Mr Sirot-Smith, Ms Watkins and a team of Year 10 and 11 students from the college gave up their half-term break in February to volunteer at two schools in one of Africa’s largest slums. The team was working in Nakuru, Kenya helping the two schools provide education for some of the area’s poorest children. Over 600,000 people live in the Nakuru slum, which is the fastest growing town in Africa.
They completed the building of a new classroom for Ungana Academy and repaired several classrooms at Jubilee Academy. In addition to the building work the volunteers worked alongside the teachers in classes, taught lessons, organised sporting activities and carried out community visits, taking much needed provisions such a flour, sugar, cooking oil and soap to families in dire need.
The trip also included a visit to the Nakuru dump, upon which over 200 families live and scrape together a living. Many of the children living on the dump attend schools supported by African Adventures with whom the Ely team were travelling.
In their luggage the group took over 21 bags of school shoes, children’s socks and underpants, all donated by the Ely College community as part of the ‘Show You Care’ appeal. These were gratefully received by the schools’ children, few of whom had ever received new clothes.
The trip was capped off with a visit to an elephant orphanage and a chance to feed giraffes at the Nairobi Giraffe Sanctuary.
Team member Jessica-Ellen Ball commented: ‘It was the best week of my life. I am so glad I came; I never thought that I could make such a difference to the lives of others. It was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone. I can’t wait to come back again.’
The team have spent the last year fundraising for the trip and plans are already being made for another trip next year. Many of the students are keen to return, such as Neve Armstrong, who celebrated her 15th birthday during the 10 days. She commented: ‘It’s been an emotional and challenging trip but has been the best thing I’ve done. It really has been life changing and I will return.’
Team leader and Director of the Sixth Form, Mark Sirot-Smith added: ‘I am so proud of the team; it was a privilege to have been a part of such a hardworking and dedicated group of volunteers. Despite the appalling poverty and lack of resources at the two schools, the team saw first-hand how love and education can change the lives of these children.
‘By coming here our students have really made a difference and their work will benefit hundreds of children now and in the future. The directors of the two schools were amazed by how much they achieved and how they were always looking for more to do. They all have new families in Kenya and will be missed.’
Planning will soon begin for the next volunteering project with African Adventures. If you are interested in being part of that team please contact Mr Sirot-Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is a small selection of photos from the trip but more can be found on the Ely College Kenya facebook page.