On Friday 27th October, the snow covered peak of Mt Kilimanjaro lifted itself above the cloud as we walked with our visitors from our accommodation to the school. We were, of course, accompanied by Barnaby Bear and his companion, still to be named! (see last week’s blog).
It was the day prior to the official opening and celebration of five years of operation of Arise School. We wanted our visitors to have the chance to see round the school before the day itself and, for those who had not previously been to Arise, the opportunity to meet Frank and Salome who have worked so hard and with such commitment over the last five years to realise the school.
Enjoying their mid morning break when we arrived, the children rushed to greet us. They gave us such a very special welcome. One of our first time visitors, Sylvia Thomson, the Headteacher of Cronton C of E Primary School, wrote:
“We arrived at the school on Friday to a magnificent welcome from all the pupils and staff. The children sang a number of songs, including the School Song and National Anthem, accompanied by the school percussion band. They sang with such passion and enthusiasm it was overwhelming and created such a welcome that all visitors were truly moved. What a magnificent start to our visit.”
As always, listening ourselves to the children singing in such green, pleasant surroundings and seeing the progress since our last visit – three more classrooms nearly completed since July – didn’t fail to bring a tear to our eyes. Liz, who has previously volunteered at the school and returned with us for this very special occasion, clearly felt the same way. She sent us this piece:
“I volunteered at Arise School in September 2016 and totally embraced the experience, loving the children, admiring the staff and shocked by the stark poverty. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to return to Arise School to take part in the official opening and 5 year celebration. Once again, I was completely overwhelmed by the welcome all of us visitors from the UK were given by children and staff. The children sang their welcome, including the National Anthem; it was a hugely emotional experience and I did cry tears of happiness to be back at Arise School. It was a privilege to participate in the celebration day on 28th October.”
As we showed members of the group round the school, many preparations were underway by both staff and pupils for the following day’s celebration. All of our visitors had either previously been to the school as volunteers or heard a lot about it from ourselves. All were agreed on one thing – Arise School has to be experienced personally to really understand the difference it is making to the lives of its students, many of whom would not otherwise have the opportunity of an education.