Take 20 Vernon students and transport them half way around the world to a rural village in Kenya, where they are immersed in Maasai culture, surrounded by beautiful wildlife, and help to build a school for the local children, all of it connecting the global community.
For the last two weeks of August, Vernon secondary school teacher Susan Egan’s Global Action class did just that. Working with Free the Children charities, students helped to construct a school building in the picturesque village of Ngosuani, in the Maasai Mara area of Kenya. Families there struggle to put food on the table, and the average income is less than $1 a day.
“We went to help the villagers, but we learned so much from them too,” said Egan. “They have such a strong sense of community, and although people don’t have much they all help each other and are so kind and welcoming.”
Illiteracy rates are high, but all that is beginning to change, as children attend school and have more choices for their future.
“It was so meaningful as we shoveled and laid the bricks for the new building, knowing that children would be learning how to read and write there,” said Grade 11 student Amy Friedman. “They were so happy to be going to school, even if they hadn’t had breakfast, and it really makes you realize that education is a gift.”
Grade 11 student Michaela Hamilton learned that it’s not just material things that bring happiness.
“A trip like this really changes your perspective and makes you think about what you really need,” she said.
Kalamalka Rotary Club donated the construction materials costs for the new school building while the Vernon students provided volunteer labour. Egan would like to thank the club for their incredible support, and all of those who support Rotary through their Dream Auction fundraiser. She also thanks EF Tour Company for arranging the travel for the group.
As part of the cultural component of the trip, students participated in a water walk to the local water source, to gain a greater understanding of what life is like for villagers. The mamas and young women carry very heavy water containers, often for long distances so families will have river water to cook and clean with.
“It was a very humbling experience, and I have so much respect for the mamas,” said Grade 12 student Sylvanna Wilson. “The containers were so heavy, it was really hard to walk with them, and they carry them so far, and here, we can just turn on the tap.”
She added that the experience has encouraged her to be more careful with her own personal water use.
“I’m definitely taking shorter showers now,” she said.
This is the second time that the Global Action group has travelled to Ngosuani, and there is another volunteer trip being planned for 2014. Deadline for applications is Nov. 14. Egan can be contacted at email@example.com.