Partnership between Irish and Kenyan schools deepens as 6 students and 2 teachers from Royal and Prior School Raphoe visit Bombi school in Galana, Malindi.
Report from a student about the French Trip
Day 1: The Journey Begins June 16th
On the 13th of March 58 students and 6 teachers headed to France. I couldn’t believe that the time had finally come to go because it seemed ages away when we first put our names down. We had to be in Raphoe at 3 o clock on the Thursday morning. Of course we where all very excited so no sleep was done before we left for the airport, and no sleep was done on the way to the airport as many people sang from we left Raphoe until we arrived in Dublin. At about quarter past 7, we eventually arrived and everyone was glad to get off the bus and stretch their legs. We all collected our luggage and headed into the airport. There was time to walk around the airport and grab something to eat if you fancied something that early in the morning. Then it was time to check-in. After that we all went and done a bit of shopping. Our flight was at roughly half ten and at about half nine we all met up at the allocated place. We were all so excited and couldn’t wait for the plane take of! When we finally boarded, it was three people to a row so we decided that Myself, Caroline and Amy would sit in one row.
We all popped some hard sweets into our mouths as the plane started to take off The flight lasted about an hour and a half. When we arrived in France, the weather was very much the same as it was back in Ireland. When we got our luggage, we got on a bus and this took us to Mc Donald’s where we quickly grabbed some lunch and then back on the bus. We then drove for about half an hour and then picked up a woman called Barbara. She took us on a tour around Paris and she showed us all the main tourist attractions such as The Louvre, The Eifel Tower, the Champs Elysee, The Moulin Rouge, to name but a few. We all then headed to a restaurant called Flunch.
Day 2: March 14
At 7 the next morning, everyone went down to breakfast. There was not much chat as everyone just wanted to go back to sleep. There was an extensive menu and when we finished breakfast, we all headed to our rooms and got ready for the day ahead.
First we went to The Louvre, where we saw the famous ‘Mona Lisa’ as well as many of the other famous paintings.
Then we all hopped back on the bus to go see The Eifel Tower. There was some excitement as everyone couldn’t wait to get up to the top. When we got there, everyone was amazed by how big it was. When we started to queue we found out that the very top had been closed temporarily, and that we could only to as far as the second level. We got the elevator up and the view was excellent. It was hard to believe that we were up so far.
After spending a good while up the tower, we all came back down to ground level and grabbed some chips and then it was time to go back on the bus and we then went to the River Seine where we all got on a boat for a guided tour. We saw many of the lovely sights. This lasted about 1 hour and once we had finished that, we all went to see Sacre’Coure. Here we walked many steps and once we reached it, we went inside to have a look and the building was huge.
After we took a short walk around the building we walked back down all the steps, jumped back on the bus, and we went back to Flunch where we had another disappointing meal. Afterwards, we all headed back to the hotel where everyone mingled until it was time to go back to our own rooms. But before we went back, some of the boys managed to flood one of their rooms, and I can say that everyone was wondering how did they manage to do it, but it was very funny. They got their rooms changed still; everyone was quite tired as we were on our feet all day.
Day 3: March 15
The next morning at 8, everyone gathered in the dining room for breakfast as usual. Again there was a huge selection to choose from so everyone ate up. Next we returned to our rooms to get ready for shopping and Euro Disney!! I could not wait for Euro Disney! We all went and boarded the bus again and we headed for the Val d’Europ. This shopping centre was amazing. It had all big makes like Hugo Boss, Chanel, and Tommy Hilfiger etc. We all had a blast here and at about twelve o clock we all met to go to Disneyland.
I was so excited, and when we got there I was amazed. We went on all the big thrillers, and we spent about eight hours there! I was so sad leaving. We then got the shuttle bus back to the hotel, and I started to get all my clothes together as we were leaving the hotel the next morning. That night there was not much sleep done as it was our last night, but we paid for it the next morning when we had to get up for breakfast at 8 o clock.
Day 4: The Homecoming
I woke up the next morning and was absolutely wrecked, as we did not get much sleep. We got breakfast for the last time in the hotel and afterwards we made our way back up to the room to finish packing. I was so worried that my suitcase would be overweight, but I managed to fit everything in. after our rooms got checked, we all made our way back down to the reception with our things and boarded the bus.
We drove for a while and arrived at The Stade De France. We got a guided tour around the stadium and I was so excited when we got to go into the players changing rooms and when we got to see all the shirts. I also loved when we walked out onto the pitch just like the players do.
After we got pictures taken, and walked around the souvenir shop we all got on the bus to go shopping on the Champs Elysee – the huge shopping street! I loved this as we got to see all the big designers e.g. Louis Vuiton. After getting a bite to eat and a bit of shopping done, it was time to go see the Montparnasse. This building has 58 floors and only took roughly 30 seconds to reach the top floor which makes it the fastest lift in the world. The view was absolutely amazing as you could see Paris from a 360 degree angle inside the building. After this we all spent about one hour here.
