Warning – This post contains information which some may find upsetting.
Whilst the library was the principal focus of our time at the KYGN School, it’s important to note that it wasn’t the only thing that was taking up our time there. There was plenty of other things that needed to be done as well!
As previously mentioned, half of the KYGN kids weren’t there when we were at the School, as they were enjoying an extended Eid break. But the other half, whilst not subjected to the rigours of a full/regular timetable, were still in lessons and needed to benefit from everything else KYGN does for them.
The other thing that needs to be pointed out – we were camping on the school grounds, not staying in luxury lodges or accommodation off site. So this meant the girls had to do all the usual stuff you have to do while camping remotely; but there were no washing machines, flushing toilets, running showers, or any of the other facilities they (and we) take for granted.
Responsibility and Independence
This trip, of course, was all about the girls growing up, dealing with things out of their comfort zone, and being proactive and independent. And, I have to say, they were very adept at organising themselves. They divided themselves in to three teams – a library team, a teaching team and a looking after our needs whilst also playing with the kids team – and rotated responsibilities, using the library as our base of operations.
Some of them adapted to teaching better than others. We had anticipated acting as classroom assistants, rather than actually leading lessons, but the girls didn’t complain and – whilst initially nervous – threw themselves in to it.
Considering they have zero experience, and considering they didn’t have lesson plans, flashy resources or any of the other things teachers rely on (believe me, I know!) they did very well. They kept the lessons simple, fun and interactive and the KYGN children responded very well to them.
They also responded well to the girls playing with them, of course. And, as, further demonstration of the girls’ willingness to roll their sleeves up and getting involved in all the jobs that needed to be done, they helped with tasks such as serving morning porridge to the KYGN kids too.
Toilet and shower blues…
When it came to discharging ‘camping duties’, they were fine with putting tents up and cooking, having had prior experience of them on our training weekend in Wales. Where they needed a bit more – a lot more – guidance was in matters relating to cleanliness and hygiene.
Luckily, I had the two massively experienced adults – a mountain leader and a qualified nurse – who were also part of the group to take the lead on this. The girls were nagged to within an inch of their lives on the importance of constant hand-sanitising; double washing pots, pans, crockery and cutlery (the latter two being of the plastic, reusable variety you get in outdoor shops); hand-washing clothes effectively; and, most importantly, good practice in using the toilet and shower…
Ever used a shared long drop toilet? Those of you who have will know it’s not a pleasant experience at the best of times; so imagine having to share two of them with 100 or so 5-11 year old kids. The look on Molly’s*, one of our younger girls’, face when she saw that the one she was about to use had some faecal matter around the edge from a previous occupant was a picture!
As if that’s not enough, we were also obliged to use the toilet as our shower space too. And showers consisted of dunking cold water scooped from a bucket over the head: another culture shock for us all to deal with!
The simple and elegant solution to the toilet issue was to ensure there was a bucket of water by the toilet door at all times, with which to ‘flush’ our waste (and, ahem, that of others) away, and ensuring that it was replenished constantly. This took a bit of time for the girls to get savvy to, but we got there in the end.
The shower situation? Well, they wanted to try and get away with scrubbing themselves all over with wet wipes at first. All that does is smear the dirt around your body! So, naturally, I led by example and once they’d seen how much cleaner I looked than the rest of them, they bit the bullet and went for it too! The first ‘dunk’ is the hardest; it gets so much easier after that.
Story of the KYGN kids (this is the upsetting bit…)
So these are tales of hardship but they do, of course, pale in to insignificance when you know what some of the KYGN kids have dealt with in their very young lives. Here are two examples…
One girl at the school, Tara*, is only three, much younger than the average intake. The girls all instantly fell in love with her as she was incredibly cute. But the reason she’s at the school is that her mother is a prostitute, her father has ran away and her sick grandmother, who she lives with, simply can’t cope with looking after her full time. Hence, her being enrolled at the School despite being underage.
And then there’s Louis. Born with deformed feet, he became an orphan before he turned one, and his guardian, his uncle, regularly raped him. The raping was so bad that his confidence evaporated, and when KYGN took him in he was mute, wouldn’t play with the other kids, and constantly soiled himself.
One generous volunteer paid for his operation to correct his feet, and supportive brackets to help him walk. By taking him in to the boarding house they were able to build his confidence to the point he is now longer soiling himself, and happily talking away and playing with the other children. It is truly a wonderful turnaround from where he was.
Incredibly sad stories, then, but given how happy and uncomplaining about their lot they were, very humbling too. KYGN has made such a difference to them, and where they and the other children would be without their help doesn’t bear thinking about. Needless to say, these stories spurred us on to get the library finished to help make a difference to these remarkable and inspirational children’s lives.
*Names of the girls, and the KYGN children, have been changed.