Arrival in Shimoni is something special. Children run to the roadside waving frantically at the bus, with echoes of ‘jambo!’ following you along your way. GVI’s base is in the heart of the small town, with baboons and dense forest at the back door, and palm trees rising above the several huts visible from the front of the house. Shouts and laughter echo through the building, along with the sound of many goats and the mosque’s call to prayer. A short walk into the main street acquaints you with the inhabitants of Shimoni. Men and women wear broad smiles, greeting you and chuckling at amateurish attempts to converse in Swahili. With the barrier of the bus gone, the kids stride towards us confidently, the smaller ones content to hold a single finger and walk alongside you for a few steps, with elder children testing their English on you.
|Welcoming kids from Shimoni.|
After the initial weekend running through safety procedures and catching up on much needed sleep, training and teaching begins. The first class is in English at the local Shimoni Primary School. With Conor leading, we stand at the back of the room to observe and lend a helping hand with exercises and spelling. The pupils are well behaved (generally), and even the more reluctant soon decide to engage with the lesson. You feel welcome immediately, with students eagerly beckoning you to sit next to them, or to glance over and (hopefully) praise their work.
With the afternoon comes choir practice at the local kindergarten. The children gather immediately, and wait patiently as we try to make the lyrics on the blackboard more legible. Enthusiasm is strong, and even after practice, the children remain to impress us with their near-perfect rendition of ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis. Wildlife club the next day is a similarly energetic affair, with our lesson on countries and continents resulting in a busy cluster of students at the front of the class, keen to demonstrate their knowledge of places and locations to us using our world map. This happens despite our repeated instructions to them to remain in their seats!
Text: Luke Guinness