Dora Bitsi

Dora Bitsi

Oct 13 2014

Volunteering for St.George Orthodox Primary School in Kibera

In our passage through Kenya’s capital, Nairobi we stayed there for a month in order to organize our second Fundraise, this time for the kids of St. George Orthodox Primary School in Kibera.
Being in communication with the orthodox Bishop of Kenya, Makarios, he stressed that this school located inside the biggest slum of Africa, Kibera, would be in the biggest need. On our second day in Nairobi Martin, Makarios’s assistant, took us to Kibera to see the school.
Kibera is actually like a big dumpsite of people the sorts we saw in South Africa only much bigger. People that live in this area share a living space of few square meters excluding space for toilets. The roads are made up out of garbage piling on top of each other. Families cannot ensure a life for their kids and we are not even speaking about education.
Tin houses at the back of the school.
Public schools in Kenya are not free, a fact that makes it even more difficult for the families to provide schooling for their children. After seen such a neighbourhood from the bus as we were going there we passed the school gate. There was a church and a medical centre made out of cement but the school classes out of tin. Contradictory. As we were told all the buildings in the compound were built by donations from Cypriots and Greeks through the efforts that Bishop Makarios made.
One of the classrooms.The banners were sewn by hand from the talented teachers!
The schools facts : 180 children up to the age of 8 in 7 classrooms. With the donations of the Sophia Foundation, the kids are having lunch and a snack which is a blessing since for some this is the only meal of the day. All of them in cute green uniforms playing in the playground that had only a slide and the metal skeleton of what used to be swings. What happened to the swings? We asked. The children were so many and the swings only 4 so we had to take them off because they were fighting. So sad.
Then as we met Rosemary, the school principal, she explained more things to us. Sadly, the teachers were also not getting paid for the last 2 months due to the lack of funds and to the fact that not all children pay.
And what about later, when the children get older than 8 years old? Where do they go? We asked. She said there is no space here, so they have to go to another school.
Snack time (porridge) in the restaurant. At the far back now is the new library!
We left rather sad for the situation and judging that we had only $500 from the previous fundraise, probably these would not make a big difference towards helping the situation. However, there was a lot of potential and a big space that could offer more learning opportunities to these children and also space to get them out of the dangerous influence of the streets.
We wanted to give them something that would last. So we decided to make it happen and we started a new campaing in Indiegogo! The initial plan was to raise $2,000. We wanted to make a new classroom that would ensure children could continue school for another year.
Our other contribution would be a real library. One with storybooks and encyclopedias that would get their imagination fired and bring them inspiration!
Being children again!
The task was not without problems though. Even though we had Martin to help us out, we tried to find materials as cheap as possible but our status as non locals was making things more difficult. We were asking for prices and negotiating for everything! We wanted to make sure that we make the most of every single dollar that has been donated.
Thankfully the response from the people to our #Help2Learn campaign has been immense! In only 10 days we achieved our goal!! By the end of September, more than 230 people helped us to reach $5,000 and all of us along with Rosemary and the kids were so thrilled!
Soon we added to the plan some new playground swings, basketball system, a see saw and we provided the children with stationery and hygienic equipment as well!
After our struggle to gather all the books we found from a street vendor and to run up and down this huge city, the excitement and the smile on the familiar to us by then children’s faces was priceless…
The new swings, the basketbal hoop and the see saw!!
On our last day there,as we were setting up the library, we were surrounded by curious children and one came to us saying “Can you help me and read this with me?” At this moment I almost cried for their need of attention and education. If only these children had someone to be more interested and sit with them….
The newly equipped library!
A big thank you to friends and to all the people who were sensitive enough to devote some of the time to care for these children  and participate in this… The new classroom is so beautiful and is waiting for some new cute faces!
Classroom ready for the newcomers!
As Nelson Mandela said : “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”.
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