In 2013 I was lucky enough to spend three weeks in Kenya with Inspirations School, founded and built by the wonderful Maji Safi charity. The secondary school I attended had a very personal involvement with this charity, and so from year 7 I knew it was something that I wanted to be involved in. I had the most incredible time on this trip however I’m going to save the details for another day. This post is slightly different to my others, and touches on something I feel very strongly about.
I signed up to the Kenya trip a year in advance, and viewed it the way we were encouraged to by our teachers – as an expedition. During this time I took on two jobs, spent my free time researching Kenyan culture, and volunteered at every sponsored abseil, supermarket bag-pack, bake sale, and barn dance that the charity organised. When I came home from the trip I decided to sponsor a young boy I’d developed a particularly good relationship with, and so I now pay £10 a month contributing to the cost of his education fees. My brother, now in year 11, is attending the same trip, and I am still as invested in his fundraising activities as I was my own.
Long story short, the trip meant a lot to me, yet when I moved to university I found that people mocked this kind of thing, and dismissed it as no more than a ‘gap year’ venture. I remember one discussion in particular where the people I was talking to almost seemed to imply that I was racist because I had assumed that, as a white person, I had the power to change the world.
This was not, and is not, the case. Although I can see why others might perceive it as a ‘feel good’ holiday, I still believe that my school makes a difference, and I’m proud to have been a part of that. I understand that charity has its limitations – of course, the fact that charity even exists is its own biggest problem. We should live in a world where education is free, where children can walk to school safely, and where clean water isn’t a luxury, but unfortunately not everyone does. Again, I’m not making generalisations, or trying to project a negative, westernised reflection of Kenya. I’m simply saying that it’s unfair to assume that volunteers are superficial and just looking for something to bolster their CV before heading home and forgetting all about it.
We should all help wherever possible, no matter what time of day it is, where it is, and who it is. I didn’t volunteer abroad to prove my ‘superiority’ or to get some good pictures for Insta, I just saw an opportunity to help and took it.
P.s. You can check out the amazing work Maji Safi do here: http://www.majisafi.co.uk/history.html