Two Blue Mountains primary school teachers are preparing to use their skills in a very unfamiliar classroom environment this summer — in a poverty-stricken Kenyan town.
Springwood’s Rachael Younan and her friend Ashley Lawton from Blaxland will fly to Nairobi on November 24 and be driven five hours to Nakuru, which they will call home for two weeks.
Set in the remote Aberdere Ranges district, Nakuru became an area of refuge for victims of violence during the 2007 Kenyan elections and today more than 6000 people live in a displaced persons camp.
In their first week on Kenyan soil, the pair will work with students at the Aberdare Ranges primary school and then spend their time at an orphanage called Holding Hands Children’s Home.
Both facilities, plus a local medical clinic in Nakuru, were established by the charity, So They Can, an organisation the young teachers first heard about when its founder Cassandra Treadwell delivered a talk three years ago at Notre Dame University.
Ms Lawton, who completes her teaching degree this month and her prac teaching block at Springwood Public School, said her education lecturer and 10 medical students will be joining them.
“This trip has been on our radar for three years and now it is all going to happen,” she said.
“Apart from Cassandra, it’s been conversations we’ve had with uni students who’ve been on the program that really inspired us to save up for this trip and go.
“They said they now have a completely different perspective to life and were blown away by the Kenyan school children, who have so little but are so eager to learn.”
Ms Younan, who teaches full-time at Leura Public School, said they will be living in the home of a family that has children at Aberdare Ranges Primary School.
“We’ve been asked to focus on teaching creative arts and we will eat what the kids eat at lunchtime at school, for many the only guaranteed meal they have each day.
“They [So They Can] said the living conditions in Nakuru are pretty basic, so not to expect too much.
“But the kids there value education so much and I think that’s something I will be able to share in the classroom when I get back.”
While both teachers will be paying for their own airfares and spending money, they are hosting a fund-raising event from midday on Sunday, October 6 at the Royal Hotel in Springwood with all proceeds going towards purchasing and delivering vital supplies needed in Nakuru.
“There will be live music all afternoon, a sausage sizzle and a raffle with great prizes, so we encourage people to come along,” said Ms Younan.
“We will be taking with us extra suitcases filled with teaching resources like pens and books, but also balls, skipping ropes and medical kits.”
For more information about the program in Nakuru, visit www.sotheycan.org.