Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A final, and very important, thankyou.

The deadline has drawn to a close on our crowd-funding campaign. The buck doesn't stop there though, as we are definitely going over to Kenya, thanks to two very special people who have sat through the last month with patience and generosity and who have not been thanked yet. Curtis and Stu have so wonderfully encouraged us to do something that is both exciting and scary. They have pushed us during our daily doubts and eased our stress when flights and other bills need to be settled immediately, and we have empty bank accounts. But not only that, they have done this all after a year of us being so involved, emotional, stressed and erratic and maybe a little self-absorbed, whilst we tackle the infamous Master of Teaching. We may not be Masters just yet but we think we know a thing or two and what we are sure about is that the orphans at Mama's are lucky these guys live in this world.

So what a journey and we haven't even left for Kenya yet! Over the course of the last 30 days we have had our friends & family who have so much going on in their own lives support us with Likes, Shares and words of encouragement when they can sense our want to give up and throw it all in. Thankyou especially to those wonderful few that have been there by our side every day consistently, filling up your timeline with our links to encourage your own network to contribute to our campaign. You know who you are. :)

We have also seen that it is those that have less that often give more. When you receive an email to notify you of a contribution from someone you know has their own big expenses such as children and medical bills, or lives off a single income, it is a very grounding experience. Again, you guys know who you are, and we cannot express how eternally grateful we are.

Finally, for anyone who is thinking about fundraising for a cause close to your heart I want to let you know that asking for money is rewarding when you have wins, but it is undeniably exhausting. I went into this thinking it would be easy, because surely everyone understands that these orphans should be able to realise their human right to an education and will have some money to spare? I was wrong, because not everyone is convinced of that, or their passion in charity lies for a different fantastic cause. And some of those that do share your ideas simply cannot spare any money because let's face it, times are tough at home too.

There were moments in the middle of the day where I had to go back to bed because of the splitting pain in my temples from the stress of it all. Time spent not asking for money was spent thinking about other ways I could get money so I didn't have to ask for money. Remember this the next time you pass someone on the street who needs a few spare coins. I have no doubt it is something that Lena and I will never forget.

We didn't quite reach our goal but we feel very lucky and very humble for what we have achieved. $2420 in contributions plus money raised at the fundraising dinner makes an enormous difference in planning this project. Thank you again and forever to everyone who has contributed and supported us throughout this. We'll keep you all up to date when we are over there, but there is a chance we might fall off the grid at times, given the remoteness of where we will be. And if we don't see you before we go - catch you on the other side in late Feb!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

So You Want to Teach in Kenya Pt V - Let's get real & talk dollars.

Let's talk dollars.

Given we've dropped over a cool $1500 on vaccinations in the last 7 days, I thought it would be timely for our contributors, and potential contributors, to see exactly where there hard earned dollars are being spent.

Vaccinations - $1500
Visas - $110 plus $30 in secure postage for our passports
Accommodation & food for 6 weeks - $3900
Flights - $4400
Total so far - $9940

Crowd-funding target - $6500

Savings & borrowings to cover the difference - $3440

Typing that still makes me feel a little queasy!

When we first agreed to teach in Kenya, we estimated the costs to be around $8500. But typically, as with many holidays, the expenses grew. We're not prepared to back out of our commitment though - these children deserve access to education, its their human right.

So far we have raised $1125 thanks to some amazing contributors, of which many I know have like us been unable to work this year due to our intensive teaching & study schedule.

But we are still very much in the red with just 14 days to go! Can we make it?! Help us and make your contribution to the human rights of some very deserving people > http://bit.ly/excursiontokenya

Sunday, 30 November 2014

So You Want to Teach in Kenya Pt IV - World Aids Day 2014

I drove past this impressive installation in the city last night, realising that for the first time on the 3rd of January when we arrive at the orphanage will I knowingly work with someone who is HIV positive. Not just one someone, many someones, all of which are under the age of 18.

How lucky am I that my friends and family have not yet been touched by this epidemic. Regardless, like I will be, draw inspiration from todays successful events around the country for #wad2014 and do what you can here at home to help fight it with the right scientific research. This incredibly well-written comment by Australian writer and HIV activist Nic Holas gives you a simple non-monetary way to get started. He suggests that when 'we stop looking, we stop caring'. If you care but don't know where to look, take the first step and inform yourself with the facts about HIV.

So what has this got to do with teaching in Busia, Kenya?

Kenya has the fourth-largest HIV epidemic in the world. There are 1.1 million orphans to the epidemic, of which many now live with HIV. Mama's Childrens Orphanage homes some of these orphans that I will very soon teach.

My concerns lie not just within the present but also in the future for these children. They need access to the right treatment, care and support services to ensure a healthy and happy life into adulthood. They need to avoid HIV-related death. To seek they don't necessarily need money, but they definitely need knowledge. Knowledge comes from receiving what you have a human right to - an education.

We did it! We reached over $1,000 in donations by the 1st of December. There's still a long way to go. Contribute now to ensure these kids don't miss out on 6 weeks of schooling in January > http://bit.ly/excursiontokenya

Thursday, 27 November 2014

So You Want to Teach in Kenya Pt III - Why don't you just pay for it yourself?

So here's the post for those of you who have thought this, but were too scared to ask.

Look, we're totally cool with people thinking this. Why crowd fund when you can work hard and save the money to go over there?

To begin, let's be realistic. Once we are full time teachers, trips like this will no longer be feasible. Not only will we be short on time to go to Kenya, its highly unlikely we will spend our holidays doing our vocation. Teaching is EXHAUSTING. That's the honest truth. These kids rely on people like Lena and I who have not yet started full time teaching and still have the time and the new-teacher energy to embark on this journey.

