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 >

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 >

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 >

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 and every contribution from $1 up receives a big virtual hug from us.