As most service trips go, there’s usually some kind of build that is the focus of the trip. In the case of my trip, teaching was the focus. Although, that did not stop us from getting our hands a little dirty every few days.
My group and I were building at Esinoni Primary School (which is also the school we were teaching at). The school was interesting because they still had the original school on the property. The school was made up of two classrooms. I would give a physical description but I think photos would represent it a lot better:
The oldest part of the school was actually built by parents in hopes of giving their children an education. The parents taught a variety of subjects in the classrooms. Once the student population increased the government recognized it as an actual school and supplied a Head Teacher (Principal in North American terms). This sounds like a good thing but it really wasn’t. The conversion meant that parents would have to start paying to send their children to school. Population decreased but then the government did something absolutely amazing: They allowed Monday classes to be free. Children all over the community were rushing to go to school for that single day because of how much they valued education. Eventually, the Kenyan government put a law in place that says that “for every individual classroom, they will supply one teacher.” The school took that as a positive thing and with time and fundraising they were able to build 6 classrooms but 3 buildings. These 3 buildings allowed for 3 new teachers! You might be wondering why it wasn’t 6 new teachers, that’s because the classrooms were attached, not individual buildings.
The new classrooms that were built allowed for better learning. They have a lot more space for students. They had an actual surface that you could use as a chalkboard, instead of a piece of plywood. They have proper windows and electricity. Most importantly, they had actual floors and walls. The floor they were learning on was no longer dirt that became mud when it rained. The walls were cement and no longer needed to be repaired after a rainstorm. It was a healthy environment for their learning. The biggest problem was that the walls were thin and you could easily hear the lesson in the class next to you. A few years the organization that I travelled with paired up with Esinoni and they offered a solution to their struggles.
The organization I travelled with believes in giving a hand up instead of a hand out. So the community had to raise a certain percentage of funds to help build a new classroom that was it’s own individual building. In return, groups of students (like me and my friends), businesses, families and so many people from different walks of life started travelling to the community and help with the various builds. This works well because the community doesn’t have to pay for labour cost. My group was working on the 6th classroom. Although, they have been able to but in much more than just classrooms. They’ve put in a water well and have started working on new washrooms. For the sake of what I am familiar with, I’m sticking to talking about classrooms.
The way that building a classroom goes is kinda simple but like any build it gets complex. I’m going to go from step 1 until the place that my group left off:
- Dig a rectangle trench that is about 3ft deep (maybe deeper depending on the soil)
- In the 4 corners, dig deeper by an extra 2-3ft
- Pour concrete into the corners and put rebar inside for support
- Build a retaining wall in the trench that was dug (This is where the build was at when my group started)
- Fill the interior of the retaining wall with large rocks
- Fill the cracks with smaller rocks
- Use a sledge hammer to level the foundation and crush the large rocks
- Fill the foundation with sand so that all cracks are filled
- Put a layer of black gardening tarp (I have no idea what it’s actually called) over top
- Put a layer of rebar on top of that
That’s where the Teachers to Teachers group left off
Safety measures were common sense: wear gloves, hard hat and protective eye gear. Also, it wasn’t very labour intense it was just hot in the sun, which made it hard to work in.
I like to say that the best part of building is seeing the growth right before your eyes. It’s also good to take a look at the project before you start at the beginning of the day and when you finish at the end of the day because those are the moments where you see and how much progress was made. There’s also the knowledge of knowing you’re making an impact on the lives of children and a piece of you will live on because the entire group literally put their blood, sweat and tears into the project.
That is it for the build! Like how I said in the last post, please feel free to contact me if you have interest in doing service aboard. It’s truly something life changing. I learned so much about myself, the world, and how to live a healthy and happy life. I feel as though I grew and matured as a person and it’s honestly the most wonderful experience for a person. If you haven’t checked out Kenya 2017 (Part I): The Atmosphere please check it out! As for now…