Keeping my promise to Maasai land

A year ago I volunteered in a small village in Maasailand, Kenya. I promised to go back and exactly a year later I did. I had been motivated to do something to help the school I’d volunteered at and so did my family back home upon hearing my stories and seeing my pictures. So, whilst I continued travelling for the rest of the year, my parents set up a money tin at their shop to collect people’s spare change and my Grandma held a quilt raffle to raise money.

I left Brazil and flew back to Nairobi, Kenya at the beginning of January 2016. My brother decided to meet me there and come to the village to help me and experience rural life in Kenya. So together we went to Kimuka and stayed with the same family I’d stayed with a year before.

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It was almost like going back home. For the first time in over a year I was somewhere familiar. I knew the streets of Nairobi and Ngong, I knew the people and for the first time I didn’t have to discover a new place. I had memories of my time here a year before and it was nice to recognise the streets and the people. I usually don’t like going to the same place more than once when there is so much of the world to see but it was different in Kenya. I was glad to be back.

Going back to the school was great. The teachers remembered me and my promise to come back. My family had been able to raise $2000 over the previous 12 months and when I told Anne, the Head Teacher, she almost fell over. “You’ve answered my prayers”. “God has sent you to us”. I asked what the priority was for the school, thinking that we could buy all the textbooks for them. It turned out it would be enough money to accomplish more than that.

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Three classes were sharing the one room and it was difficult for the teachers having a room full of students at different ages and levels and trying to teach them what they needed to learn. Anne announced we would build a new classroom with the money. At first, my brother and I didn’t believe that the money could cover it but after getting a quote off a local carpenter it was obvious that it would. We were so thrilled that the money could make such a big impact.

Of course there were other issues too. The teachers hadn’t been paid since last year. There were still shortages of textbooks. One class, level three, the oldest in the school, didn’t even have a teacher at all. On my second day back, Anne said to me, “You’re experienced now, you can teach them”. So began my first teaching experience with no previous knowledge or textbooks to work off, it was safe to say that I was making a lot up as I went!

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Luckily, one girl’s family bought an English and Maths book for Level Three so I was able to use them to guide my lessons. Otherwise, religion, science and social studies I made up. Swahili was taught by one of the other teachers which meant their class was then left alone.

One day I decided to do some geography. They had a Kenyan flag on the wall so I started by asking about the flag. I then drew the Australian flag to show them the differences between them. I proceeded to draw a (rough) map of Africa and asked them to point to Kenya but none of them had any idea. I filled in Kenya and then the rest of the countries in East Africa. I explained to them that Uganda and Tanzania also spoke Swahili, the national language of the three countries. I made them copy and colour it in their books and told them to go home and show their parents. That was my favourite class. I feel strongly about needing to know the world around you, especially in a continent like Africa where there are over 50 countries who need to work together to help the continent thrive in the future.

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Despite some problems, I noticed a big improvement on what I’d seen last year. I’ve been there now two January’s, only one year a part and the picture is completely different. Last year they were almost in a drought, the land was dry, brown and bare. People told me many livestock had died, leaving families in a dire situation. This year was very different. The place was a vibrant green and it rained half the nights we were there, even leaving the roads washed out and difficult to access. But that wasn’t a bad thing for the locals because it meant livestock and crops were flourishing. I noticed the students brought food for morning tea which they never did last year and I noticed lots of maize crops in paddocks that had been previously empty. It’s amazing what influence the weather and climate have on the land and people’s wealth. These are the people who are truly at the mercy of climate change.

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While we were there we also had the chance to travel to more remote villages. My brother had brought over two suitcases full, one of Days for Girls packs made by our Grandma and the other of second hand sport’s clothes and soccer tops. The clothes we gave out to the local people in Kimuka. It’s amazing how our second hand clothes can be held so highly by others. I actually felt ashamed because such good quality clothes are unwanted in Australia. So much of it looked almost brand new and they were asking me, “Why you people don’t want these?!”. I couldn’t give them an answer because what answer could I say? “Because we just buy new stuff all the time!”.

For the Days for Girls bags we went to another village called Saikeri. We visited a school there and gathered all the teenage girls in one room. Behind closed doors (periods are still taboo in Kenya) we demonstrated to the girls how the handmade pads worked. We showed them how to use them and how they could be washed and reused. Although the girls were shy, they listened intently and were excited to get the bags when I started handing them out. Even the teachers wanted a pack each. It would mean that every month no girl at this school would have to miss school for a week because of her period. The girls said they either couldn’t afford sanitary pads at all or often ran out of supplies because the nearest place to purchase them was at least a two hour drive away.

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So my second trip to Kenya was very successful and I loved being back there, living the simple life in rural Maasailand. I was glad my brother could experience the way of life there too and witness the poverty in a developing country. It makes you feel lucky to have been born in a country like Australia but it also motivates you to help change the situation in the countries that need it the most.

So, once again, I’m raising money for the school. Hopefully with the potential to spread out and benefit other schools too. So yes, I’ll be going back. It’s almost my second home now.

 

*post adapted from my trip here in January 2016 and from my previous blog elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com

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