Joy and spirit in Kilimani
14 March 2014
Posted by Jayne Coppin
This time last year as part of my role at Minerva Trust & Corporate Services Limited, I was asked to set up a 'Legacy Project' to celebrate milestone birthdays for our two main shareholders, Mr Vipin Shah and Mr Umesh Sahai.
I was not given a brief, as such, just that we wanted to work with schools and support a charity. The project had to be something that would be memorable and create a lasting legacy.
For the next three months much of my time was consumed in the creation of this project working alongside Vaishali Shah (Director) and our Marketing Department.
I approached the Department of Education, Sport and Culture based in Jersey as we wanted to work alongside a local school and integrate students who would find this project to be worthwhile and meaningful.
It was recommended that I speak to a local school called Hautlieu as they undertook the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) and this type of project could link to their studies. Having made contact with the IB co-ordinator at the school, Paul Wallace-Sims, it soon became evident that a charitable project would indeed contribute to the work undertaken by the students as it would form part of their Theory of Knowledge studies.
We approached the Jersey Oversees Aid Commission (JOAC), as we wanted some guidance as to which charity we could support and in which country. We learned that the JOAC supported Sense International, and as one of our main shareholder's families (Mr Shah) supported Sense International too, we felt that this was the charity we should work with. In addition, Sense International is based in Nairobi which linked into the Minerva business strategy as we were due to open an office to support our African client base. We agreed that Minerva would support two students to travel to Nairobi and work with Sense International, the JOAC also very kindly offered to support two more students for this trip.
Having completed presentations for selection, four students were selected; Andy, Rosie, Ruth and Zoe who, along with Paul Wallace Sims and myself travelled to Kenya in July 2013. Sense had arranged for us to spend time at Kilimani Integrated Primary School where there is a deafblind unit.
Prior to our departure we were told that due to a teachers' strike in Kenya it was unlikely that our full two weeks would be spent at Kilimani, however, with the help of Sense International and the JOAC we were able to arrange other activities including home visits and visiting Oxfam-related projects in the slums of Nairobi.
From the moment we walked through the doors of Kilimani's deafblind unit we were struck with the love and care that the teachers had for their work. We were introduced to 'Teacher Mary' who showed us around the unit. Other teachers came in especially to meet with us and discuss the work they do.
During our first morning, we were introduced to many of the children and some of their parents. The children were of varying ages, from young toddlers to 18-year-olds, so the teachers were challenged with a very diverse range of needs.
We met Louise who is deafblind and has worked as an Ambassador for Sense International East Africa. She hugged each of us and although she could not see us or hear us there was an instant connection of warmth. Prior to meeting Louise and others our expectations of a deafblind person were very different; that they would be sad and have difficulty in communicating; this could not be further from the truth. Louise demonstrated to us the joy and spirit of someone who is deafblind.
'Teacher Mary' and 'Teacher Elizabeth' chaperoned us for much of our time in Kenya, along with Geoffrey Atieli, Edwin Osundwa and Charles Odol from the Sense International office. They took us to Kibera, Kangemi and other slum areas to visit parents of the children that attended the school. These trips were invaluable. We were able to experience first hand the living conditions and issues faced by parents. As a result of hearing the parents' first hand experiences, Minerva Trust & Corporate Services Limited donated money to set up parent support sessions that were run by the teachers at Kilimani.
We also visited Kerugoya Deaf School which has a deafblind unit and is fully equipped with an operational dormitory. This school had been supported by Sense International and is run by Grace and her team, who are all very dedicated to their students and the work that they do.
As well as observing the teachers and school work we were able to meet Joyce, who lives with her parents. She is now in her twenties and was educated at Kilimani. With the support of Sense International she is able to have a vocation as she has been provided with a knitting machine which she uses to knit scarfs; this allows her to have a small income. Joyce was radiant and her family were very welcoming.
Whilst in Kenya we were very much moved by the people we met and the stories we heard. We learnt so much about deafblindness. Being able to spend time working alongside the teachers and learning the basics such as communication with a deafblind person helped us to appreciate the support that Sense International gives, and the difference their work makes to each individual.
Minerva Trust & Corporate Services Limited has also raised over £16,000. We will be presenting a cheque to Sense International later this month which will be used to support home based education in Africa and support initiatives in India. In addition, Andy, Rosie, Ruth and Zoe have also set about raising funds at their school. They are now in their final year of their studies but have been passionate about supporting Sense. The money raised by their school will support vocational work in Africa.
For me personally this project has fulfilled its requirements. We wanted to create a lasting legacy and by witnessing the journey that Andy, Rosie, Ruth and Zoe went on I strongly believe that we have achieved this. Each one of them had a 'life changing' experience in their own way and in Rosie's case she has changed her degree options as a result of the time we spent in Kenya. For them to return to Jersey and to discuss deafblindness in a very different way to how they were discussing it prior to the trip was remarkable. As well as raising further funds they have subsequently visited local schools to discuss their experience. They have also compiled a video of their trip, which they have presented to our Directors, Senior Managers and staff.
We cannot thank Sense International enough for 'opening our eyes and ears' to deafblindness and for the work that they continue to do in the community to support this disability.
Jayne Coppin is Head of HR at Minerva Trust & Corporate Services Limited
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First published: Friday 7 June 2013
Last updated: Thursday 18 September 2014