Hungry elephants in Kenya inspire generosity of Prince Edward Islanders

Some young Prince Edward Islanders –and their parents–were moved to action when they heard that hungry elephants in Kenya had crushed the screened garden at their twinned school in Kenya.

West Kent Elementary School in Charlottetown has raised money to help replace the screen house garden, along with a generous donation from Island Lime.

Students at West Kent send letters twice a year to Mitoone Primary School in Meru, Kenya.  It’s a relationship that has given school children in both countries a glimpse into the lives of their pen pals.

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In October 2016, the students at West Kent were told that their friends in Kenya had a setback. Because of drought conditions in Kenya, some hungry elephants had broken into the greenhouse-like structure where vegetables were being grown for students at Mitoone to eat in the stew that they were served daily for lunch.

The jumbos, as the Kenyans call them, were so thirsty that they even knocked the tap off one of the school’s water tanks to have a drink.

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It was a story that struck home for the young Prince Edward Islanders.

”My daughter came home and told me about the elephants and how they had destroyed the screen house, ” explained Mary Robinson, whose daughter Catherine is in Grade 5. Her son, John, now 12, is a graduate of West Kent and had also exchanged letters with students at Mitoone.

Touched by what they had heard, the members of the West Kent Home and School Association wanted to see how they could help.

”I think we were all a bit stunned to discover that for the same approximate cost of an iPad for our school, we could fund an entire screen house to help feed so many, ” said Robinson.

Students at West Kent have annually supported the Farmers Helping Farmers Holiday Campaign, creating unique gift cards that they sold to raise money for their twinned school.

This year, they will add to that contribution.

At the same time, Island Lime has also stepped forward to help.

“Our family’s agriculture businesses have done some work with Farmers Helping Farmers before,” explained Mary Robinson.

“It is such a great program that connects well with what P.E.I.’s agricultural community is about and so Island Lime is excited to donate $1,000 to this project,” said Robinson.

Today at West Kent school, students and Mary Robinson from Island Lime presented cheques to Barry Cudmore, a member of the board of Farmers Helping Farmers.

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The Grade 5 and 6 students also enjoyed a presentation from Queen Elizabeth scholar, Sarah Wangeci, who is currently studying at UPEI.  She told them about the importance of the screen gardens and what their contributions will mean for the students at Mitoone.

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Asante to the West Kent school community and Island Lime for their generosity. The students and their families at Mitoone thank you.

After the presentation, there was time to ask Sarah questions - including how she does her hair!

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Farmers Helping Farmers president Rosemary Herbert is delighted to hear about the donations from West Kent Elementary and Island Lime.

“We are so happy that students at Mitoone will soon have a new screen house, even bigger than the one that the elephants destroyed,” said Herbert.

“That means more healthy vegetables to be added to their school lunches, giving the students at Mitoone every opportunity to be the best they can be at their studies,” added  Herbert.

A group of volunteers from Farmers Helping Farmers will be visiting Kenya at the end of January and will visit Mitoone to check on the progress of the new screened garden.

Meanwhile, the rains have come to Kenya and the elephants now have more food to eat.

Extra measures will be taken to make sure the new screen house garden won’t be too tempting for hungry elephants in the future.

Here are Mary Robinson from Island Lime and her daughter Catherine after the presentation.

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Here are photos from Mitoone school and the students who will benefit from today's generous donations.

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