An important component of the SLIK trip is that of community service, with an emphasis on improving the learning environment of the schools where the Americans are volunteering. Kenya’s schools are vibrant, energetic, and positive places to learn. This energy comes from the faculty and students, and not necessarily the school infrastructure.
Schools in rural Kenya are simple structures with the lucky students having classrooms built of stone and corrugated iron sheets above for a roof. Modest openings allow in light, as well as the wind and dust in some cases. Cement floors are rare; with most floors being dirt compacted by the bare feet of countless students. When it rains, class must be suspended due to the deafening noise of the rain hitting the iron roof.
The focus of each SLIK project is to address the immediate needs of a school’s facility to help students learn in a more comfortable and positive setting. Past projects have included putting in cement floors, painting classroom, constructing a water tank, and the building of five new classrooms. The idea to include a community service component originated with the first SLIK group in 2005. Given the state of the classrooms, the Americans found it hard to imagine how the Kenyans were learning in such challenging conditions. The Americans also witnessed how hard the Kenyan students worked, how they persevered, and how they enjoyed life as if their school had the best facilities in the country. These young Kenyans were fortunate to have a chance to go to school, and did not focus on the structures or classroom.
Prior to going to Kenya the SLIK students are invited to assist with fund raising, which is organized by SLIK Director, Fred Roberts. All that is asked is for those who are interested to pass on information about the project to others who may want to make a donation through the Hansen Foundation for Education. This is purely voluntary and there are no fund raising requirements for the SLIK students. They will be making their own donation of hard work with plenty of digging and cement mixing in Kenya!
“Unlike in America where most work like this is done by a machine, we did everything by hand. The work was exhausting work, but you couldn’t let up or else the cement won’t mix properly. It was a constant churning of cement, sand, stones and water, with nothing but our muscles and determination to fuel the process. The mixed cement was loaded into a wheelbarrow and carted off to its destination; each wheelbarrow full weighing roughly 220 pounds!”
“It was a fulfilling and humbling experience to be closely involved with this Kenyan community in the improvement of their school. Working side by side with the Kenyans gave us a greater appreciation of the effort they extend for what we take for granted in America. While our cultures are vastly different, on this day we worked as one for a common goal. Skin color, language barrier, and socioeconomic background didn’t matter as we worked as a team to help the school’s students. It was very, very hard work, but also very gratifying.”