Volunteering at KYGN

I have never had so much fun buying chalk brushes. Seriously. I’m giddy!

We’ve started volunteering at a charity school in Mabogini, just outside of Moshi. The school was started in 2006 to address the needs of children who have no access to education because of extreme poverty.

Almost 10 years later, Kilimanjaro Young Girls in Need (KYGN) provides education for about 200 girls (and some boys). At break time all children receive a banana and porridge, which may well be the only food they get for the day.

KYGN also acts a a social service agency in the area providing medication, routine visits to “at risk” families, and sometimes rehabilitation for children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse.

A brand new safe house has opened at the school, which has two rooms that house children who simply cannot live at home due to dangerous situations.

The main school building is yellow and the pink house at the back is the new safe house for children

The main school building is yellow and the pink house at the back is the new safe house for children

Volunteering at the school has been a window into another world. Just riding the “dala dala” or bus to the school is an experience! Picture a mini-van with three rows of seats and a bench behind the driver’s seat. Now picture eight adults crammed in with two large Canadian children. Add about 30 students from Kindergarten to Grade Four along with two bushels of bananas and a large bag of oats, and that’s our bus ride to school.

We’re lucky because dala dalas for the general population are even worse. One volunteer today said her sliding door was left open because it was so crowded. Ours just falls off periodically when opened, but at least it’s shut when we are moving!

The school building itself is about three years old, but it depends on donations for its upkeep. There are no windows, just holes where they should be, because there was no money for glass. But honestly, we don’t miss them because the cool breeze is welcomed!

One Kindergarten class is held outside under a baobab tree

One Kindergarten class is held outside under a baobab tree

Some classes are held outside under a giant baobab tree. The tree also serves as part of the playground with a couple of tire swings attached.

Students who have classes inside sit at long wooden benches and desks that we would normally associate with turn-of-the-century Canadian schools.

We noticed that basic things are missing. Children sharpen pencils with razor blades because they don’t have pencil sharpeners. One chalk brush that has been scraped to the bone is shared among six classes (which is why I spent $5 today to buy a bunch for the school).


The teachers at the school are doing an amazing job with the little they have. The students in Grade Four speak English fairly well and are learning to write it, too.

The first day Al painted the outside of the new safe house, and the girls and I sat at the back of the Grade Four class observing. At one point a teacher asked me to give a lesson on nouns, so I got up and winged it.

The second day Claire and Sophie got in on the action. Sophie was asked what she wanted to teach, so she worked with the younger students on numbers. Claire worked with the same students on letters. Al and I worked together in one English class, and then we both went to different classes afterwards.

It’s absolutely amazing to see the work that has gone into pulling the school together. If this school didn’t exist, these kids would have no education and would likely end up on the street. We’re so energized to be a part of it!


8 Comments on “Volunteering at KYGN

  1. What an experience for all of you. I am so impressed by the way the girls are taking all this in there stride. Live the photo of the girls walking with all the little kids and the video..
    G.Pa is so proud of you girls..

  2. What an amazing experience that you will never forget. It should put next September’s back-to-school shopping into an entirely new perspective for Sophie and Claire. Sure makes my week seem mundane.

  3. I didn’t know whether to smile or cry while reading this. What a wonderful experience for all of you, and what an impact this journey must be having on Sophie and Claire. I bet the girls (and you and Al) did a fabulous job teaching! Not to mention the exquisite painting too! You guys are such great, caring people! Onto a totally different subject now….is it a trick of photography, or is Sophie now taller than you Heather?:-) Take care, Kim.

    • Ha ha – Sophie’s about a centimetre taller than me now! 🙂

      – Heather

  4. I loved reading this story Heather. What an experience the four of you are having. Keep up the good work, I am sure the school is grateful for your help, expertise and love.


  5. Fantastic Heather ! So proud of you all .
    Stay away from the door on that bus!

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