My wife Leanne and I had the opportunity to travel to the Maasai Mara in Kenya on an educator’s scouting trip with Free The Children and a group of 20 educators from all over North America. What an amazing trip it was on so many levels. I would like to share a few of my takeaways.
Free the Children works with communities in areas where the cycle of poverty is very evident. When the organization agrees to work with community leaders they do so with a framework of support to strengthen five pillars of community – Education, Clean Water and Sanitation, Health, Agriculture and Food Security, and Alternative Income and Livelihood. Establishing a foundation with these pillars is the beginning of breaking the cycle of poverty for these communities. You can read more about the pillars and why they are so important by clicking here.
For the sake of time I will just comment on our experiences with the education pillar while in Kenya. Where we were in the Maasai Mara was the village that Free The Children has been working in the longest (over 15 years). So, we had the opportunity to see the type of impacts the five pillars can have on a community over time. On our trip we visited a few schools that Free The Children has built – Emorijoi Primary School (Gr. K-8), Kisaruni School for Girls (Gr. 9-12) – and spent the better part of two days working at the build site for the Ngulot Mountainview All Boys Secondary School for Boys (Gr. 9-12) which will hopefully be open for classes in January of 2017.
Emorijoi was the first school we visited on our trip. We had an opportunity to tour the school and visit with the teachers and students. The first thing that struck us as we were walking down the long dirt road towards the school was that all of a sudden, these little kids dressed in their school uniforms started climbing through the barbed wire fence to run out and join us. They would run up to us with big smiles and laughter, say nothing, grab our hands and walk with us the rest of the way to the school. Once there, we started to speak and play with the students (English is the language taught and spoken at school). We had a great big soccer game on the field which was lots of fun, especially trying to dodge the cow pies and the cows!!
Kisaruni School for Girls was definitely one of the highlights. The visit really helped re-establish in me the importance of education and how much we take for granted in our society. The girls all begin classes at 5:00am and carry on with a packed learning schedule until 9:00pm. They then have some individual learning time until lights out at 10:00pm. However, many girls stay up with flashlights reading until late into the night. These girls respect and value education like no students I have ever seen before – the alternative for the them is to be married off by their parents in exchange for a dowry of goats or cattle. Yes, if not in school they would most likely be married and having kids at 14 years of age. The girls are all committed to their studies as they see education as a way for them to help their families and community.
Ngulot was another great experience as we were able to get our hands dirty helping to build the future high school that will allow boys in the community to carry on their education. We were given the task to dig the foundation of one of the school buildings so they would be able to pour the foundation. The trenches had to be 4 feet deep and all of them dug out with pick axes and shovels. One of the days we teamed up with a Free The Children youth group on the build site. It was great to chat with the students and hear their stories about how Free The Children has impacted them personally and what they have been working on to make a difference in the world themselves. Very powerful.
Below you will see a sampling of our photos from the trip. There are some photos from our school visits with the students, from the build site, one of me doing a water walk (another story in itself), Leanne and I with our Maasai Warrior guides and some local mamas, and a shot of the leopard we saw on our safari.
I am very excited for CMA to continue to develop a relationship with Free The Children and continue to build on our commitment as a school to community service locally, nationally and internationally. Our international service trip to Ecuador with Free The Children in June 2017 is going to be an incredible experience for our Gr. 10, 11 & 12’s that participate. If my trip to Kenya is an indication, I would expect that the global perspectives of all who participate will be transformed.
Yours in education,