Since my return to Kenya, in between the adventures that Mr Nomad and I have found ourselves on, I have volunteered my services with a small group of ladies to engage within the community and we all embarked upon a project to deep clean and paint classrooms in a local school.
So we attended at Likii Mixed Day Secondary School on numerous occasions to deep clean the five classrooms and paint each room as well as renewing the chalk boards. This school is in a deprived area within Nanyuki in Laikipia and is blighted by extreme poverty. The children that attend the school are from troubled backgrounds where abuse and neglect is a daily feature in their lives.
The school forms a safe haven for these children and the head mistress, Margaret explained to me that they offer a hot meal to all children who attend and this quite often is the only time they will have a meal. Margaret took great pride in telling me of the courses that she continues to undertake in her attempts to protect the children and to expel abuse and violence, and to assist her students with their personal struggles in their home lives.
The closure of all schools in Kenya due to the global pandemic, Covid-19, has been particularly hard on this community given that it appears to be a place of sanctuary where the children who attend can feel safe and protected and will get fed when otherwise they would go without. Of course, it also provides education to children who would not ordinarily be able to attend given that their parents may not be able to afford school fees.
Whilst the school is closed, this small group of ladies felt a strong urge to brighten up the school and deep clean it so that when schools can re-open, it will provide a safe environment and a sunnier place to be.
We set about deep cleaning each of the five classrooms and this was the most disgusting job. The desks and chairs were stacked on each side of the room and then moved around accordingly so this was quite laborious. The school, having been unoccupied for some time, was incredibly dusty and dirty and sweeping the rooms was challenging! We were repeatedly covered from head to toe in a thick layer of dust from it swirling around us in our attempts to sweep it all away. It was also quite dark but as there is no electricity, there was no just flicking a light switch.
We also came across a fair amount of bugs and beetles, creepy crawlies and critters and also, a few lizards. One of the ladies in our group became the chief lizard catcher and many a rescue was performed to liberate these creatures from the suffocating layers of dust. Another one of the ladies was not perturbed one bit by the bugs and beetles and she too assisted in numerous rescues.
Once the cleaning had been completed, we set about painting each room in a bright yellow colour, and painting a solid black skirting band where the wall met the floor. We also re-painted the chalk boards. This took quite some effort to get straight lines! Our group was joined by some of the students who wished to get involved in cleaning up their own school and they proved to be extremely good workers. Their English was questionable but they mucked in without question and simply got on with all tasks.
This was a marvelous experience, to be joined by some of the children that actually go to the school and we all worked well, pulling together as a team. Despite the language barriers, we all muddled along to get the job done.
We were also joined by the deputy headmaster, Michael who was keen to provide his assistance. I do think there was an element of fascination with us, a group of ladies engaging in this culturally very different community but the welcome extended to us was humbling. Any differences between us melted away and we all were united in a common objective.
On one day in particular, some local ladies came along and gave us a dance lesson! This was wonderful although quite a crowd gathered to watch us! We did not however, down tools for too long and we cracked on with our work. The spirit of the local people was amazing, their warmth towards us gratifying and it was awe inspiring that even with such hardship in life, we can all get along as one. We all seemed united in a common cause – to help make a difference.
On our last day at the school, we finished off the edging around the chalk boards, straightened some rather wonky lines and generally tidied up, all of which was supervised by the school dog, Skipper. I had spied this dog on numerous occasions but she was shy and timid and I had never been able to get close to her. We stopped for a tea break and I tried to pet Skipper but she still wouldn’t let me or anybody touch her, and just watched the mayhem from afar.
At this point, the deputy head master Michael, explained that the students wished to present us with a gift, to thank us for our efforts. And so it came to be that whilst we had wished to complete a project to help those less fortunate than ourselves, it ended up that we were welcomed more than we could have imagined, and those people around us who appear to have so little gave us more than was ever expected. It was such an overwhelming moment. It had been a privilege for us to be allowed into the community and to be treated with such amazing hospitality.
It was a truly humbling experience to be able to assist in ensuring that when the children are able to return to school, that it will be a brighter and safer place of sanctuary for them to continue their education. A huge thank you to all of the members of the team and a big well done to all who assisted in these endeavours.