I have been involved with the charity since its inception and missed out on a visit by the Trustees in 2007 because I was still working. However last September we retired and Chris and I were able to plan the long awaited visit with Jean and Tina to see for ourselves all that we had heard about. We left for Kenya on 10th May and met up with Jean and Tina in Nairobi on 14th May to make the trip to Aquinoe together.
We were met at Eldoret by Josphat, the School’s Director and Alfred, the Chairman. We had a car journey, which by any standards was hairy, with potholes in the roads which made car drivers seek areas off road because it was less hazardous! The 75 km journey to Kitale took two and a half hours.
It was Saturday and I was not expecting to see pupils, other than the boarders and orphans so it was overwhelming to enter the school gates and see virtually all the pupils and the staff there waiting for our arrival. We were met with such joy and I am sure that some children remembered Jean and Tina from their previous visit.
The planning for the ceremony which then took place must have taken weeks to arrange and the thought and care which had gone into the preparations cannot be underestimated. From the greeting from one of the children giving us garlands of tinsel, to the conducted tour, the opening of buildings which the Charity had helped to build, planting trees and the performances by the children, everything was planned so carefully. There were many times that I held back tears and I felt very humble in the face of the efforts which were made on our behalf.
I am thrilled that we have video footage of the ceremony because it passed so quickly and in a blur. I have been able to relive some of the moments and feel those amazing emotions again.
The trip was taken with the intention of being able to see everything for myself so that I can say quite honestly to our supporters that their money is being well spent. It most certainly is – the differences in the buildings which have been constructed over the last few years, the wonderful Resource Centre which has been built particularly for the pupils with special needs (although it is a building which has value for all pupils) the new dormitory and classrooms – all there because of contributions made by our friends and families over here.
The children were a joy – that they want to be at school goes without question. They really have so little and yet wanted to share the little they had with us. Chris and I were only at the school for two days but those days have had a tremendous impact on us both. The children were so happy to see us; they loved having their photos taken and one child being photographed suddenly became a large group. They could see themselves as well, thanks to digital cameras.
We were able to see books that had been packed here in England on the shelves of the embryo library and Jean and Tina did sterling work getting a library system up and running. The library officially opened for business whilst Jean was there. They now have a system in place so that the arrival of the expected donation of books from Books Abroad will be taken in their stride. Another new project will be to get a concrete building to replace the wooden one where the library is currently housed.
The impact of the visit has been enormous. I have obviously been aware of the emotions of my co-Trustees, but to be there, and see and experience for myself, has been something which will live with me forever.