Fluid Branding's CEO Matt Franks recently embarked upon a volunteer trip to Kenya with a view to helping those in need. Here, he reflects upon his eye opening experiences, and conveys an image we can all learn from...

Matt's Volunteer Trip to Kenya

I've been intrigued and inspired for several years about the ongoing charity work my friends Ross and Lauren have been involved with in Kenya. This year I had the opportunity to see for myself where some of the money we've raised in recent years has been spent. It was one of the most humbling, heart warming and emotionally charged things I've ever done.

Loaded with backpacks and bags full of donations, a group of thirteen volunteers left Cornwall College on the final Sunday/Monday of June 17, heading via London and Nairobi to the rural community of Rongai, thirty minutes north of Nakuru. The trip was associated with Cornwall College and The Vanessa Grant Trust, and took nine students and four adult leaders to run various community, educational and vocational projects in this remote African town.

After settling into the volunteer accommodation, we toured the area and set about planning the next seventeen days of activity. Dividing the group effectively to share the skills and energy of the volunteers across the most needy projects was key, and the students were keen to get stuck in. We initially spread the team between St Michaels Nursery school built by Ross and Lauren in 2011, and a special needs vocational school across the town. With a thirty minute hot and dusty walk from the volunteer block to the schools, the daily commute to work back in the UK seemed a breeze. Dust and grit. You've never seen so much of it and it filled every nook and cranny!

Further projects ranged from donating school resources and working with teachers to improve the children's learning, through to decorating the new classroom last year's fundraising made possible. We visited local displacement camps and poorer areas of the town and surrounding countryside, donating solar lights to those without power, and much needed clothing and children's toys to families living literally from hand to mouth. It was all too apparent that for all those we could help with vital donations, there were vastly more people we couldn't reach. Any feeling of selflessness or altruism coming from helping those in dire need was totally outweighed by guilt and frustration of those you couldn't help. With crops failing this year due to lack of rainfall, the short term nature of our support also weighed heavy with me.

With unemployment so high in Kenya, the prospects for children leaving education is of real concern. With this in mind I had the privilege of delivering a series of business workshops around Entrepreneurship to thirty girls aged 15-16 at the Vanessa Grant Girls School. These girls come from all over Kenya and are sponsored or offered a scholarship, and will likely go on to university with the prospect of a successful career. Small business is often the lifeblood of a thriving economy, and the job creation which comes from this is seen as key to improving society here. The eagerness and intelligence of the girls I worked with was inspiring, especially compared to those in developed countries who live such fortunate lives.

"...the warmth, generosity and joy shown to us from the people was nothing short of magical."

The Kenyan people we met are faced with an incredibly tough plight. Reliance on poor infrastructure, widespread corruption, failing crops, lack of access to basic food, water and medicine. In spite of this, the warmth, generosity and joy shown to us from the people was nothing short of magical. The whole trip was a complete contradiction of emotions, serving both to question humanity yet restoring faith in the human spirit. I was personally left with a desire to support longer term projects. Education underpins the longer term improvement of lives there, helping provide a sustainable base to raise standards of living. However the more immediate issue of water shortage would be helped by the installation of bore holes. Many of those we met had to walk up to 5k each day to get dirty water from the nearest river. This required 20 litre drums of poor quality water being carried by hand, every day, simply to survive. Thoughts and discussions are now underway to see if we can help in this area on an ongoing basis.

We finished the trip by taking the students on a two day safari to the Masai Mara. We deliberately kept the accommodation basic and the whole experience as real as possible. We saw four of the 'big five' up close and personal, and it was a stark contrast to the previous fortnight of volunteering. An opportunity not to be missed, and it provided an incredible backdrop to reflect on our time with the people of Rongai.

This was an amazing experience and one I'd actively encourage anybody to do. I was lucky enough to take two of my own children this year as part of the student group. I believe it will have a profound and lasting effect on all of our lives.

If you would like to know more about how you can get involved in the future, or would like to make a donation, please get in touch by contacting marketing@fluidbranding.com.