From Kenya to Creative Support
My name is Hannah McCann and I have worked with Creative Support since June 2012. I am the Development Officer for Cumbria and I can happily say that I absolutely love my job. This blog will tell you a little bit about the circumstances that led me to this job, and why I enjoy it so much.
I studied Criminology and Sociology at the University of Salford. For as long as I can remember since being at university, I had always wanted to travel and often picked up travel brochures from local agents, trying to figure out how I could make it happen. When I graduated I moved back to my Mum’s house in Cumbria, to try and save some money so I could save to see some of the world. I got a job doing project management for the NHS and spent 12 months in the role of Benefits Manager. When my Granddad died later that year and left me some money in his will, I decided that it was time to do some travelling, and started looking at where to go.
I decided I would start by doing a volunteer placement in Africa. I’d done a bit of teaching at uni so decided to do a 2 month placement in Kenya as a teacher.
I flew out to Kenya on 7th January 2011 and lived with a reverend and his family, along with 8 other volunteers. I had been placed at a slum called ‘Gioto garbage slum’.
The first time I visited the slum it was like nothing I can describe. Gioto is a rubbish dump, piled high with 50+ years worth of waste and rubbish from the surrounding city of Nakuru. The rubbish is left there to rot. Every day when the new rubbish is dumped, the children come and sift through it, looking for things to eat, sell or wear. It is unsanitary and very unhygienic. I was watching babies eat mouldy fruit and children fight over a piece of old corn.
We built a makeshift classroom at the top of the slum and had a chalk board and some old cardboard to lean on. I started teaching English to a group of 54 kids. All of them aged between 11 and 18. The lessons ranged in content and I set homework and creative writing tasks. The children were incredibly smart.
After a month of teaching the children we realised that, whilst they were learning and enjoying themselves, they weren’t gaining the official qualifications they would need should they ever wish to leave the slum and get jobs. We set about trying to raise money to get the kids into local boarding and secondary schools to make sure they were being taught and fed. After a lot of work, we got all of our children into schools within the city, some into boarding school and some into secondary school. That is when the hard work began.
I now spend all my spare time making sure the project continues whilst the children are in school. I rely on donations to ensure the children’s fees are paid, and that they have uniforms, shoes and books to go to school with. I hold a few fundraisers every year and spend time giving presentations to schools, churches and clubs around Cumbria to try and raise awareness for the project. I go back to Kenya every year to oversee the transactions and make sure everything is up to date for the coming school year. This year I go back to Kenya on 30th November ready for the school term starting in January. This year all the kids need new shoes and uniforms, and some will need new books so there is a lot to do. I will also have to see which children need sponsors for the coming year and try and find people willing to sponsor a child.
It is a lot of hard work, to do what I do in the slums and it is often heartbreaking. When things go wrong or I hit an obstacle, it’s easy to come close to giving in, but to see the children progressing and developing is the reminder I need to keep going and keep working on the project. I love what I do and I adore my children. I can’t wait to go back and see how they are. Working for Creative Support has given me the encouragement I need to keep going and I’m lucky to have such a supportive staff team around me.
Hannah McCann, Development Officer