Impressions of Brainhouse and Mathare

Rochelle Yeo tells us about her recent experiences in Mathare North.                                                  Mathare-Shops

In March/April 2017, I underwent my first trip to Kenya with ACEF. At the time I had been volunteering with ACEF for a year and a half so I was very excited about finally seeing the school, the students and the teachers that I’d heard so much about. Despite numerous meetings, planning sessions and research, nothing quite prepares you for what it is like in real life.  Mathare is a total assault of the senses; it’s loud, it’s busy and it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been, but it is one of the best experiences of my life.

Driving down a busy dirt track “road” displaying posters of the upcoming political elections, we turned a corner into the entrance of the slum. There were street-sellers in make-shift stalls setting up for the day selling everything from sugar cane to clothes. The houses themselves were corrugated iron shacks or partially-built crumbling buildings. The streets were crowded with people, cars, rogue chickens and pigs and adorned with waste everywhere you turn. It is exactly how you expect a slum to look.

The first day in the school was electric – we were greeted by almost 1,000 students and teachers, dancing and singing for our arrival. Even in the heart of the slum, the school felt safe and I was made to feel like a long-lost friend. The school was surrounded by an eight-foot wall which was both a preventative measure from gang-leaders and pimps trying to abduct the students for their selfish gains, but also for learning – the wall was painted with pictures of the anatomy and rock formations acting as ‘textbooks’ for the students, before the library was built. The classrooms were dark and the toilets were an ‘experience’, but it was a haven for the students; a safe place for them to live and with bed

The rest of my time at Brainhouse was spent building relationships with the teachers and students, learning about the horrors facing the students such as prostitution, gang culture, poor sanitation and hygiene, little to no access to sanitary care for the girls, no waste disposal system and the challenges the students face once they leave the school.

I left Kenya with a heavy heart – heavy with understanding and witnessing first-hand the harsh realities of the students’ lives in Mathare and the struggles that they face, but also a heart full of love for the people, that despite all the obstacles in their way, are some of the most inspiring, driven and beautiful people I have ever met. The people I met on this journey have inspired me to do all that I can to make a difference to the lives of students and teachers at Brainhouse Academy – hopefully together, we can change the paths of their future.

Would you like to be involved?

Over the coming years we are looking for some specific skills and talents to help on visits to Brainhouse Academy.

holly leaving holding handsWe have the very important green toilet project which will make such a difference to the lives f the children. Sanitary care for the girls in Brainhouse will go hand in hand with this project.

We will continue to work with the teachers developing their leadership talents and we also want to develop the career aspirations of the older students. If you could help to support youngsters in preparing for job interviews or in developing vocational skills, or if you can create any connections with the business community in Kenya we would love your help.