In the run up to last Christmas, one of the items on our wish list for Arise School was a new kitchen for Atu, the school cook. Since the school opened just over two years ago, Atu, like so many women throughout Africa, has been cooking the daily porridge for her ever increasing “family” of pupils in the traditional way on an open wood fire. Lifting large and heavy cooking utensils on and off the fire at ground level is back breaking work. It is hard to ignite and keep the fire burning when the rains come and, not least, breathing in the fumes on a daily basis can cause health problems.
In one of our earlier blogs, we wrote about the anonymous donation we received in December from a retired couple to build a new kitchen, the result of an article in the St. Helens Star, our local newspaper. By January, the building work was already in progress. Never in our wildest dreams did we think that we would be able to raise enough money in 2015 to start to build the kitchen. We certainly never dreamt that less than three months into the New Year, the kitchen would already be in use. Last week, we were delighted to learn that the plastering and other outstanding work had been completed.
Whilst we were visiting the school at the end of February, we were able to share in Atu’s delight and great pleasure as she cooked the first meal for the children in her new kitchen. It is brick built, the labour having been undertaken by local fundi (workmen) as part of ACE’s policy to create jobs in the local community. Although still fuelled by wood, the smoke is channelled out of the building making it a much healthier environment for Atu to work in. There is also a stone work surface for her to prepare the food rather than having to do this on the ground or on a makeshift surface. Never in her wildest dreams did Atu think that she would have such a kitchen! She is so proud of it.
Like all the food served at school, that first meal to come from the new kitchen was so well received and enjoyed by the children at lunchtime. Now that they have breakfast each day, the porridge previously served mid morning, is eaten at the end of morning school. Sometimes it is possible to vary this, thanks to local donations of rice, beans or maize.
The day we were there, we watched Atu carry two huge containers of rice from the kitchen across to one of the classrooms where the children, hands already washed, were queuing patiently. Each child had a bowl of rice and a piece of watermelon. Hardly a word was spoken as they focussed on eating their food. Not a grain of rice was left! Never in their wildest dreams did the children think that, however basic, they would be getting two meals a day. To so many of them, it is making such a difference both to their physical health and wellbeing and to their ability to concentrate. It is making such a difference to their ability to make the most of the opportunity they now have of an education.
We hope that the couple who made these dreams come true know what a huge difference their donation is making at Arise School. They have made a lasting difference that will continue into the future. We cannot thank them enough.
Every donation we receive goes to Arise School and makes a huge difference to the children. Please help ACE to continue this work. Thank you.