Building pathways to acceptance
3rd December 2014

Over the October Exeat, ten Oundle School pupils, together with staff, ventured to Kenya. They spent four days around GilGil (north-west of Nairobi), working with Oundle’s partners at Ngecho Secondary School, Kimbo Primary School, as well as the GilGil Special School and Kivuli hostels ( Pupils also visited the new Restart Centre for street children, where they enjoyed rugby sessions with the residents and played rugby at a sports centre on the edge of the Kibera slum in Nairobi.


A highlight of the trip saw Oundle pupils and staff, pupils and staff from GilGil Special School and Kivuli hostels working with local workers to build a permanent concrete path linking two of the classrooms to the Kivuli hostels, where over half of the children, all of whom have physical and/or learning disabilities, board during term time.




Pupil, Laura Woodrow (17) commented, “Although witnessing first-hand the difficulties of some of the locals we visited in Kenya, especially those at the GilGil Special School, was sad in some ways, it was incredible to see the strength of these people. Even the young children, some of whom had suffered horribly and had severe learning difficulties, had smiles on their faces and were able to make incredible progress in lessons and in other aspects of learning. Although working with these children was at times difficult as many were not able to speak or had trouble concentrating, being able to teach them just something small or even just put a smile on their faces was hugely rewarding.”


Pupil, Lawrence Ward-Lilley (17) added, “The thing that made the Kenya trip special for me was its constructive nature. Everywhere we went there always seemed to be something for us to learn or help out with. This meant that the trip was mutually beneficial in that both we and the people we met were getting something from the experience. For us this was emotional and mind broadening and hopefully it was the same for them. We left something material of great value behind at the GilGil Special School which I hope will ease some of the burdens of their disabilities. I don't think I will be forgetting this trip anytime soon.”


Bella (15) and Emmy (17) Dixon-Smith concluded, Overall, the trip was an amazing experience and we will have lasting memories of the things we did and the people we met. It is so easy to take our privileged lives for granted, so when we experience a completely different lifestyle for ourselves, it really opened our eyes to the hardships that these people have to face every day. Because of this, it felt rewarding to help in any ways that we could, and we hope to continue supporting the places we visited through fundraising projects.”


After their four day stay at Malewa Bush Ventures near GilGil, the second leg of the trip took place at Ol Pejeta Conservancy ( near Nanyuki, where the pupils were hugely fortunate to go behind the scenes at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy Sweetwater Chimp Sanctuary, and the Northern White Rhino breeding programme. They were able to walk through the bush with the anti-poaching rhino patrols and take part in animal counts as part of the Ecological Monitoring team.


Tragically whilst the pupils were residing at Ol Pejata, one of only seven northern white rhinos, Suni died. He was born 34 years ago at the Dvůr Králové Zoo as the first-ever northern white rhino to be born in captivity. Together with one other male and two females, he was translocated from the zoo to Ol Pejeta in 2009.

From the Ol Pejata website: “There are now only six northern white rhinos left in the world. Suni was one of the last two breeding males in the world and no northern white rhinos are known to have survived in the wild. Consequently the species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race.

We will continue to do what we can to work with the remaining three animals on Ol Pejeta in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino calf.” 

Trip organiser, Ian Clark commented, “The two parts of the trip showed up various issues with the development of nations such as Kenya, and hopefully raised a number of questions in the pupils’ minds. We came away with more in terms of contemplation than we left behind in terms of aid.”


Back in February, History teacher, Trip organiser and Coordinator of Charities from Oundle School, Ian Clark led an exchange trip to visit GilGil Special School. Ian was accompanied by Oundle School’s Head of Community Action (CA), Liz Dillarstone along with three special needs teachers from The Phoenix (Special Needs) School in Peterborough – Sarah Norman, Anthony Skipworth and Janice Mountford. The aim of the trip was to build long lasting connections between the two special schools to enable support of GilGil’s Special School and the Kivuli Trust, along with resource provision and idea-sharing. The exchange also saw Deputy Headteacher, Rhoda Otieno, spend a week in the UK visiting The Phoenix and Marshfields Schools, as well as other projects supported by Oundle’s Community Action programme.


