Each year, pupils in the lower sixth are offered the chance to contribute to an Ardingly legacy by attending the annual service trip to Kenya. The ninth trip brought a group of 22 carefully selected A-level and IB pupils, together with four staff members, out to a remote, rural part of Kenya. The focus of the trip was to visit Ardingly’s sponsored school in Kenya, Ndogo Primary, a project funded by the parents of pupils to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Ardingly’s foundation.
The adventure started months before flying out as the group worked hard raising funds and collecting donations of clothes, toys, stationary and books to take out with them. On arrival at Ndogo, the group experienced a welcome ceremony and were immediately immersed in song and dance performed by Ndogo pupils. The infectious energy of the Ndogo children was matched by the enthusiasm the Ardingly visitors brought to the classroom over their five days at the school. They taught a variety of lessons to the local children with ages ranging from 3 – 14 including Geography, Maths, English and Physics. The visiting group was put through their paces, following a tight rotation from classroom to classroom; teaching animal names to class 2 one lesson and then building DNA sequences out of sweets with class 8 the next.
Any visitors not involved in the classroom for a lesson were engaged elsewhere, learning to wield a shovel and mix cement to build the concrete base for a 10,000 litre plastic water tank. This formed part of a new water harvesting programme designed to catch precious rainwater to provide a clean water supply for the school’s youngest pupils. The visiting group also assisted in building a brightly coloured chain link fence around the nursery school; vital to ensure the nursery aged children were able to learn and play in a safe environment.
At lunchtimes, the Ardingly visitors were able to see the effect of the feeding programme in action – the result of previous fundraising efforts. The programme provides a meal for each child attending the school and for many Ndogo children, this is their only food of the day and their main motivation for coming to school. This was a humbling experience for many members of the visiting group who were able to help serve rice and beans to 242 nursery and primary pupils.
Whilst the Ardingly visitors did an excellent job of building and teaching, the highlight of the trip was simply playing with the children. Whether it was football or duck, duck, goose; hair braiding or blowing bubbles, Ardingly and Ndogo pupils made lifelong friends. And whilst the visiting group had been teaching the lessons, the learning that was experienced was two way. As the visitors said goodbye to Ndogo and reflected on the week, all left feeling privileged to have an understanding of a way of life so very different and yet one which shared the same hopes and aspirations. The Ardingly pupils were richer for the experience.
The visitors then moved on to Kamande Primary School and were met by another warm welcome. Here the visiting group were able to see evidence of the efforts of the 2017 trip in the form of the 40 donated desks in full use. A visit to Ngetiti Secondary School followed, allowing Ardingly pupils to converse with Kenyan pupils of a similar age and enabling them to really experience the stark contrast between the two education systems, as well as the astonishing hunger the Ngetiti pupils had for education. Here a football and a netball match were enjoyed by all. By visiting these two schools, the Ardingly pupils played an essential role in establishing new partnerships for future Ardingly service projects through the Kariandusi School Trust.
A trip to the Masai Mara provided a welcomed respite and time for reflection for the visitors. Whilst the migration was late this year due to high rainfall in the Serengeti, many elephants, buffalo, cheetahs and lions were marvelled at.
After the visit to the Masai Mara, the entire Ardingly group were sharply reminded that the people we walked among faced adversity and poverty to an extent the group were unlikely to ever experience. The group visited two venues – the Saidia Orphanage and the Restart Centre. Both organisations rescue children and babies who have faced severe abuse and neglect by providing them with a place to live, funding for their education and most importantly, the love and care they need.
This was an emotional day for all as the group learned of some of the harrowing experiences these children had been through. Yet their experiences were not apparent in their excitement and happiness at our arrival. Their ability to reconcile their past, and to look forward to making the most of the opportunities given to them in the present and for the future, had a huge impact on the Ardingly College students’ outlook towards their own education; one they will remember for the rest of their lives.