When I was 18 I spent a year in Kenya, teaching at a ‘Harambee’ (self-help) school on an island in Lake Victoria, as set up by the charity Project Trust. It is a remote part of a third world country. It was a formative experience. I learnt some essential truths, like that we Brits are all pretty rich and lucky, and also that wealth is not much related to happiness.
I stayed in touch with one of my students, Raphael, through thick and thin (which, in his case, included a near-death bus crash), from the era of letters to the era of email.
He got a job as water resources officer for the local prison, and has worked there since. He has named his children after my family members, and I returned the compliment, naming our son Raffie after him (and our elder son, Boris, takes a middle name from Raphael’s father).
While it had long been on my agenda to visit again, children intervened, and it was only in 2008, accompanied by Maddie, aged 11, that I made it out there, for a moving reunion (plus a little holiday where Maddie and I went on safari and saw elephants, lions, hippo, buffalo …)
They are in a part of the world where, when the rains are poor and the crops fail, people starve. This happened once a few years ago and again, this year. Raphael suggested that, if I provided some funding, he could hire a truck, drive to the Tanzanian border (not so far away, and basic foods were available at a more manageable price in Tanzania), fill up the truck, and drive back to Kenya to distribute the food to needy families. The local authority had lists of needy families, and he would work with them to arrange the distribution. For the last few years I have not given any money to any other charities, but have had enough to support this (and schooling for HIV orphans, organised by Raphael via a local NGO that he set up), so I could provide the funding (£2400) and the trip could go ahead. The recent trip happened two weeks ago, and here are the pictures.