Student volunteers make a difference on African Adventure

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The two-week trip of a life-time was organised in partnership with the Moving Mountains Trust, which helps set up long-term sustainable projects across Kenya, Nepal and Borneo.

The students used their creative and entrepreneurial skills to fundraise £2,000 each, which funded their trip as well as raised money for the charity. They organised events such as sponsored swims, quizzes and non-uniform days in local schools, as well as partaking in bucket collections and bag packing in supermarkets. The students also received £250 worth of support via the University of South Wales Grad Edge Bursary Scheme to enhance their learning and development whilst gaining a range of skills and abilities that will increase their employability.

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The students set off to Africa with the aim of contributing to the work of the charity and improving the lives of young people and communities in Kenya. During the first week, the students volunteered at an orphanage and community village in Ulamba. They worked on relevant, meaningful and hands-on projects as well as spending time with the children, playing games and helping them learn. The orphanage, which is home to more than 40 children of all ages, also has an emergency baby unit, staff living quarters, a nursery, community centre, volunteer accommodation and a small farm. The students learned as much from spending time with the children as with the staff. Carys Jenkins (who is undertaking the Post Graduate Diploma in Youth Work) said:

“Something that has stuck with me from this trip is how happy the children were at the orphanage, although they had a terrible start in life and to us they have nothing, if you spend a couple of hours with them you would be convinced they had everything they needed and more. I believe this is because they have the most important thing of all, some one to love them.”

In the second week, the students visited Embu Urban Primary School. They undertook the massive task of painting the exterior of the school, planting trees and erecting goalposts for the children to play football.

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The ethos of the visit was to help students gain an increased awareness of disadvantage and poverty, gaining an insight into the community development models used in Kenya and how they could be used to inform Youth and Social Work practice in Wales. Students gained a different understanding of the term ‘poverty’ and were able to compare experiences in Kenya, to those experienced in Wales. Jenna Davies (student) said: ‘The poverty a family lives in may influence their way of life but, by prioritising, the parent can provide an opportunity for the child to achieve their basic needs and continue in education alongside children who may be from a less disadvantaged background. A family’s financial situation doesn’t dictate how successful the children can be.

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Another success story of this project is that of Jenny Roach, a BA Youth & Community Work student, who is on the second year of the course. She has lived in Kenya for four months working with children in the orphanage, teaching PSE in local schools and supported other young people who are in Kenya via the European Volunteering Service. She has been mentoring and working with Young People from comprehensive schools in Newport and supporting them to deliver a two week summer camp to Kenyan children and well as renovate a local school before leading them to climb Mount Kenya. She has also made her ‘mark’ as a student of the University of South Wales by teaching in schools, teaching the children to grow vegetables and even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. You can read more about Jenny’s African adventure on her blog.

Emma Chivers, Senior Lecturer in Youth and Community Work, said: “We had an amazing welcome in Kenya and truly felt as if we were part of a Kenyan family. The students made such a difference to the children and young people as well as to the local community, schools and the work of the charity, and most importantly, the children and young people of Kenya made such a difference to the personal and professional lives of the students. It was a huge achievement for them, especially leaving a legacy within Embu Urban Primary School, via their art work and goal posts that we bought and constructed within the school grounds. One of the biggest things they learnt is how to work with service users with very little resources. In some cases, the students had nothing to give but themselves and their time. They really had to think outside the box.

I could really see the impact of the visit upon the students’ learning and development, when one of the students asked me about the meaning of the African word ‘Ubuntu’ which means the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. As explained by the student:

‘This word now has such a strong meaning to me after experiencing the University of South Wales Africamp, 2014. No matter our personal background or current situation, everyone can find similarities in each other and feel a love and connection that I had personally never even considered. I feel I am a part of Kenya and Kenya will always be a part of me’."

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