Expanding: Our Jump to Kenya
It all started with a Facebook message I received on October 6, 2018 as I was searching my local Walmart for girls underwear for Days for Girls kits. A simple “Hi Rachel” from a woman named Noel. She began writing about how “it is only through literacy that society today will get liberation from poverty”. Noel explained that she is a community practitioner in Kenya who focuses on empowering young mothers, and girls through education. She told me about a school, deep in the Masai community with a student population of 240, that was in great need of classrooms, toilets, and shower facilities for the teachers who live on campus.
I was admittedly wary, but the potential of taking on a second school and one in East Africa intrigued me greatly! Noel was answering all my questions perfectly. I could feel her passion for education jumping from the words on the screen. When I mentioned that Katie and I would be visiting Rwanda the following month and asked if she would be willing to meet us, without hesitation, she agreed. I soon after discovered the journey would take her more than 18 hours by bus. It became apparent that she was committed to helping this school. If we were actually going to use donations towards this project, we needed to see it in person. Our plane tickets for Ghana and Rwanda were already purchased, so came the task of adjusting our itinerary to side step into Kenya for about 48 hours.
We took a red eye from Rwanda just after arriving from Ghana. Noel met us at the airport and we departed towards Narok only stopping for a few pictures in front of the Great Rift Valley.
After arriving in Narok we switched to a safari Jeep and headed to the school near the Masai Mara. Katie and I were expecting to be shown around an empty school because the children were on holiday. To our surprise we were welcomed by the entire school board, local community leaders, and numerous parents of students. We were told that many more parents wished to be there to welcome us, but there was a drought and they had not returned from fetching water having left very early in the morning.
The headmaster, Simon Murrey, formally welcomed us in front of those gathered. He proclaimed that they had been praying for help, that the school was in desperate need of additional classrooms and other facilities to accommodate the student body of 280 which had grown by 40 students since discussions with Noel began. As I was sitting there, listening to the deep desires of this community to educate their children, I had the distinct impression that I was right where I needed to be. I marveled at the countless small steps and a few giant leaps of faith that brought me to this bench, in this particular school, in the beautiful country of Kenya.
Then Simon said the words, “We will now hear from our visitors.” No one had told us to prepare a speech so with an expression of shock probably still on my face, I walked in front of the parents, school board, and community leaders. I was overcome with their gracious welcome and truly felt that we were guided to be there. Choking back tears, I tried to express how much I admired their commitment to educating their children and how we had felt guided to come. I quickly motioned for Katie to come stand by me before I started promising anything and everything they needed. As she was speaking, some beautiful Masai women walked up and tied these bright, traditional blankets around us. If the tears weren’t obvious before, they were definitely visible now.
We were then given a tour of the school grounds. Simon showed us the three main cement classrooms where two grades occupied one room, each facing chalkboards on opposite walls. The parents had constructed two small mud classrooms that held about 30 students in each. The local church on the grounds doubled as a classroom during the weekdays. We were impressed and inspired by their efforts to provide spaces for their children to learn. The Kenyan government assigns four teachers to come from other areas of the country. These teachers live on campus when school is in session. Simon explained that it has been difficult to keep the same teachers due to the living conditions. We were then shown the toilet facilities. Originally there were two pit latrines, but one had recently sunk due to poor construction. It was no longer safe to use, leaving one functioning latrine for 280 students plus the faculty.
During our short visit we saw a deep passion for education within this community. We saw a school that could financially support its daily operations. And we saw the need for construction to aid in the growth of the school. Fortunately, building schools is what our non-profit is all about. Like I said, we were right where we were supposed to be.