KENYA — Kathryn Merk sits with three children from the Eastern African Mission Orphanage.
Kenya summer trip a life-changing experience
By Frank Flegel
REGINA — Nineteen people, including seven Regina Catholic high school students, made what one student called a “life-changing experience” trip to Kenya. Kathryn Merk, had just graduated Grade 12 from Riffel Catholic High School, said what struck her the most was how happy the children were even though they had practically nothing when compared to what she has.
“It opened my eyes and makes you think twice about what you have. I appreciate more my family and my education.”
The trip was organized by Brian Chapman, English teacher at Riffel Catholic High School, through A Better World Canada, that operates out of Red Deer, Alta. The students came from different schools and included Chapman's family of four, a few parents and teachers and Chapman's 80-year-old mother.
“Our drivers nicknamed her Mama Safari,” laughed Chapman.
The founder of A Better World Canada, Eric Rajah, two years ago spoke at Holy Trinity Church next door to Riffel and Chapman took his class to hear him. Chapman said he was very impressed with Rajah and how he operates the charity that he decided to organize a trip to visit the several projects the charity established in Kenya.
“He doesn't believe in giving money; instead, he believes in giving them a hand up and fosters independence.”
However, Chapman said the group raised and contributed $3,000 to A Better World plus 19 hockey bags of goods they distributed among the projects they visited.
“We were basically goodwill ambassadors,” said Chapman. “Rajah doesn't believe in people coming over there and building schools. Why take jobs away from them when they can do these things themselves?”
A Better World Canada operates schools, medical clinics, orphanages and a dormitory for disabled children. “They can't go back and forth to school every day, so they built the dormitory beside a school,” said Chapman.
Merk said she was so impressed with what she saw that she intends to return sometime in the next four years, perhaps after she graduates from the University of Regina where she is studying kinesiology.
“It was the kids,” she said that made the most impression on her. “There was not one unhappy kid we met. They were so appreciative of our coming to see them.”
Merk said they became involved with the kids and taught them how to play new games and organized sports days. Merk said one of the things that really surprised her was the age of the teachers. Merk is 18 but some of the teachers were 16. Chapman said they were studying to be teachers but in fact were actually teaching their kids.
Merk said she would try and get a work term in Kenya with A Better World as part of her degree program.