The Red Rubber Ball Foundation have been providing scholarships to allow children in Kenya to attend secondary school since 2011 and in that time, 193 children have been able to continue their schooling.  That’s an amazing 630 school years altogether.

We asked what else we could do to help these children make the most of the chance their sponsors were giving them, and one answer was a workshop to help them develop a ‘can do’ mindset and attitude.

So in December, nineteen volunteers from the UK set off for Nairobi to work with the 100 sponsored children in school.  The volunteers had also raised funds to ensure the workshop could go ahead, with all the students’ transport, food, accommodation and materials provided.

The children arrived from all across Kenya and for many this was their first time in their capital Nairobi.  They spent four nights at the YMCA Central Hostel, making new friends from other schools and different tribes.  Though the accommodation was simple, one student explained that this was the first time she’d had a bed to herself, normally sharing with her siblings at home.  Another commented that “even the toilet had its own room”.  Their shared room had an en-suite!

The students spent two days at the All Saints Cathedral conference centre, enjoying games, videos, discussions and creative exercises.  It was totally unlike what they experience at school.  This included making their ‘Magic boxes’ to help them say “This Is Me”, allowing them to share their personal story with their new-found friends.  Whatever their background and situation, the children were encouraged to take pride in who they are and what they can achieve.

They heard from other students who have been supported by The Red Rubber Ball Foundation and are now studying at university or are in work.

Everything reinforced the message that ‘anything is possible … if you put your mind to it’, the theme of the programme.

Each student was encouraged to think about their ambitions and aspirations, and most importantly, actions they can take to help them towards these.  This included volunteering or seeking work experience in school holidays or offering to help out at a school or nursery as a teaching assistant.

And each child recorded a short video message for their sponsor back in the UK, giving a progress report on their school, favourite subjects and the impact their scholarship has on their life.

After two days working on their future, the children were treated to a day of fun.  First off was trip to the David Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary, and another first for many seeing an elephant up close.

Then off to the Bomas of Kenya cultural centre for a picnic lunch and display of Kenyan tribal dances.  It was chance for some of our students to show their own moves too, when invited down onto the dancefloor.

And finally, a presentation evening, with speakers, certificates, prizes, dinner, and of course more dancing.  They heard from Kinjah, the professional cyclist who mentored Chris Froome as he learned his skills on the tracks around Nairobi and is now a partner in our cycling club.

They were joined by children from the cycling club, who received their own certificates; by the mentees from our mentoring programme; and by some of the sponsored students now at university or in work.  In total we were 250 people – reflecting the wide and varied nature of the Red Rubber Ball Family.

A particular treat was a performance by around 40 children from Project Elimu, a ballet school based in the Kibera slums lead by Mike Wamaya, who was a top ten finalist in the global World’s Best Teacher prize in 2017.  This was another great example and display that anything is possible.

And so after four nights, the children headed back home to enjoy the rest of their school holiday, with great memories, new friendships, ………

And the volunteers also took much from the experience. Both Jon and Rosemary reported, “it wasn’t only the kids who gained”, while Alan described the pleasure of having “the chance to personally interview our children and many others, listening to their genuine messages of thanks to their sponsors and joy in being part of the workshop and the RRB family”.

It was truly memorable for us all.