Five Western students head to Kenya to build library, teach

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

In July, five Western students will head to Kenya along with 11 other students to complete the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is an international award encouraging self-development in youth aged 14 to 25 through completion of bronze, silver and gold levels. Individuals must participate in a wide variety of activities to complete each level.

In Kenya, the group will construct a library in the rural village of Sagana, teach classes at Riandira Primary School and climb Africa’s second-highest mountain, Mount Kenya.

The group chose to build a library because it provides a long-term contribution to the community, said Matthijs van Gaalen, a first-year Western student embarking on the trip.

“Literacy is very important in all cultures,” said Matthijs’s sister Rolina van Gaalen, a fourth-year Western student and fellow trip member.

“It’s a basic form of education and it’s something we can give them that will be lasting.”

“The goal is for the library to be used not only by the school but also for the whole community,” Matthijs said. “With literacy, we hope to create a sustainable improvement.

“Before we go, we will also be developing a curriculum of things to teach [in the school].”

The siblings decided to embark on the Kenya trip after Matthijs learned about the opportunity at his silver award ceremony.

“I’d like to be able to help and change things,” Matthijs said.

“I hope to go to Africa eventually as a doctor to help people there,” Rolina said. “I thought this was a good opportunity to meet people in Africa and learn more about their culture.”

Western students Graydon Bennett, Nicole LaRochelle and Julia Wong are also participating.

A Ceilidh, a Scottish-themed dinner and dance, takes place Saturday, March 24 to fundraise for the trip. The event runs from 7:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. in the Carousel Room at the Western Fair. It includes a buffet-style meal, live music by Kettle’s On and door prizes. Tickets are $50 and are available until Saturday, March 17.

“With the fundraising money, we’re going to buy our equipment [in Kenya] and hire three builders to help us build the library,” Matthijs said.

To purchase tickets, contact Matthijs at For more information on the Kenya trip, visit To learn more about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, visit

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