Ryan’s Gateway to Africa – Part 3
“The third installment of my experiences in Africa with Bhubesi Pride has proven a challenge to write. We have had so many amazing opportunities and experiences that I can only describe it as the biggest emotional Roller Coaster imaginable.
So, after leaving Adama in Ethiopia, we began our 6 day journey to cross the border into Kenya and ultimately, get to Nairobi.
Part of the way we needed to be accompanied by armed escorts to protect us from pirates and bandits. It is a very bizarre experience to be driving a 4×4 and all you have for company is the radio, sand, a complete stranger and his automatic machine gun!
The driving conditions were extremely tough and the terrible road surfaces began to take their toll on the vehicles. We had a tyre blow out in ‘no mans land’, the suspension was non-existent and, most importantly, the on board mini fridge began making everything smell of bananas!
The journey was long, draining, adventurous and dirty… yep, I loved it! I was lucky enough to be sharing the driving of our two seater with top bloke, Ben ‘Badger’ Illingworth; we had some good chuckles and being on the road afforded us the opportunity to utilise our very comfortable roof tents for the first time!
On route we had the chance to spot some beautiful wildlife, camels, hawks and zebra to name a few. Another amazing event occurred when Bhubesi Pride’s team crossed the equator and, it is true, water does actually change direction either side of the line and I was speechless!
We eventually reached Nairobi, passing the very impressive mount Kenya on the way. Our vehicles were expertly looked after by our wonderful partners at G4S, where we proceeded to have two days of meetings to clarify all project involvement.
After 6 days on the road, we were all looking forward to some less rugged accommodation and we were certainly not disappointed! I am currently writing from the luxurious Brookhouse International School, where we have been so well looked after all week, by all the staff, but especially director of sport, Chris Roberts. Imagine Hogwarts and you are somewhere close to understanding how impressive this place is!
In stark contrast to the privilege of Brookhouse, we have been in Kenya specifically to volunteer at Shadrack Kimelal School, located just 20 minutes away in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum and home to over 1 million people.
The school is in disrepair, the windows are mostly all smashed, water is not readily available, dust, decay and infestation were everywhere. I felt so sad and deflated… until, I saw that I was the only sad person. There were literally hundreds of smiles beaming at us, children wanted to hold my hand and I knew that this was going to be a phenomenal week!
All 7 Pride members completely threw themselves into doing our best for Shadrack Kimalel and G4S somehow managed to get the 2 foot long grass cut so we could get on with delivering our inclusive and progressive rugby programme.
Nothing is ever completely perfect, but I’m pretty certain that we have come incredibly close with our effort, determination and innovative levels as a team this week. On the down side, due to it being so close to the potentially volatile Kenyan elections, we needed to be escorted by G4S specialists every time we entered Kibera. But on the plus side we worked all week inclusively with over 90 male and female students, who all played in a tournament on Friday; they were given essential health, safety and sanitation seminars, the standard of rugby produced was first-class and all the children agreed that they had learned, enjoyed and hope to continue with rugby in the future!
Two local staff members were trained in how to deliver long term rugby projects at Shadrack and the school itself was awarded a Bhubesi pride level 2 certificate along with all the resources they could need to ensure scheme longevity.
Kenya for me has been one heck of a ride. I feel so proud to be a member of the team and the work we are all doing. Memories that will stand out for a long time aside from Shadrack Kimalel will be:
- Visiting the national Giraffe sanctuary and Elephant orphanage
- Attending the warehouse of charitable organisation, Alive and Kicking, who hand-stitch footballs, trying to find jobs for the poor and homeless
- I don’t know how they did it but Richard and Chris managed to organise a visit to Shadrak by the Kenyan national rugby team and the kids’ faces was priceless
We have inspired 19 children to become young leaders, and role models to more children than we could hope to reach on our own and now look forward to heading back on the road for 5 days, to make our way into our next destination, Uganda.
A fond goodbye to Kenya, and an everlasting impression of what a difference 20 minutes can make.”
Ryan Jones, Rugby Programme Coordinator