Volunteering at Hadassah School - Part 2
Trip Start Sep 02, 2011
37Trip End Mar 21, 2012
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I also learnt a couple of sport related things that first weekend…1) Our neighbour is a Forest fan and 2) my hopes of becoming a Premier League footballer are not yet over… if I move to Kenya to play in the Kenya Premier League! Craig (Geoff’s son) took me to down to watch a match, and even though we turned up 15 minutes from the end, it was enough for me to see that I could have taken my boots and probably got a game
On Sunday morning, we (Liz) decided that it would be rude not to accept Geoff’s invite to his church. Geoff is the Pastor at their ministry, but being Pentecostal Christians, the service is very intense, very loud, and very long!
[Liz] - The second and third weeks at the school were just as busy as the first week. As well as continuing to build the classrooms, we fenced off an area of land to become the school’s allotment (or the farm as Geoff refers to it!). It is far from a farm, but will allow the school to take its first steps to becoming self-sufficient. We were also taken on a home visit around the Mwariki Slum where most of the children’s families live. This probably should have been a real eye opener, but having been told so many of the childrens' stories by Geoff as well as gaining an appreciation for such poor living standards throughout our 8 weeks in Africa, we weren't as shocked as we probably should have been. However, the stench of the sewage and copious amounts of litter was just never ending, and made us realise how we haven't actually seen a bin in the whole time we have been here!
Our second weekend was also action packed, although we didn't go back to church under the pretence that we’d take care of Sunday lunch instead. Much to Geoff’s enthusiasm, we’ve tried to cook a few ‘English’ dishes on the ‘one pan at a time’ charcoal stove, although for obvious reasons a proper Sunday lunch was out of the question! The burgers certainly had the biggest impact, especially when we caught Geoff trying to eat his with a spoon
Things got interesting during our last week at the school: Just before we left for some 'time-out' at the Merica, we gave John, the groundsman, money to buy the next batch of cement. But it was only on our return that we discovered quite what a drama we had missed! - After leaving the school gates, John did a runner with the money and was chased all the way to his house by Geoff on the back of our driver Jon's motorbike. The pair of them found him hiding under his bed, but with his feet sticking out! And so after giving him a good hiding, they marched him to the police station where he thankfully produced most of the money he'd stolen (minus 100 shillings that for some reason he bought a new cap with!). You couldn't have scripted the event better on an episode of Triumph del Amour!
Over the past few weeks we’ve also got to know some of the school children a bit better. Our favourite is a 3 year old girl in Baby Class called Mary. It’s no coincidence that Mary is also the cleanest child! Sarah, also in Baby Class, comes in as a close second, but is let down by her constant runny nose
[Rich] – And so, after 3 weeks of blood, sweat and tears, we managed to complete the 3 classrooms, something we never thought would be possible when we began. The sweat was mainly from us during our sporadic periods of manual labour, and the tears were mainly from the kids, as they bumped their way around what they thought was a new climbing frame! The blood was from both us and the kids as a result of the complete lack of ‘on-site’ safety measures - to be fair though, even our 'expert' builders Vincent and Kene knew better than to wear flip-flops! Similarly, our sun-glasses functioned not only as protection from the blinding sun, but protection from the blinding shards of wood, metal and concrete that seemed to come our way from all angles – we fear some of these were probably thrown at us by the kids who we constantly had to shoe away!
If we were to describe the classrooms (with our slightly bias view), then we would say they are 3 functional classrooms built with a natural timber frame. The ‘reflective’ iron sheets and the ‘innovative’ skylights give the classrooms a spacious feel, while the concrete floor keeps the harmful dust away from the kids. However, a slightly less bias view on the classrooms, such as the one provided by my brother Adrian, would say that "we have built the kids a cowshed"! – To be honest, this is probably closer to the truth, and I would even go as far as saying that if we were to build a cowshed in the U.K, we wouldn’t have got away with it looking like our classrooms do
Today was our last day at the school, where we put the finishing touches to the classrooms in the newly named 'Bristol Block'. We also named the individual classrooms, and once we had finally finished, we cut the ribbon to officially open the classrooms. It was obvious what it meant to the teachers and the parents in attendance, and we left the school being told that out of all the volunteers that had been to Hadassah since opening, we have had by far the biggest impact. This is largely thanks to the money we raised from friends and family back home.
After a tough 3 weeks, we are definitely ready to come home, but can look back knowing we were able to combine an incredible 5 months travelling with doing something of real value at Hadassah.