Teens get their hands dirty to help Kenyan tribe

Ponteland High School students enjoy some of the local customs during their Kenya visit.
Ponteland High School students enjoy some of the local customs during their Kenya visit.

SCHOOL students had an unforgettable African adventure as they immersed themselves in the local culture.

But they were also willing to put in the hard yards to give a helping hand to village communities.

And after making good fund-raising progress since their return, the Ponteland High School pupils and staff who went on the trip to Kenya earlier this year are urging residents to assist their efforts by bidding at a special auction this evening.

The school has organised visits to the country since 1996 and it has recently moved its focus to southern areas.

The most recent journey, which involved more than 30 students aged between 15 and 18 and five staff including party leader Graham Tulip, started with an acclimatisation phase and continued at a height of 7,500ft in the village of Olorte.

They helped to install artificial water holes to attract animals such as buffaloes and elephants, which locals hope will attract more tourists.

Labentera, a small village in the Maasai lands, was the next location. The nearest school is a five-mile trek each day for the tribe’s children, which is impossible for the infants to complete.

Pont High is looking to raise about £8,000 to build a new nursery in the village and over £3,000 has already been collected through various activities.

One of the staff members who went on the visit, geography teacher Steve Braysher, said: “We organised the trip in partnership with John Blissett of Stamfordham, who runs a small safari company, and he made us aware of Labentera’s school problem.

“Therefore, we thought it was an excellent opportunity to give something back to a community that was going to host us and get our students involved in some worthwhile activities.

“As well as experiencing what life is like for the Maasai tribe, they did some teaching sessions with some of the young children under the trees and helped to clear the site where the nursery will be located.

“The tribe were welcoming and open-hearted and they gave us the name Escimou, which means ‘group of lucky’. They threw us a great party on our last night in the village.

“The effort our young people put in at Labentera and Olorte earlier in the trip was phenomenal – they didn’t stop until the work was done.

“It’s quite remarkable to see the impact of taking students to remote areas that are completely different to what they are used to and a few of them told me they are changing their preferred career path based on their experiences in Kenya.”

The auction takes place at the school from 7pm and a number of businesses have made some generous donations.

Lots include a seven-day and seven-night adventure in the Maasailand in October 2014, a trip over the Northumberland countryside in a light aircraft, a weekend for four in a log cabin, a cruise on the River Tyne, a huge Rolo sweet which weighs about 10 pounds, paintballing vouchers and Almost Equal, a band made up of students, who will play at a party or event of the winning bidder’s choice.