Category : Project Africa February 2014

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The long road home… Blog by Heather Hamilton

We left Ol Maisor at 8.30am Monday morning and those of us living in the UK arrived at Heathrow at 5.30am this morning. Juergen travelled on to Gibraltar but Jamie, Schraga and Joe A still have miles to go, with stopovers in Dubai, Zurich and Amsterdam to contend with before the last leg of their journeys.

We are all tired but very satisfied with our progress in Ol Maisor and promise you will find out more over the coming weeks. The team will host presentations and the website will soon be brimming with new photos, so watch this space!

Heather Hamilton

Outstanding – A Blog by Brian McColgan

Our last day in Kenya has been spent travelling back to Nairobi and then on to our homes across the world from Las Vegas to Tel Aviv to Sydney.

It’s hard to know where to start in describing the experience of this past week, but I’ll try by talking about the team who have had the “once in a lifetime opportunity” to come here.

When you spend 24 hours a day with a group of people you soon get to know them both as individuals and as a team. What became evident very quickly was that everyone had come here with one single purpose, which was to build on the great work our colleagues had completed on previous visits. This is not a place for egos, and this team have thrown themselves into every aspect of this incredible project, from getting knee deep in cement mixing to “mummy and daddy dancing” to entertaining the children. I feel I have made friends for life.

What about the school? On our last day at assembly, the Deputy Head, Richard, read out a list of things that we have done to improve the facilities for both the children and the teachers. He spoke about;

- the new library which he described as being like having two additional invisible teachers

- the clean water project, which keeps the children healthy and strong and was a contributing factor in their winning performance in the inter school Sports Day

- the new teachers’ houses which will help attract good teachers to the school

- the clothing and shoes we gifted the children, which gives them much needed warmth but just as important a sense of pride in themselves and their school.

The work we have done here has made this school the envy of everyone who visits it and we should all be very proud of that.

Let me finish by talking about the real reason for us being here, the children. Let’s be clear, these kids have nothing and I am not talking about the materialistic things our kids enjoy. They have little or no food, they live in mud huts and their lives are a daily struggle but, and it’s a big but, they have a spirit and dignity that humbles you every time you have the privilege to engage with them. Through providing good education we are giving them the chance of better lives not only for themselves, but for the community as a whole. We can’t change their lives overnight, but what we are doing here is making a real difference to this and future generations.

So it’s goodbye to Ol Maisor from “Jooey Ktanda” (my Kenyan name and if you get the opportunity ask Joe Mc Callum his, a huge disappointment to him) and the rest of the “February 2014 Project Africa” team. Beverley, thank you for looking after us and ensuring we made the most of our experience, and what an experience it has been.

In the words of my Aussie tent mate, “Outstanding”.

Brian McColgan

Bricks, bricks and more bricks! – Blog by Schraga Mor

We have had two more days with lots of different experiences and excitement in the camp and at school.

On Saturday some of us continued building the new teachers houses while others started to make new bricks. The bricks (made of soil, sand and cement) will be ready for the next William Hill delegation expected in October reminding us of the company long term commitment to the Island School.

Again, the most exciting part of the day was with the kids – a good combination of fun and giving.

It started with Kristof, Heather, Juergen and others who surprised the 70 nursery kids with a huge parachute we brought with us (kindly donated by Mandy Kerr), ball games, singing and dancing.

All of us continued passing from class to class, giving each kid a present and having some fun together – the deal was that the children sang and then the William Hill team sang for them.

A small gift is a big thing here in Africa. On our next break it was brilliant to see hundreds of kids playing with frisbees, skipping ropes, paper airplanes and balls.

Definitely the peak event of Saturday was the completion of the shoe project. We were running against time to succeed and get new shoes for all kids in time and Beverley had to go as far as Nayahururu to make it happen.

Joe McCallum and Juergen spend half a day on Wednesday measuring all the kids’ feet sizes.

Very few kids have shoes in good condition, others are wearing broken shoes and many come to school in bare feet.

In the afternoon we all gathered in the school yard to complete the shoe distribution.

Three hours later and having measured hundreds of kids, they all got new shoes.

Just before the kids went home we had a “Goodbye” assembly and then 400 kids walked home with a new hat, shoes, new jumpers, a toy to play with and a big smile on their faces.

