Memoirs of a volunteer

Holly Fagan tells of her experience volunteering at Mbogo Primary, one of the two primary schools on Soysambu Conservancy

Before I arrived in Kenya I spent the last few months raising money for this little school deep in the heart of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. I knew they were in need but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. The dirt floors are rocky and hazardous, the desks are rotten and splintering, there are almost no chairs – even for the teachers – the doors and shutters are falling off their hinges – if there are any at all – and learning resources are virtually non-existent.

Yet, the children there are some of the most cheerful, delightful and enchanting children I have ever met. When I first arrived they were quite shy around me because they’re not used to visitors, but their curiosity overtook their unease and I soon had the whole school crowded around me with outstretched hands. I’m sure I shook some of those hands three or four times!

Students with cups of hot porridge from the lunch program

I started off helping out in the Nursery class which was great fun – the children have so little they get quite excited about really basic things such as glue! I’ve also been teaching English and Maths and Science to the older students. There is a huge range of abilities and potential in the classes. Some of the students are very bright and eager to learn whereas others barely speak. It must be difficult to teach such a varied class. When I went to the school one of the teachers, Florence, was trying to teach Classes One, Two and Three. That’s pupils aged five to nine. I took Class Three for her and taught them in the morning. The pupils were so enthusiastic and polite and I really enjoyed it.

I find it difficult to explain how it felt but it was a very good feeling; being able to help the children and communicate with them. I felt “lifted” by the experience, like I had done something really important and worthwhile. It was the most gratifying thing I have ever done and I feel very privileged to have had this experience.

The children need exercise books, textbooks, pencils, rubbers, sharpeners, basic school equipment that they just don’t have! They even need clothes and shoes. The money I’ve raised is going towards next term’s feeding programme. For many of the children it is the only hot meal they get a day and it is only a cup of uji, or thin porridge, but I realise now how much more they need, so I will try to continue with my fundraising.

Mbogo Primary classroom

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