Have you ever thought about what it would be like to travel to Africa? Recently, one of Hanover High School’s very own teachers, Ms. Marilou Hall, took a mission trip to Kenya with a small group from her church. Ms. Hall and the others who traveled with her donated money, supplies, and their time to a local school. They also visited a nearby hospital and explored the area of Kenya in which they stayed. Here is what Ms. Hall had to say about her trip:
Where shall I begin? My Vision Venture Mission Adventure to Kenya was a once in a lifetime experience, but I have no doubt that I will return. It all began in April of 2015 when a new pastor at my church mentioned that he was planning a trip to Kenya and asked if anyone else would be interested. I sarcastically looked at the friend sitting next to me and said, “Shall we go?” Her response was a wide-eyed, “NO!” I just put the idea away. But God had a different plan for me. I could not stop thinking about what the pastor had said. I came up with all kinds of excuses, such as age, money, risks, and family concerns for my safety, yet I was still feeling that I had heard a “call.” So, from May of 2015 until January of 2017 we made preparations and did lots of fundraising for support for our Mission. Through amazing support from church members, family, and friends we were able to raise almost $15,000 dollars for St. Andrew’s Tarabete Secondary School in Naivasha, Kenya.
St. Andrew’s is a private Christian school in a desperately poor section of Naivasha. The area is called Kasarani. Approximately 30,000 people live in this area where there is no electricity or running water. For the people in Kasarani, life is difficult. The people, mostly the women, have to walk about two miles to draw water from a bore-hole, which is a deep well. Also, though Kenya is the largest exporter of flowers to Europe, there is nowhere near enough jobs for those who need them. As a result of so much unemployment, the slum area increases and conditions worsen. The desperation leads to increased alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, and crime. The living conditions we saw were deplorable. Large families live in single-room, tin shacks with no furniture and NEVER enough food. In addition, the government of Kenya is very corrupt and bribery is a constant. There is very little public education in Kenya. Even the government schools require tuition. Most of the people in the areas outside of the cities cannot afford to provide food for their families, much less pay tuition.
This is where our work began. Our team of seven people was housed at Eagles Wings in Naivasha (I HAD to ask why there was no apostrophe in Eagles, but I still do not understand the explanation…when in Kenya!). The mission center was the home of Greg and Deb Snell, who have been missionaries in Naivasha for over 20 years. They are totally devoted to the people of Kenya. Our group worked at St. Andrew’s for 10 days. We cleaned and painted several classrooms and installed chair rails. I discovered that I am NOT a great painter!
More importantly, we had a great deal of time to spend with the 400 students. The team had brought gifts for the school along with a very generous donation. We brought pens, pencils, T-shirts, soccer balls, ball pumps, and 10 computers. You would have thought we had given them each a brand new car.
St. Andrew’s has no electricity or running water, so water must be brought in every day. Despite these circumstances, the students who attend St. Andrew’s were incredible. They come from desperately poor families and live in deplorable, unsafe conditions, yet they are joyous and grateful for the opportunity of an education. They walk over three miles to get to the school, which is at the top of a very rugged and dusty dirt road. They are proud of their school and themselves. They know that they are the lucky ones. All of the students speak English, Swahili, and their own tribal language. English is used in all classes. The classrooms are concrete rooms, totally bare, other than chalkboard paint on one wall. The only book they have is a Bible. They carry 17 notebooks (a huge expense for them!). We were there for the first two weeks of school. They jumped right into academic work. I was able to sit in on several classes and learned so much from the students. The classroom is virtually silent, except for the teacher’s voice. The students listen intently, taking notes on their own. Toward the end of the class, the teacher puts notes on the board for them to copy, if they need them.
These students are intense, committed, enthusiastic learners. I was humbled by the respect these young people showed for their teachers, their friends, and themselves. Between their classes the students would come to visit us, asking questions, sharing their stories, and wanting to help us.
In addition to our work at St. Andrew’s, we visited the local hospital, where government doctors were on strike because they had not been paid for more than 18 months. Two missionary doctors were staffing the hospital to the best of their ability. The lines of ill and injured adults and children were heartbreaking; way too many people have died during this time. We also went to a private Christian primary school which is also an orphanage. I left my heart there. We were able to work with a couple of different groups of students from St. Andrew’s at Eagles Wings to Bible Studies and could offer opportunities for further education.
We had some time for “touristy” things, as well. We visited a Giraffe Center where we got up close and personal with several giraffes. They are HUGE animals! Their heads are immense, to say nothing about their tongues! GROSS! We went to a Baby Elephant Orphanage where we saw more than 20 young elephants. We were able to feed them and play with them. I even adopted one of them. Her name is Dolly. They will send me monthly pictures and updates about her until she is ready to be released into the bush!
For the last few days of our trip we were fortunate to be able to go on a safari. We traveled about five hours north of Naivasha to Laikipia County to Suyian Soul. Suyian Soul is a beautiful, serene, and peaceful spiritual sanctuary on a 49,000 acre ranch. We were treated like royalty. We went on several game rides and walks. The animals were magnificent. We were up close and personal with animals like lions, hippos, camels, Cape buffalo, warthogs, and some of the most spectacular bird life in the world. It was a magnificent experience. However, one week after we left this oasis, groups of tribal invaders attacked and burned this special place to the ground. This was a result of a great drought and the need for grazing land for the tribe stock. The owners of Suyian Souls were in negotiations with the tribal leaders to provide them with use of grazing land at no cost to the tribes, but apparently the tribal issues were more important than the land being made available to them. Animals were slaughtered, guests terrorized, staff left without employment, and one of the invaders killed. My prayer is that Suyian Soul will be restored so that others may enjoy it.
My time in Kenya has made me much more aware of all the blessings we in America take for granted, including, at the very least, water, shelter, and adequate food. My life has been forever changed. My hope for the future of Kenya lies in the youth making a difference. They have so much to overcome, yet they are all devoted to making real change.