Social justice trip evolves into permanent charity
The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney
Students and staff from the University of Notre Dame Australia who travelled to Kenya to connect with people living in an Internally Displaced Peoples camp say they are in the process of setting up a formal program that will continue to support a generation of students who will lead their community out of a life of poverty.
Three Notre Dame staff members, Tim Perkins, Julie Maakrun and Sean Kearney led 26 students from the University to present a $16,000 cheque to Aberdare Ranges Primary School for the construction of a new classroom. The staff and students also worked as volunteer teachers and classroom assistants at the school.
Primary Education Lecturer Tim Perkins said Notre Dame staff are making sure the relationship they have forged with Kenyan children remains in place and continues to bear fruit.
"We are currently making arrangements for a student trip to Kenya to be an annual event, with students working throughout the year to raise funds to be donated with each visit and for knowledge and resources to be exchanged on an ongoing basis," Mr Perkins said.
The program will become student-run, with students from the Sydney Schools of Education, Business, Nursing and Medicine set to participate.
Tim Perkins said he originally introduced the challenges faced by the Kenyan people to the Bachelor of Education students because of the need for teachers to develop an awareness of the interconnectedness of the political, economic and socio-cultural issues that affect all people.
"It is important for universities to help future educators see themselves as part of this global community, concerned with bringing knowledge to developing countries and learning from other cultures," Mr Perkins said.
"If social justice is to be addressed by teachers, they need to be informed, skilled and committed to making the necessary changes."
In 2007, the Kenyan federal elections led to horrific inter-tribal violence. Tens of thousands of Kenyans left their homes and businesses and fled for the safety of Internally Displaced Peoples Camps established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. One such camp is located at Nakuru, two hours northwest of Nairobi, where the not-for-profit organisation So They Can has established Aberdare Ranges Primary School and an orphanage.
Danielle Ashworth, a second year primary education student at Notre Dame, said the University's commitment to the Kenyan people is embedded in a desire to see the people flourish.
"It's not just about volunteering in Africa, and saying you went there, putting up photos on Facebook and putting the trip on your resume, it's about a lot more," Ms Ashworth said.
"It's about making a difference to the prosperity of a community in the long term and that's why we're asking people to join us to help the Aberdare Ranges Primary School."
Fourth year Education student Amy Johnstone, was inspired and humbled by the motto of the primary school, "Through effort comes success".
Indeed the motto and her experiences on the trip have inspired Ms Johnstone and her peers to continue to raise money for Aberdare Ranges.
"We will be fundraising through university parties this year. All of the profits go straight to the school where they are very much needed," Ms Johnstone said.
Fenech, Elizabeth, "Social justice trip evolves into permanent charity" (2012). Media Release Archive. 811.