RED LAKE—For a group of Red Lake students who recently traveled to rural Kenya, the experience gave them the opportunity to witness first hand the challenges that third world citizens face on a daily basis. “We met people who had very little but were very happy,” reflected Tia Wilson, one of twelve students who embarked on the journey. “This trip showed me that I should appreciate everything I have, no matter how insignificant it may seem.”
Making the long trek to East Africa to work with the international development organization “Free the Children” also gave students the opportunity to lend a hand towards tackling some of the issues facing the community members that they met. “This trip meant seeing the world for what it really is, seeing people for who they are meant to be and seeing myself through the eyes of a child I do not know but finding my place in being able to help her,” said Madeline Harland.“It allowed us to form other appreciations for all of the things in our daily lives that we take for granted, like the length of the showers that I take in the morning,” added Lachlan Smith. Unclean drinking water, poor air quality, a lack of basic medical care, poor access to formal education, and an income of less than one-dollar per day are all realities of life for the individuals encountered during the Kenyan excursion.
The Red Lake group members, along with a group of six students and two teachers from St. Patrick’s High School in Thunder Bay, worked for four of the nine days under the equatorial sun to contribute to the construction of Oleleshwa High School, an all girls secondary school being partially funded by Nelly Furtado. The school is scheduled to open its classroom doors for an inaugural class of 45 Maasai girls this coming January.
The secondary school is a part of the overall approach to international development that “Free the Children” has engaged in which focuses on four pillars of building strong, self sufficient communities; education, clean water and sanitation, health care, and sustainable/alternative income. “It was amazing how something small such as mixing concrete or going on a water walk with a local Maasai Mama can change your perspective on life,” said Mikaela Harland echoing Kaitlin Amell’s sentiment that being a part of the trip made her feel like she was a part of something bigger than what she had expected.
A learning opportunity to say the least, the trip has already had an impact on each member of the group, beginning with the relationships that were formed with their new friends from St. Patrick’s High School, their amazing tour facilitators Lauren Fox and Tobiko Sankei, the camp staff that took care of the group of volunteers, and the children whose waves, smiles, and screams of “JAMBO!!!” constantly filled the air. “It gave Red Lake and St. Patrick’s students, who might not have had the opportunity to work together, the chance to work together for an important cause,” confirmed Red Lake student Lydia Riddell.
“I have learned many lessons from the Maasai Warriors, African Mamas and dedicated construction workers,” agreed Sara Winsor. “They overflow with joy and soul and you realize how truly lucky you are.”
According to participants, the group was also affected by the quality of life that they experienced throughout their time in Kenya reflecting that it was an “eye-opening experience” catching the students off guard and reminding them how lucky they are to live in Canada. “It was a life changing experience that gave me a different perspective on life,” noted Amber Pinsent.Sending out an “enormous ‘Thank You’” to Terry Bursey and to all of those who helped to make their trip possible through their volunteer work and contributions to the group’s fundraising efforts, trip co-organizers Darrin and Renee Bausch are thrilled with how their efforts panned out and also offered their ongoing thanks to the Red Lake students who came together to give so much—not only to the people of Sikirar, but also to the group with memories that were provided to all.
“Before leaving for this trip, Darrin said to me ‘we’re going with a really good group’. That was an understatement; I never imagined how great the Red Lake students would be,” said Renee Bausch. “I’m so very impressed with how they showed their true colours; full of positivity, humor, hard work, dedication, respect and compassion. I’m so very proud of all of you—what we saw and experienced wasn’t easy but I hope it gave all of you the drive you will need to BE THE CHANGE the world needs.”
Local students lending a hand in Kenya included: Kaitlin Amell, Lydia Riddell, Tia Wilson, Madeline and Mikaela Harland, Lachlan Smith, Leigh Jeffries, Will Husack, Emma Robertson, Amber Pinsent, Sawyer Badiuk, Sara Winsor and group chaperones Renee and Darrin Bausch.