Jean stayed in Kenya for four weeks in the summer holidays of 2004, part of which was spent doing some voluntary work at the Aquinoe Learning Centre. She collected some money before she left, £2340 in all, thanks to some very generous friends and family members, which was changed into Kenyan Shillings on her arrival. This sum really stretched in Kenya, so was worth far, far more than it would have been in the U.K. We were able to buy a huge number of items and provide money for some services – food until November (big sacks of beans, rice and sugar); some much needed text books, maps, exercise books and a football, pay for teachers’ salaries and also fund a new physiotherapist. Even after this, there was still cash left over to deposit in the bank.
The children at the school were lovely, and so pleased to see a visitor. The big ones were eager to ask questions and find out about Jean’s family and the United Kingdom in general, once they overcame their initial reserve, and the little ones were just happy to come up and hold her hand or stroke her fingernails at break time!
Group of girls dancing at a welcoming ceremony
Jean is a teacher and was priviledged to be able to teach Classes Six, Seven and Eight for some of their lessons, mostly English and social studies, but there was also a little maths and science. The pupils were keen to have her back for more lessons, and apparently some parents rang the director, eager to know if she would be staying on at the school. Jean took some stickers out with her, which they loved, and also some very ordinary ballpoint pens, which were extremely gratefully received. It makes you realise how lucky we are in the U.K. and how much we take for granted.
Some of Class Eight, before their exams, and hoping to go to a good secondary school
The school buildings were very basic, the classrooms being small and very functional. The girls’ dormitory was serviceable, but the boys’ dormitory was very ramshackle.
Class One, including a boy with albinism
Having written about all of this to friends and family on her return to the United Kingdom, Jean’s sister, Tina, and a good friend, Linda, agreed that they would help set up a charitable trust to help the school. Linda spent much time delving into the masses of words produced about applying for charitable status and trying to understand all of the rules that apply, while at the same time they all went about raising money for the school. Finally, in June 2005, their dreams were realised, and the ALC obtained registered status from the Charity Commission.