We helped sponsor member Sophie Gibney’s trip to Kenya, to spend 10-days delivering vital social action work and make a life-changing difference to those who need it most.

Sophie is 24 and works in a special education setting in Liverpool teaching a Year 11 class and has volunteered at Everton in the Community (EitC), the official charity of Everton FC since she was 17, and is now close to reaching her 300 voluntary hour mark.

The trip to Kenya was originally planned for April 2020, however due to the impact of COVID-19, it was postponed and later rescheduled for April 2023.

EitC had previously visited West End Destiny Academy in 2018, a primary school located on the outskirts of Nakuru, Kenya, that provides free education to students aged 3-14 who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and returned earlier in April to help build a new classroom, and donate supplies to the school, such as stationary, hygiene products and medical equipment.

It was organised by Katie Bramhall, and Stacey McMahon, volunteer coordinators at EitC, and was booked through African Adventures – a unique travel company that specialise in providing life-changing trips and are partnered with over 20 schools in developing areas of Ghana, Kenya, and Zanzibar.

Now she’s back from Africa, we caught up with Sophie to hear all about it…

What did you get up to while you were there?

We arrived in Nairobi, and were provided with an in-country host, that would show us around and translate for us when needed, we then travelled by coach to a small county called Nakuru, and once checked-in to our accommodation, all the volunteers got together to get to know one another and discuss what we would like to get out of the trip.

On the first day at West End Destiny Academy, we were welcomed by a beautiful performance from the students of ‘Forever Everton’ which they remembered from the previous EitC visit – this brought most volunteers to tears before even entering the school grounds. We then got to know the students, played games and they even showed us their amazing dance moves!

As the week went on, we gave out some school equipment, which the students were delighted with. We completed a small activity wherewe all drew around our hands and wrote qualities inside like ‘I am kind’ and ‘I am smart’ – back atour accommodation, I took the time to cut around each hand, and the next day asked Miss Val (headteacher) if we could use them to create a display in the classroom, which she agreed. With the help of Miss Divinah, the hands were displayed above the chalk board, which they kindly named ‘Sophie’s Mural.’

As we neared the end of the week, we sorted through the clothing donations to give out to the students. The looks on their faces receiving the clothing is something I’ll never forget, the boys were jumping and screaming when given the football t-shirts, and two of the younger girls were hugging and crying.

From the money raised through donations from ECU staff, and friends and family, we visited the local mall to purchase food parcels for 5 families. We visited the neighbourhoods where the students lived and were welcomed into every home. The families were all so grateful to receive the parcels.

On the last day of our school visit, we spent the whole day with the students, we learned some Swahili songs and dances like ‘Kuna Kuna’ which I haven’t stopped singing since. As the day come to an end, we were invited into the classroom for the end of week ceremony, the headteacher and students gave us lovely certificates, lots of cuddles, and memories that will last a lifetime.

“I don’t want to say goodbye, because goodbyes hurt, instead, I want to say see you soon!”

Was there a highlight or a particular experience that stood out the most?

We visited lots of amazing places, like Nakuru National Park, The Equator, Thomson Waterfalls, Menengai Crater and the Giraffe Sanctuary, however the moment that stood out to me most was the Nakuru County Tipping Yard.

We were shown around the tipping yard, where it was explained that every couple of hours garbage collectors would drop off the towns waste and the local families would begin to look for their evening meal. There were hundreds of families, as well as many animals such as pigs, donkeys, and dogs going through the garbage. Our in-country host had advised us to wait to purchase souvenirs, as there were families who created gifts like bracelets and necklaces from the items they would find, and these were the families who needed the money most.

On our way back to the bus, a little boy named David ran up to me and grabbed my hand. He held it the entire walk back to where we had parked. I placed my sunglasses on his head, which he immediately removed and tried to give back. As soon as I said, ‘you keep’, his face lit up completely, it was a moment I’ll never forgot – the smallest of gestures like a hug or a smile meant so much to these children.

We were also honoured to be invited to the Governor of Nakuru County’s office. There we met to discuss our partnership and to learn about the progress of sports in Nakuru County. They were eager to learn more about the local football clubs in Liverpool and invited us to visit their local athletics club nearby.

What is your biggest takeaway from the experience?

It has completely changed my entire perspective on daily life. Being able to shower freely, eat full meals three times a day, drink safe water and grow up in a safe area. These are all things I have taken for granted.

A very special thanks goes to ECU for making this trip possible, it is clear that the staff and CEO Karen Bennett have a genuine interest and care for not only the local communities, but those far and wide – thank you for being so patient with your sponsor and for your support every step of the journey.

I would also like to say a massive thank you to my family and friends for attending fundraisers and raffles and going out of your way to donate to the cause. You have contributed to this trip in ways I couldn’t begin to explain.