Armed with resources supplied by The Phoenix School together with puppet kits made by Oundle’s CA Crafts for Charity group and 100 bracelets made by a pupil from Marshfields School, Liz Dillarstone, accompanied by Mary Hewitson, an English Access Specialist teacher from Gladstone Primary School in Peterborough spent seven days volunteering in the classrooms at GilGil Special School, helping with literacy, numeracy and Kiswahili lessons as well as providing art and craft sessions for the children and teachers.


Liz commented, “It was a privilege to work alongside such dedicated teachers and carers at GilGil Special School and in the residential Kivuli hostels. Each child has a story and getting to see their progress in the six months since I last visited was for me a hugely rewarding and without a doubt life-changing experience. Through the selfless dedication of inspirational teachers such as Rhoda Otieno, these children’s lives have been transformed. Kivuli is a UK based charity run entirely by volunteers, resulting in very little by way of overheads. A little goes a long way in the lives of these very special children.”



The Kivuli Trust

The Kivuli Trust (Kivuli meaning shelter in Swahili) has built and operates two hostels at Gilgil Special School specifically for children with physical and learning disabilities. Its aim is help these ‘forgotten’ children receive specialist education and support within a regular school environment encouraging interaction with school aged children - which is essential in encouraging a new generation of understanding and acceptance.

Our Projects

Kivuli Trust opened its first hostel in 2008 in the grounds of the Gilgil Township Primary School.  With the support of the local community and the provincial government, it has been running successfully ever since.  It provides overnight care during term time for 68 of the more severely disabled children who would otherwise not be able to attend the government funded Special School. Many of these children have physical as well as cognitive disabilities making them especially vulnerable.  Before the first hostel was built, the Special Unit had only a dozen children and they struggled to make the journey there and back every day.  Sadly a number of the girls were raped on the way.  Most parents not only saw no point in helping them to get an education but regarded them as worthless and a mark of shame on the family.  As a result, these children were all too often neglected and abused, and had no hope for the future.  The building of the first hostel utterly transformed this dismal situation.

Awareness of the hostel has spread to the wider community prompting more disabled children to come forward and attend the Special School for their schooling.  In 2006, a single classroom provided education for 20 children but now the Kenyan Government has built a further two classrooms enabling over 100 children to receive an education.

Kivuli Hostel has been recognised as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by the Kenyan Government.   It regards the hostel as a flagship project, and an example of how disabled children – given the right support – can be given a worthwhile education. The aim is to encourage the Kenyan Government to view this as a sustainable model for the future.

The hostel has made a profound difference to the attitude of the local community towards disability.  Parents have seen that their children really are capable of learning essential life skills, such as brushing their teeth, cleaning themselves, washing their clothes and performing simple tasks, and therefore now accept them far more readily as part of their family.  They also realise that many of the children are capable of much more than that. The School’s motto is “Disability not Inability” and appears on the children’s school jumpers.

A representative from the Kivuli Trust commented, “The Kivuli Trust was founded because we believe these children have a rightful place in society. By building and operating hostels within the grounds of mainstream schools, we are visibly making this statement. Our hostels act as safe havens, providing children with regular meals, proper beds and the care and support that they deserve and thrive upon. We work in partnership with local governments who provide the classrooms and specialist teachers. Our aim is to teach these children essential life skills such as brushing their teeth, cleaning themselves, washing their clothes and performing simple chores about the home. The simple result, which we are witnessing, is that they become more readily accepted into their families and into their communities.”

For more information about and to support the Kivuli Trust visit:


Background Information on Community Action at Oundle School


Over 300 pupils are engaged during the year in providing service in the community in Oundle and surrounding villages and as far afield as Corby, Kettering and Peterborough. Pupils work in schools and nurseries, with the elderly and infirm; provide drama for special needs schools, environmental support work at the country park; offer ICT lessons for beginners; help at a local special needs club and produce a Community Newspaper (Oundle Chronicle to name but a few of the 30+ activities.


Pupils also help with Inner city holiday schemes and have regularly slept rough to raise money for St Basils’ homeless shelter in Birmingham.


Background Information on Oundle School


Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.


The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.


At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec, a major and ground-breaking new science complex opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. Phase two of the SciTec vision is now underway, with enhanced Design Technology facilities and a new purpose-built Mathematics Department planned to link the STEM subjects both physically and philosophically. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion in 2015.


There are currently 1110 pupils are on roll at Oundle School, with 865 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11. 

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