Meadowridge International Trip to Kenya: Meadowridge Student Priya S. (Grade 9) Shares Her Experience
Volunteering can be an educational and highly rewarding experience. I love volunteering in my local community and had been waiting to take on more exciting ventures. That's when I came across WE, an international charity that organizes collaborative programs within Canada and abroad.
WE focuses on five major areas (pillars)- Food, Water, Health, Education and Opportunity. Through WE trips, students are able to see how each of these pillars impact the community while working on volunteer projects such as building classrooms or wells. WE organized a two-week volunteering trip to Kenya for students from our school. I was privileged to accompany 19 other students and two teachers (Ms. Oneil and Ms. Hook) on this amazing trip.
After a long flight from Vancouver to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, we embarked on a five-hour bumpy bus ride to the WE camp site in Masai Mara. Most of our time was spent at the Melelo primary school, where we helped lay foundation for a new classroom. On arriving at the school, we were welcomed by eager students, with songs and dances. Meeting them was one of the greatest moments of joy on this trip. They swarmed around us quickly, grabbing both arms firmly, and led us to their school with beaming smiles. During our breaks, we mingled with the students by sharing dances and singing and learning traditional games with them. The primary school classrooms at typical government schools usually only contained tables, chairs, and a chalkboard. We were surprised to see how little teaching resources were available. For extra curriculars, they had track and field for all students as well as soccer for the boys. The classrooms built by WE, however, were made of concrete and had bigger spaces for the students.
On arriving at the school, we were welcomed by eager students, with songs and dances. Meeting them was one of the greatest moments of joy on this trip. They swarmed around us quickly, grabbing both arms firmly, and led us to their school with beaming smiles.
Besides Melelo, we also went on a tour of a secondary school which included a description of every subject, their schedule and extra-curriculars. I was especially impressed to see how determined, focussed and hardworking the students were, though they did not have the facilities that we enjoy in Canada. Only students with good grades and financial support could continue their secondary education. They meticulously organized their day while balancing house chores and school work. The WE foundation provides financial support to some of the best students in completing their secondary education. We found the children to be very friendly, welcoming and happy. This made it harder to bid adieu to them at the end of our trip.
Clean water isn't a luxury, it's a basic right. Nevertheless, millions of people in Kenya don't have access to clean water. The Kenyan "mamas" (term used for mothers) may walk for hours until they reach a river and carry 20 liters of water on their back, to their homes, five or six times a day. To sterilize the water, they separate it from the rocks, boil it and only drink the water that resides on the surface. On this trip, we had the opportunity to experience this by carrying water on our backs from the river to a Mama's home. Within minutes, our backs and necks were aching from the strain and weight of the water jug. It gave us an immense sense of accomplishment when we saw how grateful the Mamas were when we reached their homes with the families' supply of water. This experience helped us reflect on how clean water is undervalued and misused in developed nations because of ease of availability. WE helps these communities by building wells and hand pumps, piping clean water into schools and by educating about cleanliness. Ensuring clean water also creates a ripple effect on the other pillars of focus such as health care.
In developing countries, malnutrition and illnesses from starvation is a massive problem that prevents children and adults from being productive, and in turn results in poverty. Our group also received a tour of the Ololeshwa Farm, where fresh and organic produce was grown. At the WE built farms, the farmers are taught improved agricultural practices and are supplied with the necessary equipment. The Kenyan cuisine has heavy influences of different cultures such as East Indian and European. The diet consists mostly of grains, beans, chicken and lamb, and tropical fruit and vegetables like cucumbers and lettuce. In rural areas, domestic animals such as cows and goats share the same space as their owners and are highly respected because of the dairy and meat they provide. At the camp itself, the cuisine included a wide variety of delicious fruits, vegetables and meat.
We also had the opportunity to visit the WE Kishon Hospital and learn about their health care system. This is a smaller hospital that provides community members health care without having to travel for days to a bigger center. Here, medications are given and specialized services, like an ophthalmology or dentistry are also provided.
I would certainly recommend this eye-opening trip to other students, so that they can experience a new culture and appreciate the luxuries we take for granted. It also provides an opportunity to give back and help other communities. The little things that we do can greatly impact another person's life.
We participated in many other interesting activities such as beading with the Mamas and training to be a Masai Warrior. The evenings were spent playing games and socializing with the staff and other group members. Then came the much-awaited Safari day trip! It was a delight to watch many animals like lions, giraffes, zebras and buffalos in their natural habitat.
WE has been doing this work for many years and it was amazing to see first hand how their work is impacting each and every individual in this community. I would certainly recommend this eye-opening trip to other students, so that they can experience a new culture and appreciate the luxuries we take for granted. It also provides an opportunity to give back and help other communities. The little things that we do can greatly impact another person's life. Personally, this has been a great learning experience and I would definitely continue to look for opportunities to volunteer in other communities.
About the Author Priya S. is a grade 9 student at Meadowridge School. Priya did her primary schooling in the United Kingdom and joined Meadowidge in 2017 as a grade 8 student. Currently Priya is one of the WE leaders of the WE CAS Club and is involved in organizing fundraising activities for the WE organization. Her passions include speech arts, hip hop dancing and drumming. Students who would like to know more about the WE organization and ways to support it's activities can contact Priya (email@example.com).