Trip to Africa opens their eyes

Fox students help orphans, collect water and work to build a school library in Kenya

Under hot and humid skies, six students from Terry Fox secondary carried water, helped build a school library and got to know the people of Kenya.

Now that they are back home in Port Coquitlam, the trip seems like a dream.

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"I want to go back," says Sarah Barnett, a Grade 12 student.

"I miss the children," says Madison Lever, who is in Grade 11.

These strong feelings for a place so far away and so unlike their suburban home were experienced by everyone who spent 10 days of their spring break in the famed Rift Valley.

And now that the girls are back home, they can't believe they ever took their schooling, running water and comfortable homes for granted.

It was a treat, they say, to learn about other cultures during the trip with teacher Robin Charbonneau to meet the Maasai people and work with Free the Children, the charity arm of Craig and Marc Kielburger's non-profit social enterprise called Me to We.

Fox Kenya
Terry Fox students mixed cement for the floor of a school library while on a Me to We trip to Kenya during the recent spring break. - Submitted

While there, the students lived in tents with wooden floors in the Bogani camp, ate delicious food, got up early to watch the sunrise, went on safari to a nearby nature preserve and took trips to schools that Free the Children has set up.

"I love traveling and I wanted to experience a different culture. Living within our means seems difficult to us but they [the Kenyans] are happy and proud of how they live," said student Erin Mulligan.

On one particularly hot and humid day day, the students collected water from the Mara River in jerry cans strapped to their backs and foreheads, learning later that the water to supply a family for three days would be used in a single five-minute shower back home.

"It makes you realize how much water you are using," said Tasia Dodman.

The students also visited health clinics for the area's 30,000 people and helped build the floor of a school library, mixing the cement, rock and dirt by hand in a wheelbarrow.

The experience helped them appreciate machinery that does heavy work but it also brought them closer to the people they were there to help.

"It was impressive how hard they worked," Mulligan said.

For many, the trip was eye opening and far away from cellphones, Instagram and Snapchat, which the girls say they didn't miss and now use less.

As to what the future will bring for the teens, four of whom graduate in June, more travel is definitely in the picture, with the Africa trip giving them a taste for meaningful journeys.

"Personally, I wanted to expand my mindset and experience," said Lever.

And why Africa?

It's simple, said Lever: "Go big or go home."

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