A group of 50 students travelled to Kenya to help build classrooms for Kenyan children in poor, rural areas as part of their school’s charity venture.
Every year, the Weald School in Billingshurst offers sixth-form students the opportunity to work hands-on in building classrooms in the Kitale region in the north west of the country.
The trip involved travelling to lay bricks in local schools, visiting classrooms the school built last year and cuddling babies in a local orphanage.
Students also experienced evening entertainment in the form of Kenyan house parties, song battles, games of taboo and talent shows.
Neil Dixon, science teacher at the school, said in his personal account of the trip: “An uneventful trip up from Nairobi saw us stop to view the wonder that is the Great Rift Valley, cross the equator and get our first glimpse of the local wildlife in the form of zebras and baboons along the roadside.
“We passed the wondrous Lake Elementaita and finally arrived into the welcome arms of Theresa and the Karibuni Lodge.
“Sunday saw us all attend church services in different locations, with one of the leaders nearly coming home with more than he had bargained for.”
Their first weekend involved visiting a local rose farm that exports to the UK, before an evening meal of traditional food from the Trans-Nzgoia region in the house of local Madam Sitti.
Of the rest of the trip, Neil said: “The second week saw the classrooms really taking shape, with the students starting to plan colourful murals to paint as a memento for the primary school children to remember them by.
“Leaving them was emotional – saying goodbye to the teachers and students who we had got to know, exchanging gifts. It was an experience that we will all hold in our hearts forever.
“The final weekend saw us travel to Mount Elgon, the Nakuru National Safari Park and the Nakuru Lake Lodge for some other traditional tourist activities.
“Outside our hotel I led the students into the market and the world of haggling. They all came away happy with their purchases. One student was particularly happy with getting a rare yellow Kenyan football shirt for 500 Ksh when all his friends had paid 800 KSh or more.
“Our arrival in Nairobi was with mixed emotions. Everyone was looking forward to getting home to see their loved ones, but it was equally clear that some of us had formed a real attachment to this land of our ancestors.”
The Weald School’s Classrooms for Kenya charity was founded in 2006, when teachers visiting the country were shocked at the standard of school buildings.
Children in rural areas routinely learn in classrooms made of mud that are expected to collapse within a few years.
The rural north west of the country is particularly deprived, not receiving the same level of publicity or funding as busier cities.While buildings are unsafe, government policy states that parents of students must pay for new school buildings, which they cannot afford.
Lumuli Primary School was one school that was threatened with closure by the Kenyan government until Classrooms for Kenya intervened. The school has now been completely rebuilt.
In the last 13 years, the school’s charity has been involved in building 100 classrooms for more than 20 schools.
Funds are raised through the students’ own fundraising efforts and a school-wide sponsored walk in the summer.
During last year’s trip, Kenyan student Lucy said during her farewell speech: “We may never thank you enough. No amount of gratitude can be sufficient.
“Our passion for education, zeal for success and determination to soar to greater heights has been enhanced and I hope our success story will resonate across and reach you wherever you’ll be and make you proud.
“The most fulfilling feeling to humankind is when you lose yourself in the service of others, which is the greatest show of humanity.
“With your show of generosity, you’ve made the world a better place. We surely will breathe easier because you lived.”