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From Croydon to Kenya: A diary of an African Adventure

In August we had the privilege of taking ten young south Londoners on an eight-day trip to Kenya to roll up their sleeves and dive headfirst into community projects in Nakuru, a small city in the Rift Valley region of Kenya.

We partnered with African Adventures – a travel company that has partnered with over 20 schools in developing areas like Ghana, Kenya and Zanzibar – in 2022, with the aim of giving local youngsters the chance to support a community that’s worlds apart from their own.

Earlier last year, the word was out and local young people were invited to apply for the trip. We had twenty applicants vying for a total of ten spaces. Applicants went through the interview process where they were asked what they wanted to get out of the trip, why they thought the trip was important, and most crucially, how they would raise money for social action projects that would fund a significant part of the trip’s cost.

Their target was £12,000, and they smashed right through it. After the ten candidates were selected, they got together as a group at Selhurst Park and on a WhatsApp group chat to figure out how they would raise the money. Through a sponsored walk, a cake sale and face-to-face fundraising, they netted a significant chunk of money to fund the trip. The rest was contributed through the Community Support Fund, an initiative supported by the Crystal Palace Vice Presidents Club which helps young people access equipment, experiences or activities that will support the development of young people.

Ten young south Londoners went on the trip of a lifetime to support a small community in Nakuru, Kenya

The calendar turned to August and the trip was here. The ten youngsters were joined by three of our best and most experienced staff members, Sarah, James and Liam before they headed off for East Africa.

An early flight from Heathrow on the 18th of August saw the ten youngsters board an 8-hour flight to Kenya’s bustling capital city, Nairobi, where they stayed the night and got a taste of urban Kenyan life which set the stage for their adventure.

Up bright and early the next day, the real journey started as they began their 3-and-a-half-hour journey to Kenya’s third largest city, Nakuru, which is where they would spend the majority of their trip. Nakuru is a small city in the Rift Valley region of Kenya which is primarily known for its tourism and manufacturing industries, growing crops such as coffee, wheat, barley, beans and potatoes.

The first real day of work was dedicated to completing renovations at Cherish School, a local school funded through African Adventures.

Students and Palace for Life staff and participants at Cherish School

The group’s primary task was to level out the surrounding land so that the area of the school was safe for its students. This meant tackling heaps of dirt to fill a ditch against the perimeter wall. Shovelling it, levelling it, and wheelbarrowing it up and down a hill – not an easy feat in the humid East African climate.

Digging, shovelling, and even more digging

Next up was a paint job. The group transformed the run-down school office into a vibrant yellow, green and blue.

The old school office building before its renovation

After two and a half days, and many paintbrushes later, the job was done.

The finished paint job

Over the next couple of days, the groups put their teaching skills to the test. It was school holidays for the school kids, so they were in need of some entertainment. They played games, worked on number skills, and even created bracelets together. As  their time at school was coming to a close, the participants and staff organised a goodbye meal to reflect on their time together, eating beef stew and chapati’s.

Palace participants helped to teach the children in a local school

Wednesday saw the group experience the harsh reality for some in Nakuru. They paid a visit to the local dumpsite, Gioto. Gioto is situated in the London estate of Nakuru, about 3 kilometres from where they were based. The name ‘Gioto’ originates from Kikuyu word meaning a place where waste is dumped.

Our group experienced the harsh realities of life at local dumpsite where many local residents scavenge for metal and plastics to make a living

Spanning 50 hectares, Gioto Dumpsite is the final destination for waste generated by homes, offices, industries, and hospitals. It receives an estimated 250 tons of waste daily – a significant amount that many of Nakuru’s residents scavenge through to find metal and plastic to make ends meet for their families.

The group also visited another project called the Walk Centre, a school that aims to give street children a shot at life outside of the dumpsite into education or other employment. A day later, the group returned to donate clothes and sanitary products to the older girls who attend.

The Walk Centre, a school that aims to give children opportunities away from the local dumpsite

The group had made a real connection with the local kids they met, so next, they visited the homes of some of the Cherish School children to deliver food parcels. This gave our group a first-hand look into the lives of those completely different from their own, and really hit home the impact they were having on the community they’d been a part of for the last week.

Young south Londoners gave food parcels to local families

The African Adventure reached its climax with a trip to the Rift Valley, starting with a safari in the morning, plunging the participants into Kenya’s captivating wildlife. In the afternoon they visited a stunning waterfall, which capped off their productive week in serene fashion!

The group topped off their African Adventure with a trip to the Rift Valley, joined by Fred, who was the Trip Coordinator from African Adventures

James Odagi, our Social Action and Pathways Manager praised the young south Londoners on their commitment to the trip: “Our trip to Kenya, Nakuru, was an incredible journey that brought together 10 young people from south London to East Africa. Their commitment and enthusiasm to teaching, and renovation work which included painting and digging along with engaging in sports at Cherish Primary School was truly inspiring. The lasting impact they made with the students speaks volumes, and we hope this experience has given these young individuals the experience of a lifetime and ignited a passion for making a difference in the world.”

Take a look an the adventure in pictures via the gallery below.

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