Staff and pupils at a Derby Primary School have described a trip to Kenya as ‘eye-opening’ and uplifting’.
St Giles School, the city’s only Special primary school, were represented by teachers Karen Clegg, Laura Taylor and Beth Rogers – plus pupils Declan Taylor and Daniel Flood – on the trip of a lifetime.
Organised by the Derby County Community Trust and charity African Adventures, the quintet spent a week working at the Ungana Academy experiencing life across the Rhonda slum areas of Nakuru.
It is the seventh time that Derby County Community Trust have sent a volunteering team to the East-African nation and the second year that St Giles have been involved.
Every volunteer is tasked with raising over £2,000 for the trip, of which a percentage goes towards the Derby County Community Trust’s disability programmes. St Giles currently benefit from this programme and that, says head teacher Clive Lawrence, was one of the reasons why they volunteered for the Kenya trip.
“The Derby County Community Trust do so much for the school and this trip was a big boost for the boys’ independence,” he said.
“It was a fantastic experience for both Declan and Daniel but the whole school was involved in some way; we held a special assembly on Kenya, did bag packing at a local supermarket and performed our own version of the Lion King for parents, with money raised going towards the trip.
“Some of the older pupils wrote letters to the children in Kenya and we took books from our school to give to children at the Ungana Academy.”
A typical day would involve arriving at the school for breakfast – porridge – at 8am before joining in with the 50-odd pupils as they began their lessons.
Lunch, typically a spoonful of rice cooked with stock and a potato, was followed by further learning before pupils were dismissed at 4pm – or 5pm for the older students.
Staff and pupils at St Giles experienced what life is like for the pupils out of school, too, visiting the homes of a few during their trip and delivering much-needed food parcels.
Essential maintenance was undertaken by volunteers – such as painting school fences and general repairs, while some of the volunteers, like St Giles assistant head, Karen Clegg, helped out in the classroom.
“There would be around 50 pupils in each class and all the children sit in row,” she said.
“If they need to make their way to the front, they have to climb across the tables because it is so cramped in the classroom.
“They all wear uniform – most of which has been passed down from siblings – and have bags containing notebooks and tiny pencils, which are so precious to them.
“They are all so grateful for resources which we take for granted; books, pens, pencils.
“There are a lot of children in each class but they’re all impeccably behaved.”
Children do let off steam during break time and 11-year-old Declan “really enjoyed” playing football with the older children.
For Declan and 10-year-old Daniel, who both have additional learning needs, the trip was huge boost for their confidence and independence.
Declan’s highlight was “painting a fence” and “making friends” while Daniel enjoyed “riding the tuc-tucs along a bumpy road”.
“As well as visiting the school and the home of one of the children, we also go to take Declan and Daniel to an elephant orphanage and giraffe sanctuary,” added Karen.
“It was Kenyan Independence Day – Madaraka Day – while we were there, so we experienced all the festivities and traditions involved in that, too.”
The Derby County Community Trust deliver various community projects across the city and county.
Their projects include several holiday coaching courses for youngsters, fun fitness classes for Rams supporters and a programme which supports drug users who are wanting to turn their lives around.
Earlier this year, the Derby County Community Trust were named Community Club of the Year for their Rams in Kenya project. They invested £1.7m into the community in 2017, reaching over 17,000 participants – including pupils at St Giles School.
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