Clonmel girls travelled to Kenyan slums to change lives - and found their own lives changed instead

On July 14 fifteen girls from the Loreto and Presentation Secondary Schools in Clonmel went to Nairobi with the HUG (Helping You Grow Association) to work in the slums of Nairobi.

On July 14 fifteen girls from the Loreto and Presentation Secondary Schools in Clonmel went to Nairobi with the HUG (Helping You Grow Association) to work in the slums of Nairobi.

EMMA LACEY wrote about the experience the group had…..

Even though we were all encouraged to read about the Kibera slums in Nairobi nothing prepared us for the impact it had on us all, a group of fifteen secondary school pupils from the Loreto and Presentation Secondary Schools in Clonmel.

It was incredible to witness how close the modern city of Nairobi is to the poverty, squalor and disease that fil the slums of Kiberia, a sea of tin huts crowded on top of one another.

The scale of the slums, the amount of people living in such horrific conditions is frightening to witness but we were all determined to make a difference to the lives of the children who have to survive every day in that environment.

We befriended the children who responded with so much warmth, friendship and fun to us during our two week stay in Nairobi.

The group of girls - Roisin Brophy, Leah Hyland, Leanne Murphy, Emer Lyons, Clare Nolan, Máire Buckley, Aoife Roberts, Niamh McNally, Erin Conran, Ciara McKeown, Ciara Corbett, Nocola Pleskach, Gillian Hickey, Méábh Kennedy and Mary Doyle decided last October to travel to Kenya after meeting Sister Carmel Flynn of the HUG Helping U Grow Association.

After a massive fund-raising effort which was so generously supported by the people of Clonmel, the funds to allow us travel were raised.

All of us were given a very warm welcome wherever we went. We spent the two weeks mainly carrying out important maintenance work and also entertaining and teaching the children in two primary schools. We spent one week with children at the Shalom Academy which is in the Masai slums and the second week at the Laini Saba Primary School which is in the Kibera slums.

The children loved playing with us, enjoyed getting to know us all and were very appreciative of anything we did for them. They loved listening to us singing Irish songs and watching us perform dances and we spent a lot of time with the children helping them to improve their English and doing arts and crafts .

While there we carried out a number of painting jobs on gates, classrooms and desks and helped clean out insects from rooms.

We also helped children in St Paul’s Care Home where a fifteen day year old baby wrapped in newspaper had been abandoned. St. Paul’s, which was attached to Shalom, looked after children who had been abused in their homes and abandoned. We also visited an orphanage called Nyumbani where we met children who are suffering from AIDS. It was an incredibly moving and uplifting place to visit. We went to mass in the orphanage and despite their illness the children put on a magical performance of music, song and dance for us.

Whenever we left the schools to go out into the slums, we had to make sure to take a different route every day as the Kibera slum was a dangerous place to walk around and whenever we were in the slums local adults from the schools were with us.

The open sewers, the smells and the conditions we saw were a shock to all of us.

The atmosphere in the schools was much more relaxed. It was a safe haven for the children and a place where we could mix with them with no fear.

They were wonderful, happy and inspirational children despite the terrible conditions they live in.

The two weeks we spent in Nairobi was a truly wonderful life changing experience. As a group we are indebted to our leaders Sister Carmel, Michelle McCartan, Barbara Hartland, Rita Sweet and Clare McManus.

We owe so much to the people of Clonmel who supported our fund-raisiing events. Thanks to everybody who supported our numerous table quizzes, church gate collections, funding in Parish primary schools, bag-packing in local supermarkets, traditional music sessions, walks, and the many companies all over South Tipperary and West Waterford that gave donations despite the recession. Many thanks to our families and friends, our teachers and schools for their invaluable support.

We went with the ambition of changing the lives of young chidren who live in the most awful conditions thousands of miles away and arrived home to Clonmel last Saturday with all of our own lives changed as a result of the friendship and love those children gave to us.