From education to employment

16 College Students Take the Trip of a Lifetime

International Education Correspondent Brooke Van Dam visited Tower Hamlets Sixth Form College yesterday and spoke to some of the students who were eager to share their experiences on their recent trip to Kenya.

“The best part of the trip was the snakes. I”ve never come across a snake before. It went around my neck. It was good,” 17-year-old Babli Johan tells me as we sit around with two of her classmates talking about their trip to Kenya.

“The best part for me was the visit to the orphanage and the safari. It was poignant, touching and gave me a first hand experience of poverty.” Kebreya Gulam chimes in.

“I think it is an unfair question,” Syed Nadir Ahmed looks up and says when I ask him the best part of the trip, “The whole trip opened my eyes to think about life and who I am as a person. The Kenyan people are so open and welcoming in contrast to this country. The worst part was going home.”

Exploring the History and Culture

These three students from Tower Hamlets Sixth Form College in South East London were part of a group of 16 who spent around two weeks in Kenya exploring the people, the history and the culture. Their trip included visits to Kwetu Training Centre, an organization working towards getting youth out of poverty, St Ann’s Primary School in a remote village outside Mombasa and Furaha, and an orphanage in the region. They also were able to go on a safari and do some souvenir shopping.

As we look over the pictures from the trip it is amazing to see how much the students experienced in such a short amount of time. I ask if they got tired ever and all three emphatically replied, no. We get to the pictures of the safari and their eyes all light up. There are pictures of zebras, giraffes, monkeys etc”¦

“It was wicked” Kebreya says.

A World Away is Just Next Door

The most poignant part of the trip may have been the day the students were able to spend with their African counterparts. The boys and girls are taught separately in Kenya and so the group was separated and spent the day in their corresponding school. All three found that although the students may live a world away, they are not so different from them.

“We got along well with the girls,” Babli says. “We were chatting, doing henna and exchanging presents. Girls are the same.”

“When we went to the school the guys kept asking us if there were girls on the trip,” Kebreya says. “We told them yes, but they were at the girl’s school.”

I ask if this trip has changed them at all. They all nod their heads.

“It makes me appreciate food and water. And it reminds me not to spend a lot.” Babli says with conviction.

“It makes me thankful for education,” Kebreya says. “It makes me want to go to school. To take the opportunity I have and grasp it.”

Syed thinks for a moment and then reflects, “It makes me look at life in a more optimistic way. The Kenyan people may not have much but they are happy. I always say I need this or that but these things I think are necessities are luxuries.”

Maintaining the Relationship

The trip will forever remain in the hearts and minds of these young students. They all say they would encourage anyone to go. The school plans to maintain relationships with the people and places they visited, even doing some fundraising to help those in need.

Before I left I told the students how lucky they are to have experienced this trip and I thanked them all for sharing their experiences and memories with me. They all nod their heads and begin looking at the pictures and reminiscing once again.

Brooke Van Dam, International Education Correspondent

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