Supporting Education in Kenya’s Loiyangalani
As a Trustee for The Loiyangalani Trust, Waterman’s Director for Structures, Andrew Sherlock, shares his experiences of a recent trip to the town of Loiyangalani, Kenya, in January 2020.
The Loiyangalani Trust was founded by Anthony Mitchel in 2009 following a series of visits to the small town of Loiyangalani, located on the south-eastern coast of Lake Turkana in Kenya. Situated many miles north of the capital city, Nairobi, the resident Turkana people receive minimal support from larger charities for education. Upon returning home, Anthony gathered a group of friends and described the lack of education opportunities available to the people of Loiyangalani, leading to the establishment of the Trust.
As one of the Trustees, Waterman’s Andrew Sherlock has been intent on using his structural engineering background to support the Turkana people, as well as utilising his problem solving and organisational skills to assist the wider community in improving their town and its surrounding areas. He explains: “Although the Trust is not faith-based, I feel that the work perfectly aligns with my Christian beliefs and, knowing that I am very fortunate to live a comfortable and relatively safe life here in the UK, it is my responsibility to help others who are less fortunate than myself.”
During bi-annual visits, a selection of Trustees travel to Loiyangalani at their own personal expense to meet the volunteer committee of community leaders associated with the local primary schools and colleges attended by sponsored pupils. Chiefly supporting the Loiyangalani Primary School and its pupils, the Trust supplies crucial funding for essential repair and maintenance work, whilst also providing a much-needed breakfast of boiled maize and supplying sanitary products for each child.
During his most recent visit to the primary school in January 2020, Andrew found himself quite at home as he oversaw the technical planning of a new solar water heating system. Community leader and Headmaster, Mr Jacob Naikele, requested the new system to remove the requirement for the school to burn locally harvested firewood. In addition to the solar battery powered electricity system that had already been installed in 2014, a solar water heating system would allow the school to reduce the felling of trees, improve air quality and minimize its overall carbon footprint. Pupil’s families would also benefit as the new system would mean they would no longer have to contribute financially to the increasing fuel costs.
Funded by the Trust’s cash reserves; built up through general fundraising initiatives such as sponsored walks, quiz nights and corporate donations; each project is instigated and constructed by Loiyangalani’s residents which is the key reason their work is so effective. Andrew said: “Our Trust is small, comprising a group of half a dozen willing volunteers from across the UK and Kenya, but we are very proud to maintain a tight focus on the education needs of the children and the local area. Finding and sustaining these schools, most of which are boarding schools, allows us to sponsor more pupils who can greatly improve their education and then return to Loiyangalani to support its future development.”
One recipient of the Trust’s support is Lawrence Emuria Ekale, whose parents are dedicated to keeping livestock to support their ten children. Despite sneaking into the classroom to avoid the required Ksh30 (21p) contribution for firewood, Lawrence’s headteacher saw his potential and nominated him to The Loiyangalani Trust to receive a school uniform, totalling Ksh400 (£2.84), so he could remain in school. After passing his exams with grades among the top four in his class, Lawrence continued to excel in his studies at the Loiyangalani Secondary School and eventually secured a place at Moi University to read a degree in Computer Science. The Trust then agreed to sponsor Lawrence to complete his degree and, in a recent letter to the Trust, Lawrence said: “I am really enjoying the course having got my sponsor and the Trust at large supporting me. Given that I was the only child in my family who was in school, I have managed to convince my parents of the value of education and now three of my siblings are enrolling in primary school and one in pre-primary. The Trust is really helping needy students here in Loiyangalani to push for their dreams.”
Despite all the schools and community buildings in Loiyangalani closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trust realised it was more essential than ever to ensure the school children continued to receive their one main meal of the day and arranged for the safe distribution of their cooked breakfasts each morning. The meals were made using hot water from the solar water heating system, meaning pupil’s families would not need to go out looking for firewood and other fuels on top of everything else.
Reflecting on the last year as a Trustee, Andrew said: “As a professional engineer, I have been fortunate to travel across the world, from Chicago to China, and have become increasingly aware that the pleasure I get from travelling is not about hotels or air miles but the people I meet. Spending a week with the children, parents, school teachers and the many other people of Loiyangalani who help with our work was a remarkable experience, and for just £25 per month we can cover a child’s school fees, travel and lodgings. It really does make all the difference to them and their education.”
If you would like to make a donation to The Loiyangalani Trust or to sponsor a child in Loiyangalani, please visit their website by clicking here.