Surprise. Amazement. Motivation. They are just some reactions of staff members from Martin de Porres in New York after they visited Saint Mary’s Boys Secondary School in Nyeri, Kenya for the first time.
Social worker LaNette Burgess-Kelly, counselor Emmanuel “Sarge” Boyd, supervising teacher Alice DeRosa Premus and behavioral counselor Stefan Philip made the trip in April 2011 to learn more about twin schools. MDP is twinned with St. Joseph School in Keren, Eritrea, but this trip took them to Saint Mary’s.
Burgess-Kelly had always wanted to visit Africa and her interest grew as she got to know more about twinning. She wanted to see the schools and how they use donations. What she got out of the trip was much more since they had so much time to interact with students.
Burgess-Kelly and Saint Mary’s boys
“The boys that attend Saint Mary’s are incredible, remarkable,” she said. “That’s the main thing that I take away from the trip and that’s the first thing that hit me when I got there because they were so friendly and so welcoming and so curious and so knowledgeable. I mean, you could just actually sit with them-and I did-for hours and just talk.”
Aside from talking, the staff members toured the school, delivered donated sports equipment, hosted a basketball clinic and tournament, played bingo, and blew bubbles with students.
“You can never tell that these kids come from the crisis that they have because they have big plans,” said Boyd. “They want to be somebody. They believe in God first. They put everything in the hands of God. To hear young kids saying that, that’s a blessing for me.”
The visit surprised Boyd in many ways, including seeing the students during breakfast. “For (MDP) kids, we have napkins, knife and fork, spoon, cereal,” he said. “For them, it’s just a piece of bread and a cup of tea. There are no napkins and you have to have your own cup. So, there’s a big difference.”
The trip greatly impacted Boyd and Burgess-Kelly. It enhanced Burgess-Kelly’s vision of being Lasallian. “To see how they were so appreciative of everything that the Brothers were doing and their opportunity to be there and to learn and to get an education was…I still really can’t even wrap my brain around it,” she said.
Visiting Saint Mary’s helped Boyd feel more connected with the worldwide Lasallian family. “The kids praise the Brothers for saving their lives,” he said. “The Brothers are the mission.”
Aside from gaining a better understanding of twinning, the MDP staffers left Kenya motivated to find more ways to help the schools. MDP is working on ideas for ways to reach out and hopes to plan future visits.