Every June for the past seven years, we have had the privilege of hosting students and teachers from George Heriots school in Scotland for a two week service based trip in Kenya. Their remarkable dedication and commitment to supporting our local community through fundraising for critical infrastructure development, supporting students with severe learning disabilities from extremely poor families, solar lamps, fuel efficient stoves, bicycles for health outreach workers and so much more over the years – has been incredible to say the least. For schools like Mitero, Irura and Ethi Primary, this support has been transformational to the well being of hundreds of children. This gives true meaning to responsible tourism, this is a relationship built over seven years within communities that are part and parcel of our lives…thank you and asante sana to Tara Verden-Anderson, Rachel Fairly and Katy Martin for sharing their experience with us from this year’s trip to Kenya…
Our trip to Kenya was one to remember. We were fortunate enough to spend two weeks on an extraordinary adventure filled with rewarding community work, thrilling safaris and adventure activities.
For the last two years, George Heriot’s School has worked with Mitero Primary School to improve the facilities and infrastructure in an attempt to better the school for both the pupils and staff working there. To ensure the community work was as beneficial as possible, we put in a big fundraising effort to fund for the materials we would require on the months leading up to our departure. Splitting into groups, we organised bake sales, stalls at the Christmas fair and even a ‘Soak the Teachers’! We all took part in the ‘Race to Kenya’ where we were sponsored to collectively tally up our mileage and as a group managed to ‘travel’ to Kenya. The combined effort from every member of the group raised an incredible £10,659 which was directly invested into work in Kenya, especially Mitero Primary School.
On the 9th June 2019, the adventure began. All 42 pupils and 6 members of staff flew from Edinburgh to Dubai and then Dubai to Nairobi. The flights were long, so when we arrived in Kenya’s capital we were all very tired. However, this soon changed once we left the airport and journeyed out of Nairobi and into rural Kenya. To break up the journey we stayed the first night en route to Nanyuki. The next morning, we continued North to Ol Pejeta Conservancy. We stayed in a camp on the boundary of the conservancy meaning that we were surrounded by wildlife; elephants being just metres away. The camp was simple, but we quickly came to call it our home for that week. We stayed in big tents which slept 6-8 people and were provided with a range of delicious meals. We spent our first full day doing activities to settle us into the camp, including: mountain biking, climbing, archery and Kenyan bush craft skills.
The next day, we journeyed to Mitero Primary School for the first time. Despite being a simple school with limited facilities, the pupils and teachers exuded joy; the pupils welcomed us by singing songs and holding our hands.
We began working on the school almost straight away. Our aims were: to plaster the floors and walls of two classrooms, construct new tables and desks for the younger years, paint the nursery and plant one hundred trees. The manual labour was hard work, and this was intensified by the hot, midday sun however we were all determined to complete the goals we had set out to do. We worked for five days in the primary school and managed to finish all our tasks with the help of the Kenyan fundis.
Whilst at the school we also got the opportunity to teach lessons, play games with the children and learn Kenyan songs and dances. On our last afternoon with the pupils we held a sports day competition, a football match and had an assembly when we sang Scottish songs, did ceilidh dancing and got a chance to perform the Kenyan dances we had learnt. Saying goodbye was difficult as everyone had formed strong connections with the children from Mitero. However, we left with a sense of hope that the children would benefit from our work.
At the weekend, we went on a safari at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. We saw many African animals, for example: elephants, lions, rhinos and giraffes. We were informed about the aims of their conservation work which included protecting animals from extinction; last month having successfully carried out IVF on one of the two remaining Northern white rhinos. One night we camped inside the conservancy alongside the animals. Other highlights from the trip were travelling to the equator and visiting Tambuzi Flower Farm. On our last night at the Ol Pejeta campsite, we told ghost stories with our trip leader Joyce, sang songs and looked for shooting stars.
We spent the last few days of our trip at Forest Camp where we had lots of fun canyoning and rock climbing.
Our trip, as well as acting as a great opportunity to improve our teamwork skills, was also extremely enlightening. The contrast between our lives here in Edinburgh and the lives of the Kenyan children was staggering, and we were all amazed by the happiness, community spirit and welcoming nature demonstrated by the Kenyans, despite their everyday struggles. Our group leader, Joyce, was extremely honest about the extent of poverty in Kenya and explained to us the importance of being thankful for what we have. She emphasised the impact our work at Mitero Primary would have on the children and teachers there, and also highlighted the importance of continuing to use our privilege in a positive way. This inspiring message made us reflect on our priorities and demonstrated that we often take for granted things that can go a long way in different circumstances.
The Kenya trip is certainly an experience that will stay with us long after we leave Heriot’s.