The Fulton secondary school Free the Children trip to build a school in Kenya started with another trip. Teacher Mike Edgar took a class of 30 students to We Day in Vancouver and one of the students, Xavier Morris, won a trip for himself and five friends to go to Kenya in July.
“We had been doing fundraising for Free the Children and more students wanted to go, so 10 of us went,” said Danika Serafin, a Grade 12 student.
When Free the Children builds a school in Kenya, the government will supply a teacher. The bureaucratic catch is that the schools must build one classroom at a time in order to get a teacher for the class. The school, in a rural area called Sikirrar, presently has 400 students up to Grade 4. The Fulton team built a classroom for Grade 5 and helped dig the foundation for a Grade 6 classroom.
The people in this part of the country, about five hours by road from Nairobi, are Masai who lead a semi-nomadic life herding cattle and goats and growing maize. Many of the students, and some of the teachers, in the school walk up to two hours each way to attend classes. Education is free up to Grade 7 but high school is all private schools, which few can afford.
“It was a huge culture shock. People had little but they were happy with what they had and really thankful to have us there,” said Serafin. “The children learn some English in school but you don’t need to talk to be able to play with them. They liked soccer and I taught them some songs and games. They were very friendly and concerned and would just come up and hold our hands sometimes.”
The Fulton students and Edgar stayed in tents while they worked on the school.
“There was no power in the area so we did everything by hand. We dug holes for the foundation and chipped the rocks into bricks for the walls. The roof was made of tin with eavestroughs to catch the rain and save in cisterns,” said Edgar.
“We were pleased to be invited to a local home which was made of sticks and dung. It was one room that was the home for a family with six children.”
The team had good meals of vegetables, fruit, eggs and chicken. One day they ate what rich Masai would eat: ground maize and water for breakfast; corn and bean soup for lunch; cabbage and tomato with leftover maize for supper. The poor Masai have a cup of chai in the morning and maize at night. They carry their water on their heads, up to two kilometres each way.
School was in session while the team was working so they got to know some of the students.
“Everyone was welcoming. It’s amazing to see how the people function with so little and are so happy and work so hard. It’s hard for Canadians to understand this way of life and that by going there and helping this way we can bring hope and change their lives,” said Edgar. “It was thought that bringing education to this valley would conflict with the culture where traditionally the children stay home and help mama with the chores. If the children go to school, there is more work for mama but the mothers want the children to learn and have a chance to better themselves. If we weren’t there building these schools, they couldn’t have this hope.
“The schools are important not only to provide basic education but to teach animal husbandry and what to grow to improve their diets and how to find clean water.”
Serafin was touched by the mothers’ love for their children.
“Mamas say they want their children to be Kenya’s leaders of tomorrow. The mothers there have the same dreams for their children as here. They are no different that way but they work so much harder every day,” she said. “It was wonderful to see how the money from our fundraisers was used, to put faces to the struggle and meet the people who go through it every day. When we went to the market, people would come up and thank us for being there. It makes me much more passionate about raising money to make a difference. I’m going to continue to be involved. I’d recommend this kind of trip to anyone. You learn about yourself and the world and help others. I hope I can be a group leader in the future.”
The group was also able to take part in a safari and visit some local markets. The students are keeping in touch with the school at Sikirrar and will be doing a presentation about their trip for Fulton school in the fall.