“We work with a fantastic group of children. Being born in a slum does not mean you cannot learn or successfully pass examinations. It does not mean that you cannot grow up contributing to society and making life better for others. We believe that these children are entitled to an education as good as they could get anywhere else. The results gained by our students indicate that we are reaching this ideal. Education is the key to escape the poverty trap.”
– Joanna, along with two other sponsors and directors within the charity, went on a trip to Mombassa, Kenya to visit Unity Nursery and Primary School, which was founded and continues to be sponsored by FMC. One of the key roles Joanna had on the trip was utilising her experience as an NLP Trainer to train the staff in aspects of NLP that would benefit their pupils’ learning experience.
Q1: When did you get involved with the charity?
A- I became involved when the foundation’s work was still on a very small scale; we sponsored individual children and sent them items such as football kits, books and some other small luxuries their families would be otherwise unable to afford. The first child I worked with, as a sponsor, was a little boy whose struggles really struck a chord with me, as he was the same age as my son at the time.
We moved on from individual sponsorships as our membership in Sussex grew, as we all felt a sense of unfairness towards the fact that we could only sponsor a few children, while some of their peers missed out. We began sponsoring entire schools, rather than working on a personal basis.
Q2: What inspired your first visit with the charity to Kenya this year?
A- As a longterm donor, I’d been invited to go several times before, but my schedule hasn’t permitted me to go until April last year, when I was offered a teaching position out there.
Q3: What did your teaching role entail?
A- I conducted some classes teaching English to the children, but most of my time was spent with the teaching staff taking them through my NLP Foundation skills. We had far more interest in NLP than I’d expected, so to make the most of our time we made sure each participant received a full Foundation course manual. I had been observing some of their lessons (including English, science, geography and Kenyan history), which allowed me to develop bespoke sessions for the staff that were going to help them apply NLP practices in the classroom. I led group activities where we helped them to understand their own learning styles, and then taught them how to do the same for their students. After the sessions, the staff were able to help their pupils engage with auditory, visual and kinaesthetic based learning.
I also attended several meetings with the staff, regarding the school’s progress and it’s future, and worked with especially vulnerable children living in slums. We are now in talks regarding the possibility of sponsoring more graduates through college.
Q4: What was the state of the campus?
A- When I visited, the classrooms I was teaching in had dirt floors and no windows, only holes in the corrugated iron walls which let huge amounts of dust and sand in, preventing the use of the school’s single laptop during lessons. Often the classrooms reached temperatures of 35°, making the long days very hard on the staff and children. In the yard there is a single tap for all 362 children and teachers to drink from, and the school is bordered by a barbed wire fence, which I found incredibly disconcerting when taking into account how close to it the children play!
Obviously by European standards the conditions were less than ideal, but through the charity’s work they have been steadily improving; in 2011 the school was provided with water and electricity and in 2016 the cookhouse was decked out with gas ovens to replace the smoky open fires, for instance. The charity also pays for the children’s medical plans, the importance of which I witnessed first hand, when we noticed a little girl with an open ulcer on her calf. Dr Luke, who runs the surgery, treated her immediately, and she was back at school the very next day. The children love their school, and seem to feel safe and happy in their environment.
Q5: What are the lasting impressions for you of the charity’s work in Mombasa?
A- It was wonderful to see the impressive turnout for the parents evening during our visit, they filled up the entire hall, which was a wonderful surprise to us. We were also able to meet up with Rasheed, one of the original sponsor children, who has since been through college and has returned to the school to train as a teacher. Probably the most memorable aspect of the trip was on our last day, when we attended a whole school assembly to send us off; some of the older children put on performances for us, and we taught the pupils to sing part of “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles. The whole trip was incredibly inspiring, and it’s really spurred me on to do all I can in my work with the charity.
Interview written, transcribed and conducted by Rowan Murphy