Sunday, our last day in school. No kids in school today so we spent the whole day preparing bricks for the next group. Hard work by all in mixing soil, sand and cement and now 1000 bricks are ready for the next William Hill project.

We left school exhausted and back to the camp for our last night before we head back to Nairobi.

Schraga Mor

Valentine’s Day in Project Africa – Blog by Joe McCallum

Friday was to be our busiest day with the heavy manual labour. Being Valentine’s Day the thoughts of love ones back home were slightly increased. The morning yoga session was cancelled due to the early start but no one told Joe and Brian. We kicked off with our breakfast with increasing our world record porridge eating and then added the team’s traditional birthday song for Kristof to the tune of a Madness classic with Heather putting her song lyric skills to the test.

On reaching the school the day of heavy cement mixing commenced which highlighted the team spirit between the whole team and the local Fundi workmen. The work was supported by a list of UK party/football songs.

At the lunch break Schraga, Jamie, Kristof and Brian had a well-earned rest with orange squash served to them while they recovered from the morning exertions.

The Island School had a Sports Day this Friday as well with another two schools in attendance. This covered the three disciplines of netball, volleyball and football. The deputy head Richard had spoken earlier in the week and had asked the pupils to apply themselves and win for the school. The pupils did not disappoint with them winning all three disciplines. Alex the librarian said the winning factor was that they had clean water, whether that was a psychological or physical advantage who knows it may have been down to Richard on leaving the camp he had an eventful return. The team were having a review of the day when a towel dressed half shaven Juergen told myself and Steven that our tent had just been blown away. Now this is tent that has been subject to industrial standard of snoring and survived. Unbeknown to us our tent was situated in Dust Devil Drive a high risk area for strong winds in a confined area.

On reflection Steven said “imagine if we had been in there”. We then kicked off our disaster tent appeal and the locals put the tent back together with the team providing their enhanced disaster observation skills.

On to dinner and the locals gave Kristof a traditional birthday cake supported by some traditional singing and dancing.

The day reflected the key elements of our trip, good team bonding, building the infrastructure, engaging with the kids, working with the local team, embracing the local culture and learning about yourself.

Joe McCallum

Hard work pays – Blog by Joe Asher

Here at the Island School there has been a lot of hard work this week. That was especially true today as we mixed the concrete for the teachers’ homes we are building. The great William Hill team here was at its best, with people relieving tired colleagues, who then got a few minutes rest and went right back to work. It reminded me of an ice hockey team, with people coming in and out as the action never stopped.

A hundred yards away on the school’s athletic fields, there were about 1,000 kids, including “our kids” and those from several nearby schools, enjoying a Sports Day. It started with the raising of the Kenyan flag and the singing of the National Anthem, an awards ceremony for the top performing students and was followed by a number of games. Word quickly got back to our worksite every time a goal was scored in the first football (soccer) game. There was a lot of pride amongst the William Hill team and the local Kenyans working with us when Island School prevailed 4-1 over Ol Maisor. A lot of happy faces and there wasn’t even betting on the event!

One of the teachers from Ol Maisor called me over to tell me that Island School was a lot nicer than his school and that he needed new teachers’ housing and upgraded facilities and he invited us to visit his school. It would be great if someone would adopt his school as we have Island School.

While all this was going on, children were constantly going back and forth to the clean water taps that William Hill has provided here. Before that the only water source was the nearby river, which the locals share with the cows and goats. It is really striking – at home we get to choose between still or sparking bottled water, or tap water or filtered water. It all seems so trivial when you consider the only choice many Kenyans have.

Another memory that will stay with me for a long time was the seven year-old boy I met in the library, where he was visiting the nurse William Hill has provided this week. He was born with syphilis, which he got from his mother at birth, and can’t control his bladder. He is also HIV positive and so are both of his parents, who are also alcoholics. We’re paying for all of them to get treatment, but you can’t help feel sad at what a terrible hand this young man has been dealt in life.

On a cheerier note, we had a short camel ride to a nearby village, as we were ahead of our work schedule. On the ride I was asked about the weirdest thing that had happened so far. Every time we stopped along the way, the camel behind me would snuggle up next to me, rubbing her snout against my side and wanting me to pet her. It was disconcerting at first, but then I got used to it. Not quite the snuggles at home from my girls, but the only ones I’ll get this Valentine’s Day!

Joe Asher