Pupils from Oaklands Catholic School in Waterlooville, have now returned from their life-changing visit to CAFOD partner St John’s Sports Society in Korogocho in Kenya.
The students, accompanied by their RE teacher Mugeni Sumba, visited St John’s in a slum town in the Kenyan capital Nairobi which houses a population the size of the City of Portsmouth in an area of less than a square mile. As regular readers of this blog know, the society offers young people a safe haven where they can take part in activities like netball, football, and boxing clubs.
As you can see from these excellent photos – the students also joined in with classes at the local St John’s School, helping some of the younger children with their work.
Oaklands School first struck up a relationship with St John’s Sports Society back in 2011 when pupils first visited the project. The school has stayed in close contact with the Society ever since, hosting visits last year from Abdi Rauf Dima, one of their young Karate stars, and Fr John Weebotsa, the local priest who runs the club.
During their visit, the students handed out awards to the Society’s most promising students at the opening ceremony of a new gym and cultural centre which will be used by St John’s members as well as other Korogocho residents, including a young group of budding classical musicians.
“This trip has changed my life. It’s been absolutely shocking to see the conditions that people in Korogocho live in. Some of their houses are smaller than my bathroom, and there are six, seven, sometimes even eight people living in that space. However, the people I’ve met are amazing – they don’t just survive, they survive with a smile, and that kind of positive attitude is really infectious. I feel proud that the money our school has raised is helping projects like St John’s.”
“The atmosphere at St John’s is amazing; it’s so warm and friendly. The people who live in Korogocho are absolutely committed to changing their lives, even in the face of adversity. It’s absolutely astonishing. Now I’ve seen with my own eyes how the money we raise at school really does change people’s lives and I’ll be working even harder to encourage everyone to understand how vital this money is and the difference it makes. CAFOD’s slogan is ‘Just One World’ and this trip has helped me to fully understand the meaning of that.”
“My time in Kenya, seeing the wonderful work that CAFOD does, has been an eye-opener. Korogocho is right next to Nairobi’s 30 acre rubbish dump and it’s devastating to see so many people living and working so close to it. The young people of St John’s Sport Society and School have given me so much strength, I am determined to continue to campaign and fundraise when I return home so that their lives may be better. Nelson Mandela said, “Sometimes it falls upon a great generation to be great”; I truly believe that we can be that generation.”
Mugeni Sumba, RE teacher at Oaklands who accompanied the students, said:
“Visiting St John’s Sports Society was both inspiring and challenging. Inspiring because I saw how much has changed since our first visit. Challenging as so many of the young people we met continue to live in terrible conditions. They all want to change their lives but there are so many hurdles they have to overcome – discrimination, hunger, crime, drugs and a general lack of basic commodities. Yet despite all of these challenges, they believe in their motto – ‘together we can’. I too believe that if we work together with the people of St John’s Society, we can really help to bring change in their lives.”
It sounds like a really inspiring and memorable visit! I’m sure the students will now be keen to share their experiences with their fellow students at Oaklands. Fantastic!