Below is a story about our day with the Kyaithani Secondary School students in Nairobi. It is taken from Jan's www.travelwithjan.blogspot.com website.
And click HERE to watch a video of our visit and safari.
It was an early start - again! After another shower to get rid of the dust from our trip to Kyaithani and Ndandini villages yesterday, we packed a bag that we could leave at the TRIBE hotel the following day when we head off on safari. Next was the JINKA restaurant, on the ground floor looking out on to the pool, for a quick breakfast. A fabulous buffet, my favourite at the moment - hard to choose between the almond croissant or the fresh toast with a selection of lovely cheeses!
Ray, from Gamewatchers Safaris, picked us up at 9am, and our first stop was at the Nakumatt supermarket in the Village Market next door to pick up 150 bottles of water and packages of cookies. This took a little longer than we thought but we were soon off to ensure we arrived at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to see the elephants being fed by 11am. There was a traffic hold up and we were starting to worry a little about arriving in time. Then we received a text message from Sammy, the Vice Principle at Kyaithani Secondary School - they were off on time (5am they left the school) but it took them longer than expected to reach Nairobi. Our second message came as we got closer to Sheldrick, they were equidistant to us coming in on another road. Then we saw two school buses pulling out of the Nairobi National Park - sure enough - this was them and our van ended up between two of the buses. The kids started waving at us through the back window and hanging out the windows to say Hello - we were so pleased to see them all. However - the third bus was missing. The Vice Principal Sammy on the missing bus, then phoned us so we put Ray, our driver, on the phone with the school bus driver and he gave the bus driver directions on how to get to Sheldrick.
|KYAITHANI SECONDARY SCHOOL KIDS VISIT SHELDRICK|
You may remember that there are 42 tribes in Kenya each with their own language. As luck would have it, Ray came from an area not far from Kyaithani and he was Kamba and spoke the same language as the bus drivers - this would prove to be so helpful as the day continued! We all pulled into Sheldrick parking lot, where we found out that the guard did not have down that these 150 kids and teachers were booked to see the elephants! The Guard and I raced over to the entrance where all was OK'd and so back to let all the kids out of the buses and into the field where the elephants (fondly called ellies by us) would be fed - they arrived as all the elephants were being led in.
The elephants enter in two groups led by their keepers who spend 24 hours a day with them, even sleeping in their pens with the elephants (each elephant in his or her own pen) and get up every 3 hours to give them another bottle of milk. Yes, they are fed with bottles - a huge 2 or 3 foot long bottle with a teat and the elephants know how to grab this bottle and they empty it unbelievably fast! There are 3 keepers who explain everything about the elephants, where they came from, why they are in the Sheldrick elephant orphanage - most are poaching victims where their mother was killed, some fell down well boreholes and could not get out so the herd had to leave them behind - all very sad stories. Elephants are very social creatures and many grieve for a long time when they arrive at the orphanage - most having been flown there in the small planes. But the other elephants take them into the orphanage family and they start to settle down.
|KIDS LINEUP FOR LUNCH BOXES|
The kids were all fascinated and listened intently to the keeper who did all of his talking in Swahili so that they could easily understand everything - there were lots of questions and answers, and big smiles all around - especially from us - we were so happy to see these Kenyan kids enjoying, and learning from, a wonderful field trip. All too soon the 1 hour session was over and the kids headed back to their buses. While we had been enjoying the elephants, Gamewatchers had done a stellar job and had picked up 150 lunch boxes! (Getting these lunch boxes arranged the day before while we were all in Ndandini village was quite an interesting challenge.) So back at the parking lot, there were two Gamewatchers vehicles with all the lunchboxes and bottles of water - and a long line of 150 kids in a very orderly fashion passing past and picking up their lunch and taking it back on the bus! A huge ``Thank You`` to all the Gamewatchers staff, from Florence who found several suppliers to put together all the lunches, to Ray, Dennis and the other support drivers who made sure they all arrived on time - and to the owners Jake and Mohanjeet who agreed to let their staff and vehicles help us out - there is absolutely no way that this would have happened without Gamewatchers!
|STUDENTS FEED GIRAFFE AT THE GIRAFFE CENTRE|
Next stop was the Giraffe Centre which is also in the Karen area on the outskirts of Nairobi (remember Karen Blixen ? The famous lady memorialized by Meryl Streep in the movie Out of Africa?). This is a learning and conservation centre for the scarce and endangered Rothschild giraffes found only in Western Kenya. Apart from seeing them walk peacefully around in the huge reserve, there is also a feeding platform where you climb a few stairs and are then level with the giraffes heads. We had arranged for all the students to learn about the rare Rothschild giraffes, (along with several warthogs) and even to feed them! It was so funny to watch the students each given a pellet of food, then walk past the giraffe and place the pellet on the giraffes' tongue - the kids would squeal and jump as the soft tongue of the giraffe delicately took each pellet from their fingers!
The kids had been split into a couple of groups and so they started to wander over to Neil, Jackie, Terry and I and continue asking their questions of us, and wanting more photos taken - they were so enjoying their field trip! Again Ray and his Kamba language, to say nothing of his great organising and assistance skills came into play. He did a marvelous job of keeping the three buses together and not missing any turns as we headed to the Giraffe Center. When the kids arrived on the buses, he got the three very large buses parked on the narrow street outside the main tourist area. Then he organised all the kids and teachers into a group so that we could have a couple of photos taken together. Naturally the Giraffe Centre gate staff had not received the word that we were coming and were not expecting us!! but that was all eventually looked after so that the visit was a huge success.
While we were in the Giraffe centre - Ray received a phone call from Gamewatchers telling him that the University students were protesting and rioting in downtown Nairobi against the Teachers Strike which is now in its' third week. No kids in Kenya have been to school for the last 3 weeks! (all the teachers in the 6 Kyaithani cluster of schools were also on strike - it is mandatory to belong to the Teachers' Union but they had come along to look after the kids). The third and last stop of the field trip was scheduled to be the Natural History Museum in downtown Nairobi - right next to where the protest was taking place! Needless to say with the chaos going on this would simply not happen. So while we were looking at giraffes and talking to the kids and teachers, Ray had phoned the local "Bomas of Kenya" attraction. This is where several homes or "shambas" have been set up depicting life in different areas of Kenya, along with an auditorium presentation of singing and dancing from various tribes. Ray arranged for the 150 kids to be able to see this then came and OK'd with us the change and the cost for everyone to go. We were so happy to have this issue looked after and for the kids to still get a very full day of new experiences and education about their own country - its' peoples and animals.
So our time together had come to an end! We said Kwaheri (Goodbye) to the kids and we went our separate ways - all of them asking how soon we would be back and to bring along more people for them to meet! That night we received a text message that the day had been a huge success and they had all arrived safely home around 9pm in Kyaithani - many of the kids having left home at 3am that morning. And of course they still had long distances to walk home after the buses getting them back to the Kyaithani School. Thank You so much to everyone of you for your support and donations that made this day such a huge success, and that gave the Kyaithani Secondary School kids the opportunity to see Nairobi and the elephants, giraffes and Kenya Bomas which they would otherwise never have seen - you have broadened minds, and probably changed lives and futures with this experience for the kids!
Terry & Jan Umbach