The Alice Smith School from Malaysia were our very first school to have come from the Far East to Kenya over four years ago. Like many other schools, Alice Smith has always taken on additional fundraising specifically for our projects which are funded through our Foundation. This year, they set the record and raised close to £10,000!! It's a lot of money by any standard and certainly in Kenya, this goes a long long way in providing additional materials for several different projects. Thank you from all of us and good luck up the mountain!
Kenya, her people and her landscape, has so far eclipsed all expectations. From day one, we were thrown into the heat, rich culture and hard work that would categorise most of the trip (and which we all fear will categorise the much anticipated mountain trek), but this does not mean we haven’t thoroughly enjoyed the adventure of it all.
Week one was spent at Camp Muhaka, the surrounding forest of which made everyone feel slightly reminiscent of Malaysia. In every other aspect, however, we found ourselves in a completely different environment to what we were used to. The project work, which involved completing and furnishing one of the local school’s nursery, certainly came as a shock. I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that, until this trip, my definition of hard work consisted of revising for a test or completing my EPQ, not manual labour involving shovels, saws and the yells of our teammates. Although the work was strenuous, it was also rewarding, and I think the muscle aches and exhaustion was somewhat alleviated by the smiles and “asante sana” of the local people. This was most profoundly felt on our last afternoon of work at the school, where the children performed songs, poems and speeches to express their gratitude. By week two the girls had become accustomed to not wearing make up or caring about their hair, and the boys had more than embraced the constant layer of dirt and grime that seemed to surround them.
It was in this state of superficial indifference that we left Muhaka. ?Arriving at Camp Tsavo was like stepping into a scene from the Lion King, as it fully confirmed the African stereotype of red sands, wide horizons and exotic wildlife. The focus of the stay was conservation, and we engaged in a range of activities. A highlight for many was producing paper from elephant dung, the ingenuity of which was not lost even with the distraction of handling animal excrement. Another was digging a 300m trench for a watering hole - the result of which was not only beneficial for the local wildlife, but also our team spirit. A welcome relief to the project work came in the form of a safari day, where we were exposed to utterly surreal experiences, like sitting ten feet away from a five tonne African elephant (and I am not talking about Jimmy Choi after a workout.)
Our next stop was Imani Camp, where we are currently based. The combination of training for the mountain and building a classroom at the local school is certainly taxing for all of us, and not something I believe we could have faced at the beginning of the expedition.