Schools to the Sea is an educational awareness programme run by Buccaneers Dive Centre which was set up in order to enhance environmental awareness of marine conservation and environmental issues for the various communities in and around the Mombasa coastline. GVI has been involved with Sea for Schools for the past year, run from the Voyager Hotel, Nyali. The programme involves children from schools who would ordinarily be unable to have access to marine parks, aiding the development of their environmental awareness.
Olives Rehabilitation Centre was the latest school to participate in the Sea for Schools programme, involving Standard 7. The programme is a one day activity which begins with the students undergoing a half hour induction of what the day will entail, at the Voyager Hotel. The students are then taught how to use the snorkeling equipment correctly within the confinements of the Voyager swimming pool. As none of the participating students had ever used any form of snorkeling equipment, they struggled with using them initially, and could not master the ability to breathe through the snorkel under the water, as this is a completely alien experience for them. However with practice the students gained their confidence and were able to use the equipment effectively.
Following this the students are then provided with lunch (burgers and chips) which becomes one of the high lights of the day as most of these children know of this meal but have never had the opportunity to enjoy such food items. The Voyager provides both use of the pool whilst training the students, and the provision of lunch.
After lunch Buccaneers carry out a 45 minute presentation detailing information of the marine ecosystems, biodiversity and environmental issues and conservation. These include conscientious waste management practices, over fishing and the importance of the different marine species (both flora and fauna) in maintaining a healthy and functional ecosystem. The students learn a great deal from the presentation generating a wealth of questions ranging from the diet of marine species to the function of coral reefs.
The final activity of the programme is taking a glass bottom boat out to the reef, which is provided by Buccaneers. This allows the children to have direct access to the marine life and the reef, and are able to observe the marine ecosystem directly. Following this the students are then able to snorkel with the assistance of life jackets and ample supervision (GVI volunteers, and trained Buccaneer Dive Masters), to experience accouter the marine life.
Environmental conservation is paramount to ensuring the long term sustainability of the fragile costal marine ecosystem which makes up the Mombasa coastline. By teaching the younger generations to engage with their environment in a conscientious and environmentally sound manner, the marine ecosystems have a greater chance of long term survival. The younger generations are a key influence on the future of the coastline, and the importance of social and environmental interaction on future sustainability.
GVI are currently working towards ensuring that Sea for Schools becomes a more regular activity resulting in more in-depth knowledge of the environment and also giving them an opportunity to learn and experience things which would otherwise be unattainable for them.
Throughout term breaks, the GVI Mombasa team provides support to our local partners to ensure students are active and supervised while school is closed. The students work so hard throughout the school term, so holiday periods are a great opportunity to have some fun and indulge in some trips.
Around 80 students of varying ages turned up each day for the holiday programme run by GVI and Precious Vision .We were able to take 30 children at a time on different outings to ensure that all the children got a chance to go. The first activity involved a trip to a local botanical and zoological park - Haller Park. The children spent a couple of hours walking through the park with a local guide who gave them information about the animals and the ecosystems as they went around. The animals that they got to see include hippos, crocodiles, antelope and snakes. But, the main attraction was definitely the feeding of the giraffes! The volunteers were on hand to help the children overcome their nerves about feeding the animals from their hands. By the end of the trip all of the students had conquered their fear and managed to feed a giraffe, (even if there was a lot of screaming!) Over the next few days we had outings to the beach and the smaller children got to go to the butterfly farm – the highlight being a play area consisting of swings and slides.
The highlight for the older students was The Mombasa Agricultural Show. This takes place yearly in the month of August at the Mombasa Show Ground in Nyali and is always visited by the president. There were hundreds of tents and stalls, most of the government departments had a stand showing how they have evolved over the years. One of the main attractions that the children loved was the “culture tent “displaying all the different traditional artifacts tribes make for varying celebrations and lifestyles. The students also got to sample “western” games such as video arcades and basketball games, and a (not so politically correct) “freak show” featuring “The shortest women in the world” a “Mermaid” and a “floating head” (a man under a table with his head sticking out).
One of the great things about the holiday program supported by GVI volunteers is that it exposes the students from slum areas to activities they would likely not otherwise experience. It is rather ironic that in a country so rich in wildlife, that most people living in a slum will never experience a safari park due to financial restraints. GVI volunteers taking students to trips such as Haller Park provides a wonderful opportunity to give the kids a safari experience or a cultural experience they would not otherwise be able to enjoy.
The Olives Rehabilitation Centre (ORC) was established in 2001 by local resident Stevens Were in order to address the lack of access to primary education for children living in Bombolulu and the resulting low literacy levels. Precious Vision Children’s Centre, led by Jane Wangoi, and was set up in 2007 to provide free education and a safe haven for the many unattended children of Shauri Yako slum who also have no access to education in Mombasa.
Once a week for one hour all books and pens are put aside in the always buzzing schools for the girls in senior standards to gather together in one of the class rooms. The girls all find a place to sit on the tables, benches and floor and huddle together to create an atmosphere of trust and comfort. The counseling sessions always have a sense of coziness and the girls all know that anything discussed in this room, stays in the room and that this is the opportunity to bring up any questions or issues they cannot discuss elsewhere.
The girls in the room, aging from 9 - 17, don't always have the opportunity to discuss issues with their parents or family, like many of us could when we were their age. Some girls don't have a mother, others are unable to discuss matters as the mother herself is not very informed due to illiteracy and some just don't have that type of relationship with their carer or mother and don't feel comfortable discussing sensitive matters.
One thing that GVI has become aware of is that a lot of girls do not attend school during their periods. This means girls miss one week of school each month due to a lack of understanding and what they can do to make sure their periods do not keep them from getting a proper education.
When starting an explanation on the workings of their period, many questions came up and the topic had to be spread out over 3 sessions to be able to answer all questions that troubled the girls. Many girls don't attend school during their periods because they have no access to pads due to financial hardship or they think they cannot attend school while on their period. So we started the first session by explaining what is happening in our bodies during our periods. A few giggles arose when drawing a uterus with ovaries on the board but the girls soon all fell silent. Hormones too were a completely new concept and even caused the group of 60 girls at Olives, a group not easy to impress, to pay full attention. The most common question asked however: how and where to get pads and how to use them.
Pads are an expensive luxury good and so they are very hard for the girls to obtain. Therefore GVI has decided to implement a ‘pad-system’ where girls can obtain sanitary napkins upon request. A record is kept to make sure we can sustain the initiative. This has been successfully implemented in Precious Vision and we are working on a similar system in Olives Rehabilitation to be introduced soon.
GVI Volunteer Attie who has been very involved with this project for the last 12 weeks said “ Many pads have been given out in the past few weeks and for me this has been one of the highlights of my time here: to see with my own eyes how we can do so much with so little!”
This week on the health care project was an exciting one as we welcomed Amos to the team bringing us up to a total of three volunteers. Amos is a volunteer from Nairobi and his knowledge of Swahili has been especially helpful in conveying ideas and disseminating information to staff and patients within the health dispensary, and to students in our life skills classes.
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GVI Charitable Trust Manager