How did this trip even come about? At the beginning of the year we were not planning to go to Kenya. Halfway through the year, we were not planning to go to Kenya. It wasn't until we were beginning our second round of student teacher placements did Chalkboard Kenya approach University of Melbourne teacher candidates about their project.

I have never thought about travelling to Africa, or at least not anytime in the near future. Something drew me to this project though. I applied, and got in. Lena and I got talking about it and I encouraged her to apply. She got in!

Getting over there is our current challenge. Having been unable to work more than a day a week whilst we tackled the notoriously hectic Master of Teaching meant there was little opportunity to save any dollars this year. In fact, savings accounts dwindled down to $0. This year was about survival; (barely) living off Austudy whilst smashing out assignments and fending off nervous breakdowns along the way.

The biggest challenges lie ahead. In response to someone suggesting that by crowd funding this trip we are 'white people crowd funding our holiday' (which by the way, I won't even address what the colour of our skin has to do with the price of fish), our friend Nick, a new teacher from our course said;

'If you think that teaching classes of students who speak a different language in a place completely unfamiliar to you with limited resources, while experiencing culture shock, and grappling with learning theories and behaviour management strategies in your first year out as a teacher sounds like a holiday, then maybe you should do it too!'

This experience is without a doubt a once in a lifetime opportunity for two new teachers that have an avid interest in the human rights of children, the wellbeing of children and the equal access to a good education that everyone should have despite your social, cultural and economic demographic. But let's not pretend it is going to be anything like a holiday.

We are not asking for you to pay for us to experience Kenya, we are asking you to pay for these children to have access to an education for 5 weeks in January.

We don't expect a free ride. Our planned holidays in 2015 have been cancelled. Clothes, big nights out and any sort of luxuries are now our contraband. We are living as tightly as possible and working as much as possible to earn money to go towards the trip. We still need more help though, and that's where you generous souls come in.

If you agree and want to give a little something to these kids who have already lost so much, show your support! Our crowd funding campaign is here > http://bit.ly/excursiontokenya

Monday, 24 November 2014

So You Want to Teach in Kenya Pt II - Let's talk about Ebola

Hello there,

Thanks for joining me again. Today let's talk about the risk of catching Ebola in Kenya. This has easily been the most-asked topic I have discussed with friends and family to date.

So will Lena & I contract Ebola when we are in Kenya? The answer is: it is very unlikely.

Ebola is a devastating virus has taken the lives of thousands of West Africans. This Getty image taken from this BBC News article shows you where these deaths have taken place.

This is where Liberia, Sierra Leone & Guinea are in Western Africa:

Kenya sits on the eastern side of Africa, as this map demonstrates:

And the Kenyan government are on high alert for any visitors to Kenya who might be spreading the virus as this reassuring article reports.

Further, not only is the orphanage located on the other side of Africa, across the width of a continent, it is also in a remote village called Busia which is over 400kms from Kenya's capital of Nairobi where travellers from outside Kenya arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

So whilst we will of course exercise a high degree of caution whilst in Kenya, it is very unlikely we will come into contact with anyone carrying the Ebola virus.

Use your concern about Ebola to help with the crisis! Sign this petition to Julie Bishop!

We have just added $1 and $5 perks to our campaign. Virtual hugs and personalised 'with thanks' for your contribution. Support us here > http://www.bit.ly/excursiontokenya

So You Want to Teach in Kenya Pt I

Telling people I want to teach in Kenya has been met with a range of reactions. Many have been excited and many have also been wary, with concerns for my safety and wellbeing. These concerns are all valid, when what we read online and see in the media about Africa can be quite confronting at times.

The questions I have been asked so far are not dissimilar, so I thought what better platform to answer these and debunk some myths about Kenya using my dusty old blog. I'll do this over a series of blog posts and I will cover topics such as the risk of contracting Ebola, political unrest in Africa, safety for females, working with children with HIV, as well as any other questions I receive along the way.

Today let’s talk about this: why teach disadvantaged kids overseas when there are so many here in Australia?

Firstly, and put simply, the timing to go couldn't be any better. It happens to be before the start of the Australian school year, which means I will be back in time to teach in Australia in 2015.

Secondly, you're absolutely right, there are many disadvantaged students in Australia and they are the reason why I started my Master of Teaching. I'm interested in how we can improve education inequality for students from low socio economic backgrounds within Australia and in particular, our indigenous kids. If you feel the same, I recommend you like the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation on Facebook to keep up to date with their local campaigns.

And finally, this experience can only benefit the research I will undertake to help close the gap in educational disadvantage for students in Australia. Within the classroom, surely a well-travelled, worldly art teacher can only be a good thing? Essentially, not only will this experience benefit the children at Mama Children's Orphanage, it will benefit students in Australia on a totally different level.

Lao Tzu once said "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." What a tremendous, but important, first step to take on my journey to become a teacher.

We know this trip is not for everyone, but there is no denying that someone has to make sure that these children receive their human right to an education. Thankfully the orphanage works diligently to make sure these students can learn from teachers around the world. But its not easy for them to get people to commit. From the thousands of teacher candidates contacted in Australia, only 3 have signed up to teach these kids for these 5 weeks from January.

Lena and I want to help in a small way. If you're interested in helping us get over to Kenya and in turn help these inspiring young people, then any contribution would be greatly appreciated. We offer some awesome perks at our crowd funding page here www.bit.ly/excursiontokenya and every contribution from $1 up receives a big virtual hug from us.