Then sadly the last time, we all boarded the bus and made our way to the airport. It seemed to take ages to get there and everyone seemed to be pretty depressed to be leaving. We got to the airport, and to my relief I weighed my bag and found that it was not overweight. At about half past 8, we all boarded the plane and it was quite depressing to know that those months of waiting for the trip to Paris was over and now it was back to Ireland and reality. We all had a brilliant time!
It truly was an African Adventure which will leave a life changing and lasting impression on everyone. Thanks to funding from the Worldwise section of Irish Aid the partnership between the two schools is developing beyond anything that could have been anticipated. Links with Donegal and this remote area of Kenya had existed because of the pioneering rural development work of Derek and Linda Roulston and their family. Through their work as missionaries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, working with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa this underdeveloped and very disadvantaged community has been transformed. This transformation is highlighted in the recent opening of one of the longest suspension footbridges in the continent. The local Galana Community have been empowered, given a hope and a future which is beyond its wildest dreams when the work began just seven years ago.
Bombi Primary School is central to this development and the group from the Royal School had a amazing exposure to and immersion in the culture and life of this still deprived community. Yet the happiness evident and the hospitality offered was really heart moving.
The Irish students and teachers departed from Letterkenny at 1.45 a.m. on Sunday 18th October , flying from Dublin, through Heathrow arriving in Nairobi some 17 hours later. Resting up in Nairobi for a day, visiting the National Museum for background information and absorbing the feel of the capital city before travelling south by minibus to the Indian Ocean Resort of Malindi. The minibus was rerouted , because of unusual heavy rains, through Tsavo East Game Park the party enjoyed a traditional African Safari and African massage over the bumpy tracks seeing many wild animals in their natural habitat, feasting on the recent growth in the vegetation thanks to the very recent rains. These rains were to be a source of great joy for the local people at Galana but greatly hampered our transport plans. After an overnight in the Catholic Institute in Malindi, and loading up with supplies for our ten days in the wilderness we set off for Bombi Primary School. The Galana river was swollen by the rains and the bush tracks had become a quagmire in places so getting to the school was quite a challenge – the Red Cross came across us and rescued us, our minibus winched out by their 4x4 land cruiser! But what a reception when we finally arrived very late at the school – students had stayed on to dance and sing in true African style making us truly welcome.
Cold drinks in the Principal’s office were very much appreciated, followed by some introductions; then allocation of sleeping accommodation – we were specially provided with beds, followed by supper ended the first tiring day. While under the mosquito net, listening to the crickets and the rain on the tin roof some sleep was had but the roosters alarm call at 4.30 am was very unwelcome! Rising at daylight to visit the dry toilet with its millipedes and cockroaches, then wash in a little cold water soon had the group wide eyed and awake. The first school bell rang at 7.00 am, followed by a second bell at 7.30 am indicating breakfast (thanks to the United Nations food aid programme) was being served. Sweeping and other chores completed the school was lined up for Assembly before 8.00 am. As the Irish teachers and students took their places in the staffroom and classrooms a steep learning curve was embarked upon. Yet a deep impression of commitment and enthusiasm for learning permeated all the activities. Conditions in the classrooms were very different from the usual but students and teachers quickly settled into school routine and participated fully; forming many deep friendships in the ten days in the school. The weekend provided opportunities to walk into the local area to observe the irrigation and other initiatives which are transforming the Galana Community. Contact with families and local leaders was warm and welcoming; church on Sunday was inspirational as the Irish visitors enjoyed the vibrancy and evident joy among the worshippers.
The highlight of the visit was the historic day, on Wednesday, 28th October, when visitors from Ireland and many local dignitaries gathered to officially open the Church, dispensary and bridge. It was a time of great rejoicing –visitors included Derek, Laura- Jane and Amy Roulston, the Rev. Stephen Richmond of Donegal Town, representing the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, representatives from Bangor West and Carnmoney Congregations, Gorta and AIG.
Despite the heavy rains and the transport chaos caused it was another very memorable occasion.
Sadly, at short notice the next day the Royal School group had to depart early to Malindi for fear of being marooned by the rains. A hastily arranged farewell took place with generous gifts being given and thanks expressed by the parents and managers of the school. Accompanied by students and teachers all set off on foot to cross the Galana Bridge to the minibus and back to normal comforts in Malindi, followed by four days in the luxury of the Milele Beach Hotel at Mombasa.
In Mombasa a number of tourist venues were visited including Haller Park, the Craft Village, the Butterfly Park and a visit offshore to the Coral Reef.
When Tuesday 3rd November arrived, the long journey back to Nairobi and the overnight flights to Dublin in view, it would have taken little persuasion for the group to have stayed put in Kenya.
The Donegal students and teachers look forward to a return visit by three Kenyan teachers in May 2010 but it seems impossible to match the warm hospitality and welcome experience by all on this partnership visit.