Lending a Hand in Kenya
Ten young Islanders will spend two weeks in July following in the footsteps of a group of P.E.I. farmers who first travelled to Kenya 35 years ago. And along the way, they'll take part in a number of projects connected to Farmers Helping Farmers.
The P.E.I. Kenya Youth Tour 2015 is part of the 35th anniversary celebrations of the Island-based group. Farmers Helping Farmers has been doing volunteer work in eastern Africa since 1980. Over the decades, the grassroots organization has raised more than $10 million Canadian, including funds contributed by CIDA. Their projects are estimated to have touched the lives of at least 100,000 people in Africa.
The youth group lands in Nairobi, Kenya on July 8th. For the next two weeks, they will visit many of the projects that Farmers Helping Farmers has underway in rural Kenya, including farms, dairies and schools that have received assistance through the Island organization.
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. His family stables standardbred race horses and on the nearby family farm, there are beef cattle, hogs and cash crops.
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.
'When this opportunity came up I wanted to go to share her experiences,' explains Daniel Whalen.
Kelsey MacLean, 16, also has a connection to Farmers Helping Farmers. She was attracted to the trip because of a love of travel and of the movie, 'The Lion King'. 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 more than five years.
'As I got older and was more involved in my church, I saw the support and progress Farmers Helping Farmers had made with the school and community,' says MacLean. MacLean also hopes to become a veterinarian so she has a special interest in the work done by the Atlantic Veterinary College in Kenya.
For Carmelita Roberts, 17, her interest grew out of her participation last year in the National Student Commonwealth Forum in Ottawa. The program's theme for the week was food security around the world.
'My eyes were opened to the issues around food insecurity in different developing countries,' explains Roberts. 'Through this, I became greatly passionate about making a difference and Farmers Helping Farmers is providing me a chance to do so.' Roberts is graduating from Bluefield High School and is interested in Business and Law.
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. She has also become friends, via mail, with a teacher at her twinned school. She will get a chance to meet Samson in July.
'I have been dreaming of traveling to Kenya for the past five years to see the impact Farmers Helping Farmers has had with the families in the Meru region,' explains Craig. 'My farming experience makes me want to see how Kenya farmers operate -- and the schoolteacher in me can't wait to see Kenyan schools and students.'
Cara DeCoste is the other coordinator of the trip. She's the school counsellor at Athena Consolidated School in Summerside. She and Tammy Craig also participated in two Voluntour youth trips to Ecuador, through the group Me to We. 'We travelled with 15 Island students in 2011 and worked on the construction of classrooms in Llullin,' says DeCoste. 'In 2013 we travelled with 14 Island students to work on a water project in Gulahuayco.'
'It felt fantastic to assist these communities with their projects and to tour parts of this beautiful country,' DeCoste continues.
'My experiences in Ecuador have helped me to recognize the power of gratitude and opportunity,' she adds. When Tammy Craig suggested that she would love to visit the school Three Oaks is twinned with in Kenya, DeCoste was immediately on board.
'I look forward to seeing Kenyan schools, a church service, an elephant orphanage,' she says. 'I am ecstatic about the opportunity to work on community projects and volunteer with the Muchui Women's Group and a local orphanage.' Tammy Craig agrees with DeCoste.
'Although I have learned there is always more that can be done, these trips have shown me that little changes and the right attitude can make all the difference,' says Craig. 'One of the best lessons I learned, was to turn guilt into gratitude. Be grateful for what you have, and share what you can with others.'
Tessa Craig, 17, will be joining her mother on the P.E.I Kenya Youth Tour. The Grade 12 student at Bluefield also travelled to Ecuador on a voluntour. The Craigs live on a beef and potato farm in North Tryon, so they have a natural connection to Farmers Helping Farmers. Tessa Craig has another reason for being part of the trip.
'One of my long term goals is travelling to developing countries and providing free medical care,' she explains. She will be studying science in university next year as the first step towards that goal.
Over the next three months, the P.E.I. Kenya Youth Tour group will be holding a number of fundraisers to raise money in support of the work they will do during their visit. Each participant will contribute $500 towards the projects. They will also be donating sports gear, including soccer balls, at the schools they visit. The group has several keen soccer players and they look forward to connecting on the field with the Kenyan youth that they meet.
The other youth participants on the tour are: Kelly Green (UPEI), Rachel Vanderkloet (Charlottetown Rural), John Ployer (Montague) Kelsey MacLean (Kensington), Tristan Russell MacLean (Charlottetown Rural), Sadie Milner (Charlottetown Rural) and Taylor Larsen (Holland College). The other adult participants are Peter Cudmore and Nancy Russell.
To read more about the P.E.I.Kenya Youth Tour, please visit their blog: www.peikenya2015.wordpress.com