It is unbelievable that it is already just over a year ago that we approached Mrs Duncan to ask if we could use our sabbatical to go to the Crane Academy. Without any real plan, and limited experience of travel in Africa, the trip was agreed and still feeling like a fiction even in September. By Christmas we had bought and studied books on Kenya, booked flights, organised vaccinations and met with Miss Bevan to discuss the best way of using the trip to support the students and staff at the school. With many email exchanges to the Management at the Crane and to Danny, our driver, we began to shape the mammoth journey ahead, thinking about the finer details of how to navigate from Nairobi to Kitale at a time of political unrest in Kenya in the run-up to their general elections.
It was important to us that we took items that the Crane Academy needed and could use immediately. Thanks to a generous and anonymous donation from an RHS family, the school now has a wonderful new Science building. We were able to pack six microscopes as well as test tubes, bungs, microscope slides, some chemical stain, a huge poster and lots of other useful and necessary equipment.
The generosity of large companies was amazing. We approached Oxford Educational Supplies for a donation of scientific calculators, twenty of which reached us within days. School Merit Stickers donated Maths, Science and Bronze / Silver / Gold merit badges and a representative from The Consortium gave us a box full of stationery to take with us or to sell to raise money for the Crane. The sale at the Dog Show raised a massive £190. Miss Bevan had been given a huge number of sterile needles for their Medical Centre, and we asked staff from the RHS to donate paracetamol, which is prohibitively expensive in Kenya. Finally, Lacock Photography donated three hours of tuition so that we could use a Digital SLR for getting high-quality pictures to bring back into school.
In addition to all of this, we sent out an appeal to our students for small gifts, toiletries, letters, in fact, anything that was small enough to pack in our suitcases. The response was so overwhelming that we worried about fitting it all into our bags. But with gentle persuasion and a little luck, we managed to accommodate all donations. We even squeezed in a brand new football which became the prized possession of the staff following a number of staff- student games during the course of our stay.
Bags full, we arrived in Nairobi on time, in spite of the fact that the day before, British Airways had issues with their computers. Danny was waiting in the rain and we began our two-day journey to Kitale.
From the moment we arrived, we were given VIP treatment. The first morning Madame Margaret met us with a car and driver to take us to the Crane. The reception was fantastic, and we were made to feel so very welcome. Though we had arrived on a bank holiday the boarders and the staff were all there to meet us. The students gave a wonderful display of singing and dancing, the Principal and Management made speeches and there was plenty of food and song. At the end, we were each given a timetable and textbooks ready for the work to begin the next day. Teaching the girls how to use their new microscopes and doing practical activities on food testing, Mrs Haynes focused on Science, while Mrs Cologne-Brookes had to adjust to demonstrating the concept of Reflection with a piece of chalk, a board compass, set square and a ruler.
In due course, we will write and tell more about our experiences at the Crane Academy and of Africa. Our encounters with the school and the community were humbling, beautiful and heart-warming. Beyond all that we learned, we were stricken with the tremendous sense that you don’t need much in life to be happy, or to appreciate the value of education.
For over ten years, the Royal High School has made really positive contributions to the lives of numerous young women. The value these students put on their education is overwhelming, and we met many sponsored girls whose lives have been transformed by our support. We have helped the Crane to develop as an educational establishment and have made life easier, more stable and secure for many, many girls in the time we have been in partnership with the school. Some of our former sponsored students even took the time to return to the Crane Academy to meet us.
There will be more in the Autumn term, but for now, we would like to thank, on behalf of the Crane Academy, all of you who have supported girls through their secondary education, donated gifts or helped to raise funds for this very worthwhile cause. We will be looking at ways in which we can extend our support further, and working with our girls to continue the generous support we have already given to this wonderful school.