Our month teaching in Agape Mitaboni Academy, an impoverished rural school about two hours from Nairobi, was challenging, fulfilling and rewarding. We arrived with a suitcase (and more) of teaching materials, curriculum aids, sports equipment, stickers, educational posters, packages of pencil crayons, and even additional textbooks which we purchased in Nairobi, all of which were desperately needed and greatly appreciated. The needs are great: the school has pit latrines, inadequate blackboards, rough walls and (mostly) nonexistent window panes, and it lacks running water or refrigeration. In spite of all of that, the staff seem to genuinely care about their students and their instruction, the one (overworked) older cook manages to create two meals a day for 150 people over a smoky woodfire, the Administration is welcoming, and we were soon given the opportunity to focus on the Standard (or Grade) Sevens and Eights (as well as cover various other classes as the needs arose). What was amazing was the genuinely caring spirit which we observed among staff, students and parents; we didn't even see any evidence of bullying in the schoolyard. And the kids LOVED the volleyball net and balls which we were able to bring, thanks to British Airways' generous baggage allowance.
On our weekends, we took advantage of much that Nairobi and outskirts had to offer: the Railway Museum, Karen Blixen's home (of "Out of Africa" fame), the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage (where we adopted a baby elephant), the Giraffe Centre, the Bomas Centre, Kenya's National Museum, AND, of course, a four-day safari conducted by our new Kenyan friend Jackson: we revelled in exploring the National Park, Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Naivasha, where we saw four of the Big Five animals, to a total of more than FORTY species of animals and birds, many of which surprisingly up close.
What would you improve about this program?
As indicated in a post-trip telephone conversation with your Texas office, our homestay was inadequate: primitive, unhygienic, and way too far (nearly four kms walk each way without public transit and especially treacherous during the rains when the roads become torrents of slippery mud) from the school. However, when volunteers are placed closer to the school -- e.g. in the nearby village of Mitaboni with a caring host family -- then the experience will be a totally positive one.