Making dreams come true in Africa

November 2, 2016

Volunteers from Chichester College have been thanked for helping to transform the lives of schoolchildren in Kenya.

Alex Maina, founder of The Walk Centre, visited Chichester recently to see the college and meet some of the people who have been involved in the ‘Big Build’ project with the African Adventures Foundation.

Since January, staff and students from across the college – led by student experience manager Lisa Humphries – have been raising money to build a new school in Nakuru which will give thousands of children from the Hilton slum area an opportunity to receive an education in a permanent facility.

The project will cost around £70,000 and, to date, more than £37,000 has been raised, enabling work to start on building the Walk Centre Primary School which will have 10 classrooms, an office, toilet block and school hall.

Alex said: “What has been achieved so far is amazing – it is more than we could have dreamed was possible.

“Lisa and I talked about what I would like to see happen with the centre, and I told her I’d like permanent classrooms – built of brick, not tin. I’d like to develop the centre into a school to help more children but I didn’t think it would be possible to raise the money.

“But Lisa said ‘we can do that’ and now we are halfway there – it’s like a miracle. We can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.

“When the school is completed in July 2017 it will be an incredible milestone, not only for the centre but for the community. It will be one of the best schools in the area.”

In the 11 years since Alex and his wife, Patricia, started the Walk Centre, it has grown enormously – from initially providing small numbers of children with food and water and a basic education.

In 2009, African Adventures Foundation began to support the project – closely followed by Chichester College two years later.

Alex explained: “My wife and I moved to Nakuru in 2000 for work and we used to go for walks to explore the area. We found the dumpsite and that was a life-changing moment for us.

“We saw mothers and children scavenging for food and it never left our minds, so we started returning around once a week with some bread and fruit which we shared with them.

“In 2005 we had an idea to set up a centre which would take the children away from the dumpsite for a few hours – like a Sunday School – and it all grew from there.

“Through chance meetings we met Dan from African Adventures, which started our link with them and our relationship with Chichester College came about by chance too, as they had been due to go to a different project but came to us after that fell through.

“We have had support from a lot of people over the years, but nothing like the level of commitment from the foundation and the college.

“What Lisa and the college have done for us is incredible – there are no words to say what it means to us, to the children and to the community. It is life-changing.

“We are all human, but we are from two different worlds and I think people who have visited us see that.

“The children in the Hilton slum have no running water, they don’t know what or when their next meal will be, but, through the centre, we are working to change that by giving them an education.

“We currently support around 400 primary and around 70 high school children. We have also seen four of the children we have helped go to college and one is at university now. It is more than we thought possible.”

Since 2011 more than 250 students and members of staff have travelled to Kenya as volunteers, helping to develop, maintain and teach at the Walk Centre.

The most recent Chichester College volunteers travelled to Kenya in the summer.

It was Lisa’s sixth visit to the area and her passion for the project has not diminished.

She said: “We had an amazing time in July – it was hard-work for our volunteers, physically and emotionally, but it is a life-changing experience.

“Many of our staff and students make the journey several times after their first visit, because you can’t help but be affected and inspired by what you see.

“It has been one of the most profound experiences of my life – to do something that makes a difference to people’s lives is something I’m just grateful to be able to do.”

To find out more about The Walk Centre and how you can get involved in supporting the fundraising for the new school, please visit www.african-adventures.co.uk/foundation/the-walk-centre