Four years ago Cedar Park became linked with a village school in western Kenya; Kombaka Primary School. Quite different to our own school in just about every way, Kombaka School struggles to educate children from the environs of the village. Working in mud built buildings, sitting three at a bench (they could hardly be called desks) and battling with the ants that eat every piece of paper that is introduced into the building, the children of Kombaka remain unbeaten and very proud of their school.
Education is a very valued commodity in Kenya – especially for those that have very little else. So many of the children that attend the school are orphans because of AIDS. Many without any living relative are being brought up by the widows of the village, working hard together to provide for themselves and their fostered children.
The link is enabled through a charity called Amani UK. www.amaniuk.org.uk Amani UK is a registered UK charity, operating on a totally voluntary basis. With the Trustees meeting ALL expenses, overheads are nil and 100% of money donated goes to help the people of Kenya. So with that in mind, Cedar Park went about raising small amounts of funds to help our link school. The UK pound goes a long way in Kenya and we are constantly amazed at what can be bought with our donations. Amongst our successes have been 30 school uniforms for orphans, classroom equipment, building materials for a new classroom block and new latrines – very much needed.
The generosity of the Cedar Park pupils, parents and Friends of Cedar Park continues to provide Kombaka School with additional funds. Through class councils, Cedar Park children are able to have a voice about how they wish to raise funds and come up with innovative and imaginative ideas.
Eager for the link to be a real cultural exchange, not just a means of fund raising, the pupils from Kombaka and Cedar Park are now writing as pen pals and sharing news of their very different life styles and expectations. Our children are learning first hand about real children who take nothing for granted and are continually grateful for the little that they have. Walking barefoot for 3 miles each way to school, leaving home without having eaten, having just two footballs for the whole school to share, eating only two meals a day and having to share pencils and paper brings an immediate message to our very fortunate Hazlemere children. Kenya is now a real place with people that we relate to and are starting to know and understand. The link experience has encouraged understanding and friendship, the examination of values and attitudes and will develop a better understanding of the world we live in for our children.