Last month, 28 health and child care students from across the Activate Learning colleges in Oxford, Banbury and Reading, visited Kenya to help improve the environment of two local schools. This was part of African Adventures’ Meaningful Volunteering Experience, led by early years teacher, Vicky Donnelly, and English teacher, Sylvia Hall.
The students’ first project was to paint the classrooms and chalkboard of the moderately established Chaddy Mission School. They also prepared trenches and cleared an area in preparation for an improved drainage system and water tank to be installed.
The second school, Cherish School, joined African Adventures in 2017 and had recently moved into a new premise where students helped to build the shell of the new classrooms. At the Cherish School, the children were given a toothbrush each and an afternoon of teeth brushing was organised, giving our students a taste of this basic routine activity which we take for granted.
Throughout the trip, the health and child care students from Banbury and Bicester College, City of Oxford College and Reading College, also helped out in the classrooms: supporting the local teachers and marking the children’s work.
The staff leaders said that both they and the students were able to demonstrate the colleges' Learning Philosophy in action as they were sometimes challenged in very difficult environments to deal with their emotions, self-belief and motivation. Most of the students commented on how surprised they were that the children in Kenya are so happy when, to them, it seems they have very little. Many students spoke of how they used to take everything for granted, but after this trip, they won’t any more.
Sylvia said, “We were made quickly aware that teaching new songs, assisting with classroom activities, repainting of classroom blackboards and just giving individuals attention was very much appreciated and welcomed by the staff and the young learners. The principal of the school where I was placed informed us that the building work we undertook had saved him thousands of Kenyan shillings.”
Vicky commented on the visit saying, “It was definitely an eye opener for everyone and a shock realisation that they [students] could eat and drink anything they wanted, pop to the shops or even just go to the toilet or for a shower, almost at any time, whereas the facilities in Kenya did not allow that! All the students worked hard across both the schools, teaching, building and playing with the children.”