A “life-changing” experience

Earlier this month, a group of 11 Nipissing student teachers and two faculty advisors returned from a three-week international placement that brought them to the Maasai Mara Region of Kenya, East Africa.

The trip was arranged through Free The Children, a network of education and development programs aiming to “free young people from the notion that they are powerless to affect positive change in the world.”

The group spent their time teaching students from grades four to seven at Enelerai Primary School every morning. Many of the group’s afternoons were spent helping to build teacher accommodations at Emori Joi Primary School. For the student teachers, the trip was an experience to remember.

“We felt like we were making a difference and helping the community we had come to know and love,” said Heather Jonker.

“This trip was an experience of a lifetime for all of us,” Rachel McNamara said. “We witnessed things we would have never witnessed in Canada; our purpose in Kenya was to teach our students, but instead the students taught us.”

The experience of teaching children eager to learn and who truly felt privileged was a nice surprise for the group.

“Teaching these students was an absolute blessing,” said Heather Hoshel. “They loved listening to stories and participating in our activities.”

“The kids in Kenya see school as a privilege, so they can’t wait to get to school every morning,” said Rick Denton, a faculty advisor who has now travelled to Kenya with two groups of aspiring teachers. “It was a life-changing experience.”

The people of Kenya are a friendly group; many would come running out to help the travelers when they had flat tires. Wherever the Nipissing group went, they were greeted by friendly people with very upbeat attitudes.

“Children would run beside the bus shouting ‘Jambo!’ which means ‘hello’,” said Jonker. “We all made a connection with our students and had a hard time saying goodbye.”

“The Kenyan people don’t have the material goods that we have but they feel blessed because they have community support and an opportunity for education,” Denton said.

The travelling group of teachers quickly learned of a common belief the Kenyans shared: that they are all there to help each other out.

“‘It takes a village to raise a child’ – they believe that they are all there for each other; to raise each other’s children.”

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