Since 2012, the Derby County Community Trust has visited schools in the slums of Nakuru, Kenya, to provide much-needed aid to the most impoverished areas.
The Trust works in five partner schools to improve sanitation, build new classrooms or facilities and increase safety measures. It also supports teaching and physical activity within the schools.
“Rams in Kenya” is supposed to be an annual trip and is one of the Trust’s flagship programs, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to everything and has prevented volunteers from travelling to Nakuru in the last two years.
Community manager and Trip Co-ordinator Paul Newman says a common frustration is not seeing the desired progress in the area in-between trips and fears that not going for the last two years may have undone their hard work.
“The area we visit needs us more now than they ever did,” explained Newman. “Schools out there were closed just as they were in this country.
“The meals the children get at school are usually the only ones they get, so you can imagine the impact that has had on them.
“A frustration is when you go back year on year, expecting the growth and development to continue, but for whatever reason, you don’t see as much positive change as you would expect.
“Kenya is a very corrupt country. If these schools were established and well-run, we wouldn’t need to go, so you have to accept that we are only making baby steps which can be frustrating.”
Every year, @DCCTOfficial head to Kenya to work with five partner schools, to help improve life for their children. 🇰🇪
Daniel Henry has been present on the trip for the past six years. 👏
This is his story… pic.twitter.com/mWaOK2vBln
— Derby County (@dcfcofficial) October 29, 2019
The trip itself is an eye-opening experience for anyone involved, with volunteers of varying ages exposed to the reality of the school children living in the slums of a third-world country.
Recently retired volunteer David Cranham, 59, from Mansfield, who was on the last trip in 2019, spoke of the culture shock he and other first-timers had on arrival to the country and the lasting impact the experience had on him.
“The drive to the school was quite an eye-opener,” Cranham said. “As you go through a lot of the slum areas, and you see the homes that the locals are living in.
“One day, we were taken on a home visit, delivering food and other supplies to some of the school children’s homes.
“The homes we saw were at best 15 feet by 15 feet in size with 11 adults living inside at any one time, with no running water and using small charcoal fires to cook food.
“The woman to whom we delivered food was in tears, and all we were giving her was flour, oil, tea, sugar and only fundamental things – but it meant so much to them.”
READ MORE: Q&A with DCCT Community Manager Paul Newman
Not only has the pandemic made travelling to the country impossible in the last 18 months, but fundraising for future trips has also been difficult.
The financial impact of COVID-19 has made it difficult for charities to raise funds for people abroad. However, the enthusiasm of this year’s volunteers has the trip’s organiser confident of a positive outcome to the 2022 trip.
Newman declared: “People are either keen to get back involved and want to help to reclaim that sense of normality, but others have lost the habit of supporting a charity or supporting someone that comes on the trip.
“That said, if everyone who has signed up comes next year, it will be the second-biggest trip we have ever done, and considering the anxieties around international travel and safety, it is unbelievable, so many have signed up.
“The volunteers do seem as enthusiastic as ever, so these last 18 months have been a real mixed bag.”
The building work that the volunteers raise money for and help with is one of the most important aspects of the trip. When a classroom collapsed in a school in Nairobi in 2019, killing seven children, the need for intervention from charitable organisations such as the Trust grew stronger.
Cranham gave more context to the situation, saying: “Some of the schools had some problems and had to close because one school had built a second floor on their building without the proper foundations.
“So, eventually, the upper floor collapsed, killing some of the children, so all the schools that didn’t have proper stone buildings were closed as a result.
“They have given these schools a couple of years to build these structures, so the next time we are out there, the building work is likely to revolve around that.”
It is clear that the five schools the Trust work with need them more now than they likely ever have before, and the pandemic has highlighted the importance of fundraising for those most in need.