Monday, 02/10/17: There is a massive demonstration in Nairobi today- the opposition successfully challenged the verdict of the recent election and it is to be held again on the 26th of October. Our camp leader, Peter, says the situation is unstable but there’s no way to know whether there’ll be similar demonstrations in Naivasha, our destination, which is 100km from Nairobi. If there is, we are absolutely not to take pictures of the protesters in case they attack our vehicle. The thought of having stones thrown at our plastic sided vehicle will hopefully ensure that even the keenest of our photographers comply… otherwise I’ll deal with them myself!
After two nights in the same camp, and an amazing all-day safari yesterday in small vans, today sees our first ride in the big yellow Absolute Africa truck that we’ll be using to travel across Kenya and Tanzania. It’s surprisingly comfortable and far roomier than I’d expected. The plastic windows roll up giving uninterrupted views of the Kenyan countryside and lots of fresh air.
On the way to Naivasha, we stop at Rainedge orphanage in Nakuru. I’m a little apprehensive about visiting orphanages due to horror stories of corruption and children with families being paid to pretend they are orphans for the mzungus’ (white people) benefit. The coordinator, Millie, meets us at the gates. She is eloquent, personable and obviously passionate about the organisation. Their ambitious mission is to “empower communities through education, sports and arts, shelter, feeding programme and job creation”.
She takes us around the various classrooms in the school and we’re introduced to the teachers and the kids – some are shy and reserved while others are chatterboxes, like kids everywhere. Their English is excellent and they all love science and maths. James wants to be a scientist; Eric wants to be an engineer and there’s a wannabee actor too (though the only actor’s name we both know is Jackie Chan).
The school currently has 323 kids (167 of them whose families pay fees, though all are treated the same) with 14 teachers. The atmosphere is positive and joyful with inspirational quotes painted on the walls.
Millie tells us that it’s all the brainchild of her husband, Sammy.Sammy’s own story sounds like a movie script. He was a street kid and one day at thirteen, he woke up late and hungover and found the other kids had robbed him of his meagre belongings. He had to beg for the day and sat outside the gate to the national park. A white man appeared, shook his hand and started chatting to him. Sammy hadn’t washed and still smelled of alcohol and the rubber tyre that they’d burned the night before to keep warm. He didn’t understand why the man was talking to him and just wanted him to give him some money and move on. This white man, however, known only and forever more, as Albert, was persistent and asked why he didn’t go to school. Sammy explained that he had no money. Albert asked, would be attend primary school if it was all paid for? Sammy said yes, of course! He couldn’t believe it when the man took him to town and got him washed, fed and clothed. With a pile of books and a new uniform, they went to the school and his fees were all paid. He never saw Albert again but Sammy thrived and somehow ended up with a scholarship in Aberdeen – yes, the one in Scotland! Returning to Kenya, he started in property development and then started looking after kids, resulting in where we are today. What a story!!
His school is a complete success. As well as donations from overland tours such as mine, international charities organise trips for some of the kids to travel. They’ve even competed in the UK and have a cabinet full of trophies for their little rugby stars and prize winning choir.
Another success story is James, their resident IT whizz, who has developed and maintains their website Www.rainedgeinternational.org. Unbelievably, he visited my home city of Glasgow in May with a bible group. I think I’m more impressed with the coincidence than he is!
The surprises keep on coming. They next show us a bore hole that they’ve dug to sell water! All the profit goes back into the school and orphanage. The technician, Mr Joffrey, tells us the bore hole is 150 metres deep and that the water is pumped along pipes before it is filtered and processed then manually bottled, sealed and labelled. They sell water to 13 local houses (direct from the bore hole) and then sell the rest locally. Amazing!
Just before we leave, their trophy-winning choir sing us a song about their pride in being Kenyan, followed with an encore tear-jerker about how important a mother is.
The whole visit is fascinating and uplifting rather than sad. The mysterious benefactor, Albert, doesn’t even know what his generosity started – Sammy has been unable to find him. It’s an incredibly inspirational story and I’ll definitely keep in touch with them.