For me, the Project Africa orientation day was the first time I had met most of the other members of the group. Day to day at William Hill I'm a relief deputy manager on district 061, fortunately I wasn't walking into the room not knowing anyone though; through being a part of the HOME Champion network I've worked with Cyril on many occasions over the past year, and also had the opportunity to meet Andy at the International HOME Champion event in July. It didn't take long for the conversation and coffee to simultaneously start flowing, and by the end of the day I felt like I really got to know the rest of the group, and gained a real understanding of the team that was being formed, along with a much better understanding of the reason we're all going to be spending 8 days in October at the Island School, in Ol Maisor, Kenya. From the very practical and no doubt invaluable advice - like packing a nail brush, which I certainly wouldn't have thought of! To the real detail of the task that lies ahead.
The main concern of the group wasn't the mosquitos, or sharing the 'short-drop' toilets, or the heat, or the building work itself; though they are certainly going to be challenging. The main concern was; how do we make sure what we are doing in the short space of time we are physically there is fully sustainable, and manageable by the local community, not just until the next group arrives, but in terms of a real legacy? And the answer to that we knew was most certainly - education, exactly what form and how that education is to be delivered is something that will take many more discussions and, I'm sure, plenty of debate around the campfire once we're there, but having seen some of the work that's already well underway within the group, and some of the lively discussion that's already taken place, it's clear that there's some real expertise and ideas that everyone can contribute, and most importantly; an environment and dynamic that already exists within the group to allow this to happen.
Personally, I didn't realise the real scope of the work we will be doing, and the overall plan for the project going forward; it's not just a school that we're helping to build, it's more like a community development project; benefitting everyone in the local area, not just the pupils. Clean water has the potential to be one of the most life-changing aspects of the plan, but only if we can succeed in providing the education to enable the community to make that happen, that's before going on to think about the bio-gas facility, the crop farm, invigilating of exams, and of course; donning the boots and gloves and building more teachers accommodation - an extension to the terrace that's emerging from some of the hard work done by the groups that have gone before us.
It's a huge privilege to be part of this group, and Project Africa itself, and I'm confident that our time in Ol Maisor will be of huge benefit to many people, but I certainly don't underestimate the scale and complexity of what it is we want to achieve, and the determination and hard work that it is going to take. I believe, like with anything else; you only get out what you put in, and at times I'm sure I will find it tough, physically and emotionally, but I know that the passion I, and the rest of the group have for it, will help to keep us focused and provide each other with the support that will no doubt be called upon whilst there. One thing is for sure; it's going to be one of the most well organised and tidiest camps; with most of the group being self-confessed 'neat freaks', that's provided there's plenty of caffeine and chocolate (again lot's of self-confessed addicts, myself included) to keep the spirits up!
The next time we will all be together will be in Nairobi, before we make the long drive up to Ol Maisor where the real hard work begins, the final preparations are underway, and I'm sure the next couple of weeks will seem more like a couple of days. I don't think it will really sink in until I'm buckled up hurtling down the runway at Heathrow for the flight out, for now though it's a mixture of nervousness, anticipation, responsibility, determination, excitement, expectation, and a lot of - let's Make It Happen!