Collie embarks on experience of a lifetime

Traditional fashion: Lauren Jackson immersed herself in the local tribal culture.
Traditional fashion: Lauren Jackson immersed herself in the local tribal culture.

20-year old Collie local Lauren Jackson has recently returned from trip to Kenya where she spent her time volunteering as a teacher at a local school.

Whilst some 20 year-olds spend their holidays on European vacations or backpacking around Asia, Ms Jackson said she had always had a strong desire to volunteer abroad.

“I decided to go as I have always wanted to go to Africa and I have always wanted to volunteer,” she said.

“I figured that if I was going to go to Africa I didn’t want to do the touristy things of just going on a safari and visiting all the things that Africa wants you to see, if I was going there I may as well also give back.”

“I managed to do both when I was there, tour safaris and give back at the same time, and see how amazing the country was but also I  saw the true Africa that you don’t normally see on mainstream media.”

Ms Jackson was based in Kumpa, Kenya, which is located in Maasai land, just 30 minutes from the Tanzania boarder.

She was placed in a school with 160 students, which went up to year four, and quickly came to terms with the limited resources that the teachers had.

“It was difficult at times because you are unsure of what their syllabus is and some of their English isn’t very good,” she said.

“It was hard to communicate at times but I just tried my best to teach them what they needed.”

“it was quite difficult dealing with children when it is such a different educational system from what we have here like there were limited resources so trying to tell them about certain subjects like science without having anything to demonstrate on was really hard.”

Lauren Jackson with some of the students she taught at the school.

Lauren Jackson with some of the students she taught at the school.

“It was also quite challenging mentally, I expected the country to be pretty well off but where I was there was a lot of social issues, issues that I thought were only in parts of central Africa like HIV was prevalent.

“ A lot of children in the school were orphaned as a  result of AIDS, so that was quite  mentally challenging for me to see how much they struggled through daily life, children were still dying from malnutrition.”

Whilst in Kenya, Ms Jackson helped the school to build a new classroom, and donated funds she had raised to the school and towards students school fees.

“There was one time that at school a girl hadn’t come to school for a couple of days because she hadn’t paid her school fees, and so I went in to the office and asked how much her outstanding fees were and it worked out to be 3.20 Australian dollars,” she said.

“That’s nothing for someone and that can mean the difference between someone getting an education or not in a developing country and if you go and see that you feel more inclined to go and do something about it is one step towards helping countries to develop.”

Volunteering: Ms Jackson said the Kenyan people were friendly and welcoming.

Volunteering: Ms Jackson said the Kenyan people were friendly and welcoming.

“Education is the main thing to help to develop an underdeveloped nation and it’s really important that we support it.”

Ms Jackson said previous to her departure her parents were terrified of her going to Africa, but she was quickly made to feel welcome by her host family in Kenya.

“My host family were amazing they were incredible, they introduced me to people as their daughter,” she said.

“I was quite surprised about how friendly everyone was over there; my parents were terrified of me going but they always warned me about not talking to strangers and not getting pick pocketed but I found the African people were very welcoming and friendly.”

Ms Jackson said the whole experienced changed her perspective of life, and now has a lot more compassion towards people.

“I think a lot of problems around the globe could be solved if people actually went and saw what was there, I think a lot of problems can be solved if people actually went and saw what was there,” she said.

“I think we have become very attached about the things we see on the news, but once you actually go and see them you realise that you personally can make a difference.”

“From this experience I definitely became more independent, it’s the first time I have travelled on my own, and I would definitely recommend this experience to others.”

“It helped me to build my compassion for others even though these people have so little they were always willing to give to others.”

Ms Jackson, who is currently in her final year of her undergraduate degree in phycology and Law and Society at the University of Western Australia, is in the process of setting up a registered charity to help send funds back to the school in Kenya.

“After receiving everyone’s donations and seeing where the money went and the effect it had, my host parents and I started a charity, which is a community based organisation,” she said.

“We are still in the process of registering and developing it to carry on from the donations I received from the Collie community and people I didn’t even know that lived in collie, so I thought that was really amazing and I want to say thank you to everyone who donated, your money made a difference.”

If you have a story you would like to share email shannon.wood@fairfaxmedia.com.au 

This story Collie girl embarks on experience of a lifetime first appeared on Collie Mail.