but the walls need erecting.

Now over the previous two years, I have learnt that Kenyan builders take their time and supplies were not always available. I wasn’t very hopefully that this would change. However, I was very wrong. The builders were superb and had given us all the tools and cement that was needed straight away.

My day-to-day working life is sitting at desk from 8.30-5pm. I’m not a builder, a labourer nor do I enjoy D.I.Y but I love building the classrooms. I have done since my first visit in 2014. I love mixing cement, carrying large boulders, building walls, everything! But I know that I couldn’t do it for a living, so why do I enjoy it in Nakuru? I suppose I know it’s for something important, a purpose! Something for children and future generations. We are changing lives doing what we are doing.

During the day, we heard a bell ring, the start of morning break for the children. We decided to have a break too. We joined the kids for a game of football. During the ‘kick-about’ the ball unfortunately hit a toddler in the face. I comforted the child, giving him a cuddle and calming him down. Afterwards I tried to give him a teddy to make him feel better. But he didn’t understand what it was and cried once more. I’ve always said that a child should have a teddy to comfort them in the times of need, why should these children in Kenya be any different, it’s heartbreaking.

After our lunch break, I decided to visit the classrooms. In one of the classes, no teacher was present, so I took it upon myself to take the class! Something that I have never done before. I didn’t like the idea of children sitting there at a school not learning. I was unprepared and nervous. Firstly (and luckily) a fellow volunteer had cut out some teddy templates, so with the help of lollipop sticks, glue and eyes, we made some puppets. The kids loved them. I then decided to teach them some English, so I drew a human body on the blackboard and asked the children to name the body parts, firstly in English and then in Swahili. So not only was I hopefully teaching them, they were teaching me. They seemed to enjoy it and I certainly did. We then did some multiplication with the seven, eight and nine times table and finished with people spelling their names on the chalkboard. At the end of the lesson, the children thanked me with ‘hi-fives’ and cuddles.

I finished the day by helping the volunteers with the classroom build, levelling the floor. A great but tiring day. A superb start to the big build.

Day 4

Today (Wednesday) was Independence Day in Kenya. As a sign of the growth of Nakuru and for the first time in their 53 year history, the celebration ceremony hosted by the President was held at the local football ground, which is a few hundred yards down the road from Kivu Resort, where we are staying. Unfortunately, security insisted that due to safety, we would remain in our resort all day. Devastated. A day without going to St. Trizah School. But I fully understand and respect their decision.

Coincidentally, our shipment of YOUR donations of clothes etc. arrived in the morning. So we have moved all the items to a giant room in our resort ready for them to be distributed to three schools including St. Trizah’s.

Currently African Adventures are hosting MidKent College in Nakuru; they are doing volunteer work in another school. They asked for a football match behind the resort and obviously we accepted. After a 30 minute match, we won 2-0, myself scoring 1. Happy with that!

At 6.30pm we were due for our dinner, provided by our resort. However, as our match with MidKent was finishing, a tribe of Maasai warriors interrupted us. Yes MAASAI WARRIORS, in full headgear, outfit, jewellery and spears. We thought that they needed the land for practicing for further celebrations of Independence Day. We were wrong! They wanted a match!

So off came the headgear etc. and they were ready! We teamed with MidKent College to make one team against the Warriors! Again, after a 30 minute match, we won 4-2, myself scoring 2 goals. Although they lost, the Maasai warriors were amazing, a good set of men who enjoyed playing football. Although I am biased, because I love the sport, football is a universal game that brings people together. They couldn’t speak English and we couldn’t speak their tribal language, but football was the communication. This was an amazing experience that I will NEVER EVER forget. It was very emotional. Before we both left, the warriors performed their tribal dance and we joined in with them.

Now, I’m ready for tomorrow and returning to St. Trizah School to continue building the classrooms.

Charity volunteering in Africa
Day 5

Today (Thursday) we arrived back at St. Trizah School to continue the big build. However on our return we noticed that the mission had got a lot bigger. Not only are we needing to build two new classrooms, but also now complete three other classrooms, not the one we originally thought! Game on!

One thing that I have learnt from my past three visits to Kenya, is how great it is working with the Kenyan builders. The foreman, Dan, has improved his English massively since last year and has been telling us about his life, his upcoming divorce and marriage and his credentials. A thoroughly nice guy. It’s fascinating to see that he has a stammer in Swahili, but not English! Although the other builders can not speak English, we communicate using signals and actions. It shows that you don’t always need words to get a message across.

My job for the morning was to hit many hammers into the wooden posts that are holding together the frame and roof of the classroom. The reason for this is that it is then cemented gripping the nails into place. This strengthens the structure of the whole building.

During the afternoon, I took another class, this time an English lesson. I decided that I wanted to know about the 25 children a little more. So I wrote on the board the following:

  1. My name is _
  2. I am _ years old
  3. I live with my _
  4. When I leave school I would like to be a _ because _

Each child had to then write the questions and their answers in their books and read them out in class. What came across is that each child has ambitions; doctors, teachers, pilots, policeman, even a baker. But for me personally, it was heartbreaking to hear that only 2 children, out of 25, live with their parents. They live with one parent, grandparents or other relatives. Unfortunately, that’s the normality of the 1.7 million people currently living in the slums of Nakuru.

The day was a great success and a lot of bricks have been laid and the walls are rising! A great group from both Britain and Kenya working together for one cause!

Day 6

Today (Friday) was a sad day. The final day before I leave to come home to England. The day I say goodbye to St. Trizah School and say goodbye to James for another year.

But I had a day of building ahead of me. I started the day by continuing nailing the wooden posts. I then removed broken or unwanted bricks from two classrooms outside. After we finished, me and the team had removed approximately a tonne of bricks.

We spent a lot of the afternoon with the children, especially James. James is currently living with his Auntie, his mother is currently in hospital and is very poorly. He isn’t sure that she will make it. I gave him a bag full of items, such as teddies, pencils, pens and a toothbrush. Best of all, I gave him a blanket. Believe it or not, this is winter in Kenya. It was averaging 27 degrees! Kenyans think it’s very cold. This blanket will keep him warm in the colder nights. I told him to keep warm and whenever he is feeling down to look at the photograph and know that I’m thinking of him. James gave me a letter that he had written, thanking me for coming back and saying that I’m like a father to him. We both broke down in tears.
The slums are a very, very hard place to live. The letter from James symbolises the importance of the work that we are doing; not only is is important to build classrooms/school for the children now and the future but it’s also important to be there for the children, listening to their lives, fears and ambitions.

The day finished by me giving out many, many teddies to the school children. I have said previously, that I believe that every child should be educated, but also have a teddy to cuddle at night when needed, especially here in Kenya. The nights are dark with no light, electricity and warmth.

Meeting children, old and new, is the best part of this trip. They are so happy with what they have got. The only tears you get from them, is when we say goodbye to each other. I’ve met some amazing children on this trip; Valerie, Jemima, Brian and of course James, to name but a few.

So there it is, as the coach left with me waving and crying to all the children, my third trip to helping the children in St.Trizah’s School in Nakuru, Kenya, is nearly over for another year.

Luke Newman, volunteer with Derby County Community Trust