For some months I had been exploring the work of Vision Africa; a UK registered charity committed to equip and empower children and youth for a brighter future, ensuring that they have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and make a difference in their families and communities.
In October I had the chance to visit Kenya and a number of the projects in Kenya. The next few posts are a compilation of the updates that I shared with friends along with their responses to me. It provides an insight into some of the lessons, the realisations and the tremendous opportunity to consider the impact of culture on change.
THE FIRST TWO DAYS
I was straight into it on the first day, to Seed of Hope School in Nairobi. Seed of Hope delivers vocational training, life skills and enterprise training courses. As I studied carefully the schedule for my visit I knew that Friday was a big day for the students as they graduated from home care, dress making and mechanics courses. I had reflected on my own graduation and that sense of real pride of achievement.
I had been shopping at the weekend and bought half a dozen bras and some knickers. I was confident that these would be a welcome gift, but could not envisage the significance.
Teacher Florence was overwhelmed; she was preparing a number of the female students for their graduation the next day. Those who had designed and created their own outfits would now have some special underwear too. I am a great believer; if you don’t feel good about yourself no one else will. Many of you will have heard me say; “whatever life throws at you, make sure you’ve got your sexy nix on….” Now was the time to put my theory to the test!
I sat and spoke briefly to each of the students….I was fascinated to learn about their journey, the challenges and their dreams.
One of the girls came and spoke to me personally during the afternoon; she was overwhelmed and thanked me for the gift. However much I believed my theory was sound; I cannot put into words how compelling her reaction was. These young women had achieved so much, they were about to graduate with the skills to enable them to define their future, but somehow the finishing touch was indeed the simplicity of some special underwear.
I was assigned 3 graduates to help them with their preparations for giving their speeches for graduation. We went through a series of exercises. Somehow the classroom under the jacaranda tree seemed so special!
I continued to coach one of the students. There are some incredible stories surrounding these young people’s lives that I will share later.
I was shown around the school, young people making clothes, jewellery and learning home craft skills. The young men learning mechanics; an amazing scheme funded by a British family whose son was passionate about cars and motorbikes died tragically in an accident.
A 20ft container with two awnings has been established within the grounds where the young men learn their skills. The tailoring school make their red overalls. It is an amazing sight.
I met Teacher Margaret who is teaching Home Care which includes managing the home, cooking, care for children and elderly and basic budget management. Between you and me, I think Teacher Margaret must be in her late fifties, she didn’t seem to have that terrifying persona that I remember in my cookery teacher. I warmed to Teacher Margaret immediately, inspired by her commitment to help these young people, the warmth of her smile and her gentle nature.
Thursday is cooking day and Teacher Margaret showed me her recipe book. I asked her if these were secret recipes!
Kirsty and I went out for lunch to catch up and talk through the next few days.
On our return Teacher Margaret was waiting for me, I was to join the class for cookery. I was handed a handmade apron and attended the kitchen, seven of us in a very small room.
Teacher Margaret showed me the cookery book, the page was open at small sponge cakes. I remember being taught how to make cakes as a child. For a few minutes I thought my Kiswahili was failing me but no, Teacher Margaret told me that I was teaching the five students.
They spoke good English and were very receptive to my guidance and so we got to work and baked 109 cup cakes for the Graduation Ceremony the next day. I was very surprised to learn that the group ranged from 20 – 31 years old.
It seemed that they knew how to cook rice and meat but have never baked cakes. Take time to think about the time you have spent with your children and the time a parent spent with you. It was an amazing experience and we established a very special bond.
It’s easy to be horrified by the flies, lack of hot (sometimes even running) water and the facilities available. I love the way everything was just swept onto the floor!!!!!
An early start today…..preparations for the Graduation. Kirsty and I called into the supermarket.
Overnight I had drawn up a list of things I had to buy; cupcake cases, serviettes, plastic cups, matches, baking paper and 2 X 500g of steel wool (£1 each).
I had watched the girls washing pots and kitchen equipment the day before. There is a well for water within the compound and the wire wool they use on the pots looked so well worn.
We arrived at Seed of Hope and I headed straight for the kitchen and Teacher Margaret I knew that she had been here since before 7am and I also knew that she had travelled for 2 hours to get there.
With great excitement I presented my shopping, Teacher Margaret was over whelmed. Who would have thought that 1kg of wire wool could mean so much! Mind you, I never thought that presenting a gift of wire wool would be so rewarding but I can tell you it was and has allowed me to establish a wonderful bond and relationship with Teacher Margaret.
The class had grown and I was presented again with my apron, this time I was the student and I was about to learn how to make samosas!
The Graduation took place at 2pm Thirty six students, the largest so far for Vision Africa. A number of family and sponsors attended ……more detail later
I walked down to the supermarket this evening and mingled as best as I can with the locals. You can’t help but think about the recent incident at Westgate Mall and the impact that this has had on the sense of safety for local people.
An early start; breakfast meeting at 0830 before heading off to Kandara Children’s Home. I will be in touch very soon!
Glad you arrived safely, it sounds fantastic – it’s like Big Brother Africa! But on a serious note it certainly puts things in perspective a trip like that. The trip itself spurred me on to cull my wardrobes on the afternoons when I woke up of nights this week and sent them round to the charity shop with my Mum. I am ashamed to say some things still had labels on them -a lot did actually.
Wonderful news Ellie and thinking so much about you. Keep safe.