Kenya Service Trip 2019

Each year, pupils in the Lower Sixth are offered the chance to contribute to an Ardingly Legacy by attending the annual service trip to Kenya. The tenth trip brought a group of 22 carefully selected A-Level and IB students, together with four staff members, out to a remote, rural part of Kenya. The focus of the trip was to visit Ardingly’s sponsored school in Kenya, Ndogo Primary, a project funded by the parents of pupils to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Ardingly’s foundation. This year brought an additional challenge, as the team set out to begin a new partnership with a second school, Mwega Primary.

For the students selected, the hard work had to start months before flying out. The group had to work to raise the required funds to support the feeding programme and to pay for the materials for this year’s project. Many members of the team played to their artistic or sporting strengths, with two students raising three times the amount of their initial target by selling their Kenyan inspired artwork through auctions at various Ardingly events throughout the year. Efforts to collect donations of clothes, shoes and stationary were also successful, and it was becoming evident that this year’s selected group of students were particularly dedicated to the trip.

On arrival at Ndogo, the group immediately experienced the infectious energy of the Ndogo children, and the bravest Ardinians in the team were eager to join in with the songs and dances of the welcome ceremony.  Over the next two days at Ndogo, the group taught a variety of lessons to the local children with ages ranging from 3 – 14. The visiting group brought an eclectic mix of lesson ideas and activities; trying their hand at teaching drama and poetry, mechanics and physical geography. At lunchtimes, the visiting group was able to see the result of previous fundraising efforts and the success of the feeding programme first hand. The programme provides a meal for each child attending the school, and for many Ndogo children, this is their only food of the day and their main motivation for coming to school.

Day three brought Ardingly’s first ever visit to Mwega Primary School. The group set out feeling hesitant, but all the more excited at the possibility of new friendships. It was clear that strong bonds between the two schools would be formed from the first few moments at Mwega. After a joyous welcome, new school desks stacked 15 feet high on top of two trucks arrived to the sound of cheers and clapping from the Mwega pupils. This was a momentous moment that lead to many of the group becoming overwhelmed with emotion and humbled by the Kenyan children’s huge appreciation of facilities that are taken for granted back in the UK.

Swiftly, teaching began and the Ardingly team wowed the teachers at Mwega by the enthusiasm and heart that they put into each lesson. Equally, the teachers at Mwega impressed the Ardingly team with the dedication and care they showed towards their own pupils. Any visitors not involved in the classroom for a lesson were engaged elsewhere, re-painting one of the four classrooms in the East building. Whilst this task seemed small, the difference it made was large, and it represented the beginnings of a long-lasting relationship.

A visit to Ngeteti Secondary School followed, allowing Ardingly students to converse with Kenyan pupils of a similar age and enabling them to really experience the stark contrast between the two education systems, as well as the astonishing hunger the Ngeteti pupils had for learning. Here, Ardingly pupils and teachers were able to sit in on lessons of Mathematics, Advanced Physics and Swahili. A new tradition started by the 2018 group meant that a football and a netball match were enjoyed by all.

The week at the three schools ended with a visit to both Saidia Orphanage and the Restart Centre – a sharp reminder of the adversity and poverty many Kenyan children experience throughout their lives. Both organisations rescue children and babies who have faced severe abuse and neglect by providing them with a place to live, funding for their education and, most importantly, the love and care they need.

A boat trip on Lake Nakuru and then a trip to the Masai Mara provided a welcomed respite and time for reflection for the visitors. The migration this year was in full swing and the group were lucky enough to spot several lion, leopard, elephant and game. On the final early morning drive, five cheetah were seen stalking and catching a wildebeest.

On returning to Ndogo and Mwega in the final few days of the trip, the group were reminded of the Kenyan children’s ability to make the most of the opportunities given to them; this in turn had a huge impact on their outlook towards their own education. Whether at Ndogo, Mwega, Ngeteti, Saidia or the Restart Centre, the highlight of the trip was simply playing with and learning from the Kenyan pupils. All left feeling privileged to have an understanding of a way of life so very different and yet one which shared the same hopes and aspirations. The Ardingly students were far richer for the experience.