In early 2015, Let’s Connect, together with parent company Personal Group began an exciting and inspiring partnership with the Memusi Foundation – an organisation who work directly with communities in Kenya and Tanzania to provide hope through education. The key appeal to supporting the Memusi Foundation is that our staff have the opportunity to travel to Kenya to actively work to change the lives of children by giving them an education that they may not have had the chance to otherwise access.
We wanted to do more than just make a one-off donation, we wanted to create a lasting impact, get our hands dirty and really make a difference. Over the last few years, several groups of volunteers have visited Kenya to work with the Memusi Foundation and help with the construction of our very own school, which officially opened its gates in January 2016. Due to the overwhelming demand and our desire that no child would be turned away, we have since completed a further two classrooms, meaning there are now even more children in education thanks to the efforts of our employees. Every volunteer trip spends time here to meet the teachers and students and learn about their lives in Kenya as well as making improvements to the school with each trip.
This year our very own Emily Frampton and Elizabeth Keight took the trip to Africa and have been kind enough to share some of their life-changing experiences.
What made you decide to volunteer for Memusi?
Lizzie: I’ve been working for Let’s Connect for over 5 years now and have heard so many great stories and seen lots of videos from colleagues who’ve visited Memusi in the past. I’ve long thought that I would love to go, but always found the timing wasn’t quite right – you know how it is, life takes over and you continually put it off! This year I finally decided that there’s no time like the present, so I put in my application for the trip and the rest just followed.
I am so grateful to Personal Group and the Memusi Foundation for such a unique unforgettable experience that may not be around forever – you can’t guarantee that there will be another trip. The work the Memusi Foundation do is truly inspiring and if you watch the videos and talk to the people who have been, I’m sure you would feel the same.
Emily: I’ve always been passionate about charity work and helping others. In 2015 I trekked the Great Wall of China raising money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma and raised just shy of £3000.
With regards to Memusi, I truly believed we could make a real difference in the schools we were visiting and provide help and support to the hundreds of children who are less fortunate, therefore I jumped at the opportunity to go.
What were your expectations?
Lizzie: I’d spoken to several people who had volunteered previously, seen photos and watched videos, so felt like I had a good idea of what to expect. But you soon learn when you get out there that you should expect the unexpected! Things don’t always go to plan, however there is always a plan B!
I expected it to be hot, but it was really HOT! I was also prepared to be emotionally moved by the kids, but they impacted on me more than I’d imagined. Their positivity and their love for their school… they’re what made the trip so memorable.
Emily: My expectations were that we would volunteering at 2 schools; Memusi A & Memusi B and also assisting at a medical camp. I was very excited to get ‘stuck in’ and make a real difference in the community. Nevertheless, I was still slightly nervous about going to Kenya as I had never visited the country before, nor experienced weather as hot as we were expecting!
What did you do?
Lizzie: / Emily: Most visits to Kenya follow the same plan, however Personal Group trips are unique in that we get to spend time at the Memusi B school, which is solely funded by PG.
Day 1 – Arrival: We landed in Nairobi and stayed at the night at the Hilton. This was a nice way to start the trip and gave us time to get to know everyone a little better!
Day 2 – Our journey begins: Today we set off on a 3-4 hour journey to Magadi. We were picked up on a coach by Chris Peter (our driver) and Peter Rapassa (our local guide who also works for Memusi). On the way we stopped at an elephant orphanage which was amazing! Once we arrived in Magadi we went to the social club, grabbed a drink and then we were shown our tents and we finally got to meet Matthew Norton (co-founder of Memusi).
Day 3 – The Medical Camp: One of the most impactful projects that take place at the school are the medical camps that we help fund. Video Doc, another company who work very closely with both Personal Group and Memusi, were also out in Kenya during our visit, so it was great to meet them and see them in action at the Medical Camp.Dr Dan was amazing and really wanted us all to learn from our time with him. We spent time with the GPs assessing lots of people and unfortunately a mother and her young baby were diagnosed with TB and had to be taken to the hospital by Matt. This was extremely sad to see, but also incredibly eye opening as you realise the reality of their way of life.
We also spent a lot of the day assisting the dentists extract teeth – over 100 teeth were extracted!
