Alderley Edge School for Girls gives a helping hand in Kenya... I coordinate KE’s School group department and was able to join Alderley Edge School for Girls on an expedition to Kenya last month. Alderley Edge first contacted KE a few years ago wanting us to find a suitable school for them to sponsor and partner over the years to come. This was not difficult as many of the porters on our Mount Kenya treks live in Chogoria, a village located at the foot of the mountain. Gitare school was in much need of help and so this incredible partnership began. In the months leading up to their school adventure, the parents and pupils of Alderley Edge threw themselves into the task of raising as much money as possible. Their efforts enabled them to provide enough funds for the building of a new library room for the school and to provide sports, musical and educational equipment. There was even enough money left over to fund the renovation of the Nursery classroom.
And so the Adventure began…
Alderley Edge School for Girls arrived into Nairobi Airport on the 7th July, an excitable group of 23! The School had invited both pupils and parents onto this expedition and they were all equally eager to start their journey into the heart of Kenya. Myself and KE leader Rob Fraser met the group at the airport and our adventure started with a bus journey to Chogoria, through bustling local villages and markets. The town of Chogoria is nestled near the foot of Mount Kenya and the humid mountain climate means that we were surrounded by lush African farmland. Tea plantations, banana trees and fields of maize stretch out as far as the eye can see. We arrived at our campsite in the early evening and after having a feast laid out for us, the group soon settled into their sleeping bags for their first nights camp.
Gitare School Project
With all the necessary funding in place the building work for the library was able to begin in preparation for our arrival. During our three days at Gitare School we had a lot of work to do: cement the floor of the library, build A-frames for the library roof and renovate the Nursery Classroom.
The whole group set to their tasks with admirable vigour and soon the place was a frenzy of painting, cement mixing, sawing and hammering. The cement for the library floor was all mixed by hand and the group soon learnt to recognise the perfect consistency needed! A countless number of wheelbarrow loads of cement were made to completely level the floor. A-frames were crafted and erected and the tin roof was soon in place. The final task was to make a set of bookshelves, all sawed by hand and painted by the girls.
The nursery, a very dark tin classroom, was in much need of a lick of paint. The girls soon set to lining the walls with plywood and brightened up the room by painting some fantastic educational murals. All of the desks and benches were painted and the final result was really impressive. The little faces of the nursery pupils lit up when they saw how their classroom had been transformed.
Donation of Equipment
The group were really sad to leave Gitare School at the end of their three-day visit but everyone was pleased with what had been achieved. On the last day, the school were presented with some football equipment, 100 musical recorders and nine boxes of writing material. There were a few teary farewells as we all waved good-bye to the children of Gitare School, with the promise of another visit in 2014!
Camel Trekking in the Samburu
Sleeping beneath the African Sky
After working hard at Gitare School, the group set out on a Camel trek through the Samburu National Park, just North of the Equator. During our trek we passed through the traditional pastoral villages of the Samburu region, even getting the chance to enter one of the mud-hut homes to learn about how they live. In the evenings, we camped under the stars in some of the most beautiful wild campsites and we were treated to some fantastic feasts by our cook, Jackson.
Along our trekking route, we saw goat and cow farmers tending to their herds, clothed in the traditional brightly coloured robes. The women of the villages treated us to some Samburu dancing, which was really fun and they soon had the girls and parents joining in. The girls also got the opportunity to practice their bartering skills when buying some of the beautiful hand-crafted beaded jewellery from a group of women in one the settlements.
Sweetwaters Game Reserve
Our next stop was a two-day visit to Sweetwaters Game Reserve. Armed with our cameras and binoculars, we set off in four jeeps to spot some of Africa’s wildlife. The girls saw Impala, oryx, gazels, water buffalo, zebra, wart hogs, ostrich and giraffe. We visited the Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a safe haven to 40 chimpanzee who would otherwise be endangered by the bush-meat trade. We saw a black Rhino, who was in much need of care due to being completely blind.
After a really fantastic journey through Kenya, the girls settled around the campfire for their last night in Africa whilst John, our main driver, told local folklore stories that he had learnt as a child. Marshmallows were toasted in the flames and the girls, inspired by their African adventure, chatted about their experiences and the future travels that they now hoped to make.