Inspirations SchoolIn 2008, my parents and I travelled an 8 hour flight to Mombasa, Kenya. The holiday lasted for 2 weeks, but was more of an experience than a holiday.

Before we left Northern Ireland, my mother had got in contact with Linda Greenland, an inspirational woman from England. Linda set up the Maji Safi Projects (maji safi means ‘clean water’ in Swahili) in 1999, a charity which works to provide schools, teachers and support to 2 poor villages in Kenya.

My parents and I with Linda Greenland (right)

My parents and I with Linda Greenland (right)

We met up with Linda a few days into our holiday. She took us to visit Likoni, one of the villages which her charity supports. Walking through the village, the poverty really hit you. We saw families living in very small, 2 room mud huts, which the residents had built themselves. Comparing this to the luxury four star hotel we were staying at, you couldn’t help feel both guilty and grateful for what we had. The village was lucky to have a water pump in it. This had been installed by the charity.

The village water pump

The village water pump

Despite having very little, the Kenyans were some of the most happy and hospitable people that I have ever met. That day, we were given lunch in one of the village huts which was owned by the local school teacher. We were treated like royalty, given a rice dish with meat, which was only reserved for special occasions. The one thing that stood out for me was the drinks. Being in such a poor village, I didn’t know what to expect, but when I was handed a glass bottle of Coca-Cola, I was a bit surprised. Even the Kenyans were subject to the Coca-Cola phenomenon.DSC_0167 (3)

After lunch, Linda took us to Inspirations School. Children walked from miles around to attend, most of them only being able to go to school because of a sponsor. The children ranged from around 5 years old up to the age of 11 or 12. Here they were given a basic education; few of the lucky children continued this at college. These were only a select few who could afford such a luxury, as the nearest college was miles away.

From talking to the children, you could see their passion and enthusiasm for learning. They were all very thankful for being there. They all aspired to become doctors or teachers, wanting jobs to provide help to others in their community. Going back to school myself the following September, the difference in attitude between the children in Kenya and the pupils at my school was vast. In the UK, school is just a compulsory ritual, one which we all must go through. In Kenya, school is a means of education, a career and a future. It is a life line. And the children get so much out of it.

Things we take for granted, like pens and paper, are hard to come by in Kenya. Therefore, we brought over essentials, as well as arts and crafts supplies for the children. We held an arts and crafts class with the children, where they each made a card for their sponsor. This was the first time most of them had done something of the sort, and you could see the excitement on their faces. Not used to the likes of ribbon, sequins and stickers, they had a ball, letting their creative side flow. Even the teacher got involved, making a card for herself. When the children had finished, they couldn’t wait to show us the finished products. I still can’t figure out how one boy managed to get more purple glitter on the top of his head than on the card. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one girl slip a small amount of card into her pocket to take home with her to practice her writing. To her, something as simple as a piece of card could provide hours of entertainment or learning. We left Linda for the day, returning to our marble floored hotel. You couldn’t help feeling a stab of guilt every time you filled up your plate at the all you can eat buffet, or ordering another cocktail from the bar.Glitter

Returning home, I said to myself that I would be more grateful for the things I have. But like any 14 year old, this didn’t last as long as I had hoped. It is over five years since I was in Kenya, I feel like I have been changed, if only slightly, by the experience. We have annual fund raisers for the Maji Safi Projects and Linda sends us out occasional newsletters, updating us on the progress of the village and their people.

I strongly recommend everyone to visit this beautiful country, just for the experience alone.

Has anyone else had an experience like this? Does anyone work alongside similar charities?