On the 30th September 2007, 11 volunteers travelling at their own expense, departed for the two week project. The team included Seamus Lagan, Dessie Cleary, Tony Conway, James McLarnon, Ciara McMaster, Ciara Bradley, Theresa Dunne, Damian O’Kane, John Mulholland, Patrick Turner and Brenda McWilliams. This project was also carried out in conjunction with Moving Mountains.
Conditions at Wagwer school were awful. The buildings were in poor repair with no
windows, doors, desks nor floors. Bare footed children are often attacked by ‘jiggers’,
insects which burrow their way into the soles of their feet. Wagwer Primary School was the
first in the whole District. They are still trying to establish themselves as a Secondary School
so Granaghan Outreach’s help will go a long way to providing that base. The teachers are
committed, genuine and caring people who have the plight of dis-advantaged kids at heart.
This is one of the reasons that Granaghan Outreach were keen to work at Wagwer, as it is a
school that is taking kids from the poorest backgrounds and giving them a chance to finish
Secondary School at an affordable price which so often is not the case in Kenya.
The team travelled in the Moving Mountains truck and were taken on a brief tour of the slums in Nairobi before making its way to Western Kenya. The journey took in total approx 10 hours on roads of varying quality and terrain. On the truck the team were joined by Francis Kioni the project supervisor and the teams contact to the locals, the truck driver, a hired cook and several street children, beneficiaries of the Moving Mountain Charity who were to be the teams work mates.
The team stayed in ‘Mwisho Mwisho’ Hotel, which was relatively clean and very basic. Electricity was available most evenings, while warm water ran out more evenings than not. Mosquito nets were essential for sleeping, although in some cases the mosquito’s found a way through! Breakfast was served from 6.00 – 6.30 am and the truck set of to Wagwer School by 7.00am each morning. The school was only a few miles from the hotel. Four secondary classrooms were to be renovated, and while each room was built, it did not have doors, windows, floors or plastering. Each time it rained, the clay bricks disintegrated, and with the roofs leaking the floors often turned into mud.
Every day had the same routine and as Siaya Region was almost on the equator, sunrise and sunset was always at 6.00 am and 6.00 pm. The team worked as long as day light permitted, with tea and lunch being provided on site. Thankfully much work was in the shade as the temperatures were upwards on 35 degrees. Local men, who had children attending the school were employed to help with the work, their wages approximately £2.50 per day for skilled and £1.50 for unskilled. All work was manual, mortar and concrete was mixed in the middle of a class room, bricks were delivered on back of a bicycle, and sand was shovelled on to a lorry and then shovelled off on delivery to site. Water to mix the plaster and concrete was carried with the help of donkeys on a four mile round trip. Stone for concrete was broken by hammer and chisel along the road side.
After ten days of hard work, and with the help of up to 25 locals, the renovations were almost complete and the community showed their gratitude by holding a thanksgiving ceremony. A special meal, of local and traditional food, was prepared for which Team Kenya were the guests of honour. Fr Matthews, the areas priest, who only can normally visit once every two months, was given special permission by the bishop to say Mass.
On the return journey the team visited Sister Theresa Rafferty, who is based in Nairobi. Sister Rafferty, along with two other nuns, carry out an incredible amount of work in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. It is estimated that almost 1 million people live in the Kibera slum. Words cannot describe the living conditions in the slums, with homes constructed from tin, often no bigger than 10 feet by 10 feet, open sewerage systems and little or no proper food. Many children live off the dumps and it is these children which Sister Rafferty, Sister Rosemary and Sister Lydia direct much of their attention. The convent has ambitious plans, their dedication and devotion to the people of this area can only be admired.