Limavady Grammar School is welcoming a group of visitors all the way from Kajiado in Kenya for a week-long stay with local families.
Three school administrators, two students and a teacher will be combining time in Limavady Grammar with a range of social engagements and renewing friendships build up over many years.
Since 2001 Limavady Grammar School has been involved in a partnership with the Anglican diocese of Kajiado in quite a remote part of southern Kenya. Working with CMS Ireland, annual sponsored walks were at first designed to raise funds for the sinking of bore holes and the construction of wells to help provide and store much-needed water. £30,000 was raised for these and in July 2004 a team of staff and pupils spent four weeks there on a number of projects.
Since then funds have been raised for the building of a girls’ secondary boarding school.
In July 2008 Limavady pupils cut the first sods and began a very labour intensive project. The first phase of Oloosuyian Girls’ Secondary School was officially opened by LGS Principal, Mr Robert Wilson, in July 2011; over £70,000 was raised for this project.
A third team of 36 staff and pupils spent four weeks in Kajiado at that time preparing the foundations for an accommodation block, the first phase to house 80 girls. This was opened in July 2013 and the school has gone from strength to strength. The current enrolment stands at 98 girls in 4 year groups.
It is planned to send a fourth team to Kenya in July 2016 to continue further work on classroom construction and related activities. A wide range of fund-raising activities has already begun and on Saturday, April 18 approximately 150 pupils, staff and parents took part in the annual school sponsored walk with proceeds going to support the work in Kenya.
The provision of a science laboratory and accompanying equipment as well as a second floor for the accommodation block are the main priorities in the immediate future.
It is difficult to fully appreciate the impact of these projects on the lives of the mainly Maasai people, but there is no doubt that without them people and animals would have died in the regular periods of drought.
Also, for the first time teenage girls are being offered the prospect of a good education and a worthwhile career rather than being subjected to female genital mutilation and early marriages.
Exchange visits such as this week’s are a great encouragement to all concerned. Those from Limavady who have visited Kenya over the past ten years have been privileged to spend time in the rich Maasai culture, seeing a side to life most westerners never experience.
They would be the first to acknowledge the tremendous financial support they have received from the local community and further afield. And as old friendships are renewed perhaps the next generation of Limavady Grammar School pupils will be inspired to become actively involved in supporting this worthwhile exchange.