Day 4 – Church & Hot springs: Our day began with picking up the teachers from Memusi A and heading to the local Church to experience Sunday Service. We got to witness the local community worshipping God and they also presented us with lots of songs and dancing! It was a great experience.
From there we had a spot of lunch and then went to the Hot springs. And by hot, I mean HOT!!! There was also a market where the Masai Ladies were selling things they have made e.g. jewellery, keyrings etc. We all bought something from them to help support the local community.
To end the day, we stopped off on the way home to watch the sunset over Lake Magadi – where the flamingos live, which was breath-taking.
Day 5 – Memusi B: Today we headed off to Memusi B to visit the Personal Group school. It was a 2-hour drive to the school, but the route took us through a nature reserve, where we got to see lots of animals including Zebra and Wildebeest. When we reached the school, we were given an extremely warm welcome where all the children were waiting for us to arrive.
We spent the day playing with the children doing various activities, such as ball games ‘under and over’, throwing and catching and skipping. We also played frisbee, sang the hokey cokey and played with bubbles – they can’t get enough of the bubbles!
We then gave out donations to some of the school children. The rest were to be given out on our next visit. Giving out the donations was so rewarding, seeing how happy it made them and knowing we’d made an impact all be it for just a day.
Day 6 – A Change of plan: Our plans for today were changed at the last minute due to circumstances blocking the route to Memusi B. As this was unplanned, we had to think outside of the box and use equipment and materials that were at Memusi A already. We took Teacher Anne’s class (ages 6-7) and made paper aeroplanes and paper fans with them. We also played outside with them using a parachute and they showed us some versions of their own games. In the afternoon we played a big game of rounders with the older children at the school.
Day 7 – Back to Memusi B: We took charge of 2 classes in the morning and helped the children make paper clocks. It was the first time that some of them had seen paint or stickers and to see their faces light up was unforgettable.There is no craft budget at the schools, so we feel that we gave them some memorable experiences.In the afternoon we gave out the rest of the donations to the school.
Day 8 – Making music: Still at Memusi B, today we took a pre-school class and helped them make music shakers and castanets. This was fantastic fun as the teacher joined in and made up some songs that they could use the shakers and castanets with!
In the afternoon we played with the children some more and each observed a couple of classes. We then had a little debrief and farewell meeting with all of the teachers at the school. Observing the classes and seeing the teachers in action was a real highlight of the trip.
Day 9 – A final farewell: Today was our final day in Kenya. We were back at Memusi A and decided we’d make paper clocks again with some different children, which went down well again with the teacher, as on the following Monday she was planning on teaching the children how to tell the time. We played with the children for a while on their break, had our lunch and a debrief and then said an emotional farewell to everyone.
This meant that it was time for our journey home. After a 3-hour drive to Nairobi, we stopped for some food and enjoyed a lovely last meal together and before continuing to the airport to catch our flight home.
What was your highlight / best memory of your time in Kenya?
Lizzie: Hands down the best single moment for me was the welcome we received at MEMUSI B – it was completely overwhelming. The children greeted us with a song and a poem, it was an unforgettable moment. The children and community are so grateful for the gift of their school and it shows!
Emily: It’s impossible to choose just one – there were so many! My best memories were the welcome we had from the school at Memusi B, playing with the children and giving out the donations to the children and the teachers!
What advice would you give to people thinking about volunteering in the future?
Lizzie: DO IT! I have never had a more rewarding and humbling experience. Every day there was a something new to see and I have brought home some unforgettable memories. I understand how difficult it is deciding to actually do it, but sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone to reap the rewards!
Emily: DO IT, DO IT, DO IT! It will honestly change your life!
- Be prepared for it to be very hot!
- Make sure you take a backpack and lots of hand sanitiser
- And finally, there’s lots of creepy crawlies out there – but don’t let that you put you off. I’m a scaredy cat and I was fine.
Let’s Connect plans are to support Memusi until at least 2022, so we will have the opportunity to change the lives of so many more. The lives affected aren’t just limited to Kenya, staff who have been on a trip come back transformed and all are keen to support the Memusi Foundation in the longer term through personal fundraising back in the UK.
If you’d like to find out more about the Memusi Foundation, including how to sponsor a child or make a donation to the charity, please visit www.memusifoundation.org.uk