Ten young Islanders spent two weeks in July following in the footsteps of a group of P.E.I. farmers who first travelled to Kenya 35 years ago.
The youth group landed in Nairobi on July 9th. Over their two weeks in Kenya, they spent several days with Kenyan teens at Buuri Secondary School. Shortly after arriving, the visitors joined their hosts for a special “Games Day” featuring a variety of events from soccer and volleyball, to sack races and track events. The Buuri students won most of the events, but the Canadians were the winners of the Tug of War! While at Buuri, the youth got a chance to mingle and ask questions about life in each other’s country.
Each youth participant contributed $500 towards projects in Kenya through Farmers Helping Farmers. The P.E.I. visitors dug in, literally, at two schools that have just been twinned with schools in Canada. The youth helped to plant gardens at Michaka Elementary and the Naari Girls School. The vegetables grown in the gardens will be added to the school lunch program. The Islanders visited the Kenyan pupils in their classes – and there was even a game of “football” at Michaka.
The Island youth also learned more about the work that Farmers Helping Farmers has done with rural dairy farmers and visited a couple of dairy “shambas” or farms, along with vet students from UPEI. A couple of the group were even brave enough to put on a long glove and perform an exam on a Kenyan cow, with guidance from the vets.
Many of the Island youth delegation come from farming backgrounds, giving them a natural connection to those projects. Seventeen-year-old Daniel Whalen lives on a farm in Vernon River. Whalen’s mother, Janice, is a past president of Farmers Helping Farmers and has travelled to Kenya. She also lived in Ghana for a year.
“If you ever have the opportunity to go on a trip like this one, do it,” says Whalen. “It was an amazing experience and my knowledge and understanding of the world has grown tremendously.”
Kelsey MacLean, 17, also has a connection to Farmers Helping Farmers. She has also been involved in a twinning project through Kensington United Church. The Sunday School at the church has been twinned with Kamuketha School for seven years. MacLean was excited to finally meet the pupils there in person. She even got to dance with the mothers of the students as part of a welcoming ceremony at the school.
“Going to Kamuketha after hearing about it for so long was amazing,” says MacLean. “The students were welcoming and the ceremony was truly wonderful and very energetic.”
Tammy Craig has a very personal reason to want to visit Kenya. She’s a teacher at Three Oaks High School in Summerside and the co-coordinator of the trip. For the last six years, her school has been twinned with Buuri Secondary School. Craig organizes a successful fundraising run every fall for Farmers Helping Farmers.
“Our Kenyan adventure exceeded all of my expectations,” reflects Craig. “Getting to see all the accomplishments Farmers Helping Farmers has achieved alongside the people of Kenya was extremely inspiring.”
“As we visited schools, talked to students and worked beside the women in Kenya, we discovered the huge impact that water tanks, screenhouse gardens, solar lights and classrooms have made,” continues Craig.
“The lives of the people we met have improved most significantly through the opportunity to educate their children,” says Craig. “As a teacher, I was overwhelmed by the value each person placed on education.”
Cara DeCoste is the other coordinator of the trip. As of September, she’s the school counsellor at Three Oaks. She and Tammy Craig also participated in two youth trips to Ecuador.
“The youth on our Kenya trip made us and all Islanders proud,” says DeCoste. “They worked hard, relished opportunities to converse with Kenyan students and freely shared their thoughts, opinions and what they learned.”
Members of the Youth Tour will be visiting schools and community groups in the fall, sharing their experiences in Kenya.
The other youth participants on the tour are: Kelly Green, Rachel Vanderkloet, John Ployer, Carmelita Roberts, Tessa Craig, Tristan Russell MacLean, Sadie Milner and Taylor Larsen. The other adult participants are Carolyn Francis, Peter Cudmore and Nancy Russell.
To read more about the P.E.I.Kenya Youth Tour, please visit their blog: www.peikenya2015.wordpress.com