Since 2017, secondary school students in western Kenya and in county Durham in the UK have been partnering and learning from each other about community-led conservation. We look at how the support of Rotary has strengthened this Digital Bridge between countries and encouraged students to share their experiences and their dreams for a sustainable future.
The power of connection: building bridges between the UK and Kenya
Barnard Castle School in the UK and Kipsaina High School in Western Kenya have cultivated a great friendship – based around the long-standing links between a ‘Barney’ teacher, Sam Forsyth and the Disney World Conservation Hero based in Kipsaina, Maurice Wanjala.
Maurice and Sam first met in the 1990s when Sam was a wildlife cameraman working in the region where Maurice had founded Kipsaina Crane and Wetlands Conservation Group (KCWCG) as an innovative community-led conservation charity in 1991. They have been firm friends and collaborators ever since.
From the beginning, Maurice worked closely with the schools in the region so it was natural that as Sam moved into teaching this became part of the collaboration.
Supporting Young People to Connect and Shape Their Futures Together
“To be multidimensional, to seek out opportunities for growth and to develop a set of transferable skills fit for the global market place. We will prepare young minds to embrace new challenges as they present themselves. All those in our community should develop and apply a strong moral compass.”Barnard Castle School Strategic Goal
The aim was to create a partnership between community conservationists in the UK and Kenya, with exchanges of experience and ideas and Barney school pupils developing fundraising campaigns for their Kenyan peers.
With funding support from Barnard Castle Rotary Club and wider Rotary support from the region, computers, digital routers and big screens have been supplied to Kipsaina High School in Kenya. As well as providing critical resources for access to educational resources generally, this has allowed Kipsaina’s pupils to connect with Barney studens over Zoom.
The schools talk regularly, and pupils can even attend the same training sessions together fostering shared experience and engagement – and now a joint Peace Advocacy project.
In October 2021, pupils from both schools attended an inspirational session by UN-award winning Peace Advocates, Keith and Jean Best. As a result, the schools formed a Youth Peace Collaboration and they are now producing a digital magazine together and planning how this UK-Kenya network can bring the shared priorities of young people for a sustainable and equitable future to the fore.
KEEP: The Kipsaina Education and Environment Partnership
As well as the on-going exchanges, the partnership has also led to the formation of a UK charity to support the work of KCWCG in Kenya.
The Kipsaina Education and Environment Partnership, known as KEEP was set up in 2017 by two old Barnardians (Rubel Quader and current Barney teacher Sam Forsyth) and a Barney parent (Mary Charrington).
KEEP is now supporting KCWCG to secure funding from international partners – include Ecosia (LINK to related Blog). The team are also working with support from Thinking Philanthropy to set up a new social enterprise in Kenya which will enable KCWCG to grow its capacity to produce indigenous trees from seed, and to trade in produce and products, as well as carbon credits.
Paul Easton, who joined Barney School as a teacher in 2022, will be joining the Board of the social enterprise along with KCWCG Chair, Dr Beatrice Khamati Njenga, former Head of Education for the African Union.
With Thinking Philanthropy, they will be identifying ways in which Business Studies students in the UK and Kenya can support on the business plan, marketing and funding of the social enterprise. Look out for more updates!
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