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Season of thanksgiving and giving back

 Scenes from Namelok Girls Secondary School during a festive season. {Jayne Rose Gacheri, The Standard}

The month of December is associated with the festive season that comes along with many opportunities to mark the celebrations in different styles. It is about celebrating the values that bring us together in life as friends, families, strangers, colleagues, and the less fortunate, as we share togetherness, generosity, and gratitude. 

The festive season allows us to gather with those that we love and care about allowing us to express our gratitude and appreciation for them. A “season of cheer”, a time associated with forgiveness, giving thanks and gratitude, a time for giving. 

This thought came to mind, and as I was exploring what to do, an opportunity tagged along through an invite to join a group of tour operators who were travelling to Namelok Girls High School, Kajiado West.

The offer ignited my Christmas mood - one of thanksgiving and a bit of giving back to the community through what I do best (story-telling), I would be travelling to a new destination, Imbirikani, Kajiado West, with a group of professionals and experts from the tourism industry on what I was looking forward to -  a “ giving back” mission. 

I was excited about turning this into an escapade, while at the same time, I would be in good company. However, the best part was that I would be witnessing and learning how a noble and humble deed can turn around the lives of an entire community. 

I learnt from Mary Muricho, organising Secretary, TOSK that they “adopted” the girls’ school, two years ago when a group of members visited the school and found it “ in dire need”. I was anxious to find the status of the school after the adoption. 

The other exciting news for me was the road trip. After tens of road trips, some planned and others unplanned, I have learnt to turn each one of them into an escapade opportunity. Every trip, whether a new one or a repeated one provides me with opportunities to learn and discover something new - each travel coming along with new experiences and takeaway memoirs. 

I missed my pick-up by 10 minutes due to a mishap, but fortunately, I got an alternative option, to travel privately, an added lesson that sometimes it is not expensive to travel to a destination, (thanks to the tax apps).

So instead of cancelling my road trip, and the opportunity of “giving back” and discovering a new destination, I found myself in the company of a valuable driver,  Nicholas Mutunga, who doubled as my guide. 

It is interesting how a private drive can reveal things that you might have missed when travelling by PSV or driving yourself. I noticed a few landmarks along the Langata-Rongai road, and after the Galleria turn-off, to the Nairobi-Rongai road, my entertainment began with the “triumphant trooping” of the baboons from the Nairobi National Park.

Their grunts, barks, yaks, and wahoos, seemed to be in celebration of having lots of food due to the ongoing rains. They looked well-fed and healthy unlike they were two months earlier during the draught. 

We drive through the “noisy and unorganised town of Rongai, the largest town in Kajiado County (headquarter is Kajiado town), but this time round, I notice some “sobriety”. Hopefully, this trend will keep up. Less than five kilometres from Rongai, the drive gets scenic as we approach Kiserian town. 

Past the town of Kiserian, along the Nairobi-Magadi highway, the countryside gets scenic, with hundreds of acres of expansive green wild terrain dotted with a few structures. This gets more spectacular after Corner Baridi, (cold corner), and true to its name, it is a sharp corner, and the weather is quite chilly. This is the furthest I have been on this road. 

Less than a kilometre, I turn to my left, and I “wow” at the scenery - one that reminds me of the Rift Valley viewing points along the Nairobi-Maimaiu highway. In fact, for a moment, I think that I am at one of the viewpoints, but when I turn to my right, I see the seven hills of Ngong at a close distance, I  almost stretch my hand to “touch and feel” them. Their beauty is gorgeous from the Corner Baridi viewpoint, quite different from the Ngong side view. The hills from this side look unexplored too. 

We continue our drive through the winding road, taking time to experience the natural landscape, away from the drab and dreary urban life.  I resign myself to an “endless” drive, but alas, hardly 45 minutes drive from Corner Baridi, Mutunga announces that we are at our destination. 

I turn around, and to my left, I see a signboard that directs us through a well-marked and landscaped driveway. A few metres away, we were at the administration block. I find most of the TOSK members have arrived and joined the team for a briefing. 

The day’s highlight is the groundbreaking ceremony of the ablution block for the more than 300 girls, who for three years have been using an open space as bathrooms. The girls are on holiday, and I learn from Rosebell Mugambi, the Namelok Girls High School project coordinator that this is meant to be a surprise and a New Year gift for the girls when they open the school. 

To confirm, Daniel Mbugua, TOSK Chairperson oversees the signing and handing over to the contractor the contract, a ceremony witnessed by TOSK membership in the presence of the school principal, Beatrice Gitundu. He says his organisation supports the education and skills to equip vulnerable and disadvantaged girls from the Namelok community. 

“This project is special to us because as cheerleaders, we believe every girl child deserves an education, and when one of our members accompanied her friends on a visit, she was appalled at the situation they found,” said Mbugua, adding that vulnerable girls, who were the pioneers of the school were in dire need to pay their school balances, or else, they would not be able to continue with their education. 

The Principal reaffirmed that the girls “would be super excited and delighted to find the development as it meant no more chilly bathing that exposes them to cold and diseases, considering that being located on the windward side of Ngong hills, the situation is dire,” said the Principal. 

She said Namelok means sweet, adding that so far despite the challenges the school that was set up during Covid-19 in 2020, has witnessed tremendous growth because of well-wishers like TOSK, who have been sensitive and supportive of the school’s, and girls’ needs. True to this, during this visit, TOSK had come with another gift that will be a “sweet” surprise to the girls when the school reopens. 

“Making a Positive Impact Together! Today, TOSK members have shown that by coming together, a positive impact can be achieved, and through supporting the girls of Namelok, we can make a difference in their community and beyond,” said Muricho. 

She said TOSK believes in setting the pace by putting communities first, giving back, acknowledging and rewarding champions, and making a difference in the lives of communities because these provide peers to their businesses. 

A tour of the school, revealed the strides by the “giving back” project that so far has led to the installation of water tanks and a washroom block alongside what the principal terms as “the best part” of the TOSK story - that of ensuring that no girls miss her education through the clearance of overdue fees balances. 

On my way back after a satisfactory “Out and About” experience, I got a lift from Livingstone Wakalo, who has been in the industry for the last two decades. From this ride, I gather informative insights from the expert about what entails to be a tour operator. 

Indeed, every trip and travel is an experience!

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