6 years, 14 trips, hundreds of different people, two schools, 600 children! Where am I talking about?
Kenya still blows my mind even now after so long. Every trip is unique and every time I learn something new about myself and about others. I honestly had no idea that my life could change so dramatically from one two-week trip in 2011.
You can never predict the path your life will take and that’s probably the most exciting thing about it. I just knew that after my first visit to Melon Mission in Nakuru it wasn’t going to be my last. Despite the extreme poverty and in some cases unimaginable lives the children lead, when they are at school surrounded by people who genuinely love and care for them you feel like you’re in the happiest place in the world. Hundreds of smiles but hundreds of stories beyond them all.
I wondered what I could do to help. I questioned whether you need to be rich to make a difference or if I had any skills to offer. I’ll never be rich and nor do I aspire to be. But I know I can make people smile (sometimes!!) and I know I have the drive to make a change. Something that really stood out to me was how much I got out of helping the children and seeing how students from the UK thrived whilst being at the schools. They developed in confidence and an understanding of what the world is really like outside of their own lives. So many people that have taken part in these trips have gone above and beyond to make a difference. I’m extremely proud to see how these trips have also given people a career path and ignited a passion in a range of areas from teaching, to charity work to world development.
Sophie Plummer a student from the University of Winchester is an example of how these trips can have a huge impact on your life.
“After coming back from Kenya, I realised my true passion was teaching. I found it so rewarding seeing the children learning things I had taught them, and seeing their huge smiles from the enjoyment my lessons brought to them. I realised I want to be able to provide children with an education and give them this tool to change the world. I made the brave decision to transfer courses at university. I am now studying primary education and have just completed my first year. I am thoroughly enjoying it.”
The experience of meeting people from a totally different culture and embracing their way of life is a humbling experience. I now always feel like I’m going back to my second home, despite only knowing about 5 words in Swahili!
The question I get asked the most is “How can you leave those schools and return to your way of life?”. At first this was something I found hard to answer and made me question whether coming in and out of those projects was going to help. I then said to myself, if I was to change my life would it do anything to help them? You can’t choose where you are born and what life you are born into. I’m extremely lucky to have such an amazing family and have always been looked after. I’m not going to make any major changes to the way I live but I can do everything I can to help others lead a better life and support them in having a better future. Never underestimate the difference you can make to someone’s life.
Over the last six years I’ve seen so many positive changes within Melon Mission and Silver Bells. It would be naive of me to say we are anywhere near where we need to be, but these are huge projects that need an incredible amount of funding to function and sadly don’t receive any government funding. That said, we are moving in the right direction with new classrooms, desks, kitchens and toilets (Toilets you would be shocked to hear are fairly new, but hundreds of children are using these a day!!)
Both schools now have access to running water and water tanks. Both schools have fences and new gates to improve the security and our biggest project to date is the brand-new school we are supporting Melon Mission with currently consisting of 4 classrooms so far. For me it’s always been more than just building a new classroom; no matter what a building looks like it’s nothing without incredible children, staff and teachers. Our support continues through sponsorship of students, supporting the volunteer teachers through training, food donations, resources, clothes, shoes, health and first aid supplies. Above all the most positive impact we have is through our volunteers sharing their skills and bringing new ideas into these projects that help them to develop and move forward.
Turns out my writing is just like my conversations about Kenya. Long and very wordy. If you are still with me, my final message is on ‘Sustainability’. People will always doubt what you are doing and whether it’s a help or a hindrance. Based on my personal experience of working with the same two schools for this long is that we are a help. You just need to visit the schools and talk to the staff to know that volunteers and donations do make a difference. The schools are far more sustainable than they ever were 6 years ago. They truly put the hard work in and look after those children with and without us. We are here to support them and show those children that outside of school there are people who care about them and want them to succeed in life.
Pastor Daniel from Silver Bells Children’s Welfare who also refers to himself as the gofa said this…
“Everything changed completely because YTA/Younite came with a willing heart to see that we have and what we need. In the short time, we have worked with them we have new classes, running water, permanent gate, water tanks, toilets and our modern kitchen. It was in the beginning hard to feed the 20 kids that we had before YTA came, now it is easier to feed over 130 children that we have currently have at Silver Bells. We love having volunteers join us. Everyone is welcome.”
My favourite saying is this. “We might not be able to change the world but we can change someone’s world”
Thank you to everyone who volunteers and travels through YTA and to those who help us to raise money for these phenomenal projects through our partner charity Younite Foundation. Bring on the next 6 years.