Kenya. An African country on the east coast of the continent, on the equatorial line, who most will know the basics about. Its capital is Nairobi, it has Africa’s second-tallest peak – Mount Kenya, it spawns countless long-distance runners, is world famous for its safaris and has a population of in excess of 44 million people. But perhaps few recognise the problems the country has to deal with in terms of widespread poverty.
In September, a group of 23 people representing Reading Football Club and its Community Trust left Berkshire for the coast of the Indian Ocean, raising enough money to travel to Kenya to work on a range of fantastic community projects. Christened ‘Caring for Kenya’, and run in partnership with African Adventures, our volunteers undertook building work at a deprived school in the area, coached football to young budding African stars of the future and taught the local community, all as part of an aid trip that proved an incredible success and inspirational to all the volunteers to made the trip.
Many of our volunteers already had inspirational stories of their own, many having graduated through the club’s Community Trust courses, turning their lives around after exclusion from school or leaving care to become part-time youth workers and role models for others to follow. But this trip was an eye-opener for one and all. The estimated population of Kenya is in excess of 44 million and an astonishing 16 million do not having access to safe water! 71% of the Kenyan population do not have access to a toilet. A 20-litre container of water weighs approximately 20 kilos and local women walk an average distance of 10 kilometres daily to get clean water. These facts put some of our everyday problems into perspective.
Coaching is what comes naturally to many of our Community Trust team and out on the football field, suddenly everyone was equal. Smiles on faces were there for all to enjoy and free football kit was supplied to a huge number of young boys and girls who just love to kick a ball about…
Some of the members of the group paid a visit to Destiny School, where money that has been donated went towards the building of a kitchen area for the kids…
The project was entirely self-funded, with the group raising a massive £32,000 for the trip over the course of almost a year of fundraising. “This project gave us the privileged opportunity to make a real difference. We’d like to thank all the Reading fans who donated to the cause and allowed us to help communities desperately in need of all the aid they can get.” Aston Villa, Derby County and West Bromwich Albion are all set to follow in our footsteps next summer, embarking on their own African Adventures aid trip. We at Reading Football Club consider ourselves proud to have been involved.
Jay Gilbert, Reading Football Club’s Community Trust Cohesion Officer, wrote a personal account of her trip to a local centre out there…
Myself and the team of Richard, Mark, Shelley, Louis, Lloyd, Pierro and Luke went to volunteer at the walking centre and primary school. It was a trip which changed our lives as soon as we stepped through the gates. Our first thoughts were ones filled with overwhelming emotion, as the local children began singing to us as a welcome, children who had nothing, were wearing ripped clothes and were all without shoes. Yet they all seemed so happy!
The centre was a primary school for kids aged between 3 years and 9 years, local children who lived at the dump site, more than 70% of whom had no parents and were fending for themselves or looked after by older children in their family or community. The centre also had a feeding programme for the older children that attended a local school down the road; this meant at lunchtime more than 300 children were able to have one meal a day that the centre provided for them.
The centre has been established since 2007 and is the longest standing project to help the local children of Nakuru. With the help of our funding they have managed to build a dining hall to facilitate the feeding programme and the centre also have set up a textile room for the local mums to put there sewing skills to great use, making school uniform and giving them the chance to sell clothes to help feed their families.
We were based in a profoundly poor area where families live on less than 75p per day! All eight of us helped out with teaching four separate classes – from reading, writing and maths, delivered to all age groups. We also helped out in the main kitchen, fulfilling a range of duties to feed the 300 plus children who came to us for lunch. We were preparing and cooking 25 cabbages, a daily routine at the centre, which went with ‘ugali’ a type of flour, and water, which eventually served all the children. All of this is normally done by one member of staff when there are no volunteers to help.
With the help of the donations that Reading fans played a big part in, we were able to give skipping ropes, footballs, teddies, loom bands as well as the donations of clothes and shoes to the children which was an incredibly humbling experience for all of us as we handed them to the children. The best part of the project for all of us was teaching the children and the teachers new songs and games and seeing how much they enjoyed what we were doing. It was amazing.
Throughout the whole week it was emotional rollercoaster for us all. We felt so happy to be there to be able to help and at the same time we all realised how lucky we are with just a good pair of trainers on our feet.
As a group we achieved so much. Personally, and as a part of the Reading FC Community Trust group that travelled out there, it was the children who made it so special. The kids that we helped have shaken our worlds and it has only made us want to continue and offer long-term support to the wonderful children and staff whose sprits lifted you as soon as a smile stretched across their faces.