Vicki Burton returns to talk us through the third day of the Club's Community Sports Foundation's National Citizen Service trip to Kenya.
After a late night watching Liverpool, we were up at 7:30am on Thursday for breakfast which we shared with the college group from Oxfordshire. It was a more ‘normal’ breakfast today; sausage, eggs, potatoes, toast and fruit. Everyone was down (pretty much) on time and had a good meal which lined our stomachs ready to take our daily anti-malarial medication.
Lathered up in suncream and sprayed in DEET, at 9am we were ready to set off to Jubilee Academy. It was only a short distance away but the state of the roads meant it took an extremely long time, I honestly don’t think I’ll ever complain about potholes again! The bus pulled up a short distance away as the road was too uneven to drive on. We could hear the excited screams of the children as we came towards the gate. The whole school, around 150 children and 7 volunteers, ran to the gate to meet us. It turned out that the volunteers hadn’t told the children we were coming as they wanted to surprise them. They all sang us a welcome song at the gate and some of our group were quite overwhelmed by a number of things at this point, including the children’s kindness, excitement and happiness, but also the conditions in which these children live and learn.
Most of the children wore brown school uniforms; the girls in dresses and the boys in shorts and shirts. Some of the children had jumpers on while others had red tracksuits on. One little girl was wearing a Christmas jumper. The children all had shoes, most in poor condition, and some better fitting than others. There was a boy whose shorts were completely torn across his bum and girls whose dresses didn’t fasten as the buttons had fallen off. We are hoping when we get back that we can find some local schools who wear brown and maybe try to donate some old uniforms to Jubilee.
The school is for children aged 3-13 and some of the older boys brought us some plastic chairs into the playground. We were told by Edith, the Headteacher at Jubilee, that the children had prepared some small entertainment. They sat us in a line and we were treated to the most amazing school performance that any of us had ever witnessed! The first part of the show was performed by around 16 girls aged around 8+. One of the older girls sang/chanted and the rest of the group repeated after her while they all performed a dance. It was all in Swahili, their first language, but we could pick out certain parts. It lasted around 20 minutes and some of the children shook our hands during the show.
There were other parts of the show and included both boys and girls, performing hip-hop style dances, chants and songs. The children who weren’t involved in the show watched on and clapped, as did the volunteer teachers. Some of the volunteers brought their babies to school with them; one was even sleeping on an old mattress on the floor of the classroom.
After the show we headed to a small room that we were using throughout the day. Only our group, plus Edith and Susannah, were allowed in the room as we were told that if the children came in, they might try to take our things. This isn’t because the children are bad, simply because they have nothing and like to have special things to hold and play with. Susannah, we learned, is Edith’s mum and the founder of Jubilee Academy. She wanted to provide the local children a chance to go to school without having to pay any fees to do so. Edith and Susannah told us about the school and what they hoped we could help with. They showed us into one of their classrooms and asked us if we could help to renovate it. There were small wooden desks built for two children that we needed to move in order to start the renovation. The first task was to remove the top layer of concrete flooring and sweep it out so that new concrete could be laid to make it flat. We had Gilbert, Edith’s brother, to help. He told us that we needed to wait for tools before we could start, so we went out to meet the children.
There was a football game going on but instead of jumpers for goalposts, they used shoes, and the child whose shoes they were played in bare feet. Since football is an international language, I asked the boys if I could play and they were all telling me which way to shoot and asking me to be on their team. I scored straight away, which in 15 a-side with some tied up rags was pretty impressive! The boys enjoyed it and celebrated with me. This gave Louis, Luke, Craig and Will the encouragement to join in and they played football with the boys for at least 40 minutes.
In the meantime, the girls got out some of the balls and bubbles we brought and were playing games with different groups of children. The children refer to us as ‘Zum zum’ which I think is either white people or Western people, but is a term of endearment. The children are fascinated by white people and wanted to touch our hair and skin. They tried on our sunglasses and stroked our arms and faces. Paige, Ellie L, Yazmin and Taylor had gathered a huge crowd as they were teaching children a new dance. Chris, Angie, Louise and Ellie H were leading some ball games while Amy was surrounded by the older girls who were interested in her nose piercing and taking selfies on her phone! Meanwhile, I was having my hair played with by a group of small children.
