Last year I introduced you to Jacqui Edwards, whose aim was to put her early childhood teaching experience to good use in a Kenyan orphanage. We’ve recently caught up with Jacqui, and asked about her original expectations, her experience, what the gap between the two was, and how this has helped her define new goals.

Jacqui knew the situation she was going to face would be hard to comprehend. Kenya is in a state of internal conflict. There are over 1,000 children living in the Giotto dumpsite, competing for food with pigs and vultures, and combating diseases and regular rapes. She set out on her journey with a number of objectives in mind; to volunteer her time working in a local school, and the distribution of water filtration devices to families that have little or no access to clean water.

Having spent most of her adult life working in education Jacqui believed this was her tool to utilise during her time in Nakuru. Her actual experience? Jacqui says, “what I failed to take into consideration was that New Zealand’s education system that not only values its teachers but is populated by professionals whose primary objective is to nurture enquiring minds and develop a well rounded future population”. This is not what Jacqui personally experienced in the Kenyan education system.

From the first day in the classrooms she noticed teachers turning up late, napping in the corner of the classroom, and leaving their class of 35+ unattended while running personal errands elsewhere. Hopes of implementing a Literacy Support Programme soon turned to disappointment when it become obvious that no one would drive it upon Jacqui’s departure.

The gap between Jacqui’s expectations and experience was large. But rather than giving up, Jacqui saw another opportunity. Prior to leaving New Zealand she had made contact with a number of other NGO’s and charities, and researched ways to actively work towards making even the smallest of difference to the lives of a few Kenyan families. Through support of friends, colleagues and acquaintances Jacqui had taken with her over 100 water filtration devices.

Jacqui connected with a grass roots charity Start Small and begun the distribution of her water filtration devices in and around the Rhonda Slum. She also spent time with a German organisation called HHF running medical camps in the slums where it became desperately apparent that water and medical aide are the major areas concern.

There are families living in Kenya’s fourth largest town and surviving on less than $20 per month. Jacqui witnessed mothers who had no choice but to give water to their babies that we wouldn’t deem fit for our pets, who went without their one meal a day simply so their children could eat. It was this, she says, that made Jacqui refocus her energy towards water and medical aid. “I couldn’t change the viewpoint of a government run education organisation, but I could possibly help small pockets of a desperate community”.

After six life-changing weeks Jacqui is a different person to the one that arrived. She admits, a little less idealistic, realistic about the level of corruption, but certainly more focused on working towards making a positive impact. The gap between her original expectations and her Kenyan experience has lead towards new objectives. Her focus now is contacting the medical and pharmaceutical communities throughout New Zealand, engaging them in a partnership with medical graduates to fund health camps to the most needy and vulnerable in the slums of Nakuru.

Jacqui’s commitment to turning her dream into a reality that has, and will continue to help the lives of so many families in Nakuru, is truly inspiring. While make a very real difference to their everyday lives, she has also brought their plight to the attention of many New Zealanders. Inspiring Performance is proud to be associated with Jacqui’s journey, she is a role model when it comes to taking a goal, making it happen, and adapting the experience to create new opportunities.

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