Shortly after, Paige and Luke started a conga line and around 60 children and volunteers joined in. There were lots of smiles and laughs as they danced all the way around the playground. On the other side of the playground, Chris had been invited to join in a game with some children who looked about 6. The young children don’t really speak English but they taught Chris the game very quickly! It was a sort-of rhyming game; all of the children were in a circle and put their right hand on top of the left hand of the person next to them. They sang a rhyme as each child clapped the hand of the person to their left. Whoever had the clap when the rhyme was finished got to choose who should be eliminated from the game. None of the children ever eliminated Chris and as a result he won the first four games! The children invited me to play but Chris eliminated me twice, much to the children’s amusement! The children then kept doing the elimination action to me and laughing hysterically!
Edith showed us some bracelets that she makes to raise money for the school and asked if we would like to buy one with our names on. She told us they cost 500KSh each (approximately £3). In Kenya you are expected to haggle for a better price and should only pay about 50% of the original price, but it was for a good cause so we agreed on the original price. She’s getting started on them today and we will pay her when they are finished. We also bought Jubilee Academy t-shirts for 1000KSh, both as a reminder of our trip and as a way of supporting the hard work of the volunteers.
The children had a snack at around 11:30am; I’m not sure what exactly it was but it looked similar to porridge and they all had a cup.
Gilbert told us the tools had arrived and we set to work on the classroom floor. There weren’t enough tools for us all and the classroom wasn’t huge, so half of the group continued to play with the children while the other half picked up the tools. It was a hard and very dusty job.
We were brought our dinner at about 12:30pm; a sort of Spaghetti Bolognese again. Just after we had finished, the children queued for their lunch which looked like rice and kidney beans. They could sit outside or in a classroom to eat. While the children were eating, Ellie H and I were chatting to one of the volunteer teachers, Bahran. He wanted to learn about our culture as we did his. He talked about the boys who were playing football in front of us and told us how talented they are, but understood that the likelihood of them ever getting out of Nakuru was very slim. Similarly, another child talked about her desire to become a doctor. We can only hope that the children can achieve their ambitions with the support of the amazing volunteers at their school. Bahran also spoke passionately about his desire to be a professional teacher one day, explaining that he volunteers now and also has an evening job in order to pay rent and eat. He told us that to become a teacher he would need to go to university but he is not worried about whether it will happen for him because he believes that if it is God’s plan, then it will.
We got back to work on the classroom and it seemed as though we would never get it flat. Edith said we were doing a great job and not to worry about the holes as we are going to cement a new layer tomorrow. We got the top layer off and began to sweep and shovel the loose rocks outside. We tried to put them in the huge puddle in the centre of the playground to raise it in order to stop the water forming puddles there. It was a really dusty and dirty job but with the help of two of the small children plus Angie’s super muscles, we got there in the end! We might need to do a little bit more sweeping tomorrow morning but we can check when we get there.
The bus collected us at 3:30pm and the children waved us off. Some of the local children from other schools came to meet us at the gate to say jambo! Susannah thanked us for our work today and told us that she would see us tomorrow. We had an amazing, surreal and overwhelming time at the school but it was exhausting too.
Back at the hotel, most of us spent the few spare hours before tea having a nap and a shower, before some of us (Amy) had to apply a little bit of after-sun! Who knew it would be so hot at the equator!?
Tea was served and we had more pasta and some sort of vegetables in a gravy/pasta style sauce with fruit for dessert. The staff are very helpful at the hotel.
We sat in the restaurant for a while after tea, playing some group card games and eating sweets. After such a fantastic day I think it will be an early night for us as we head off to Jubilee at 8:30am tomorrow.
Asante for reading!