Kari Spence, 26, has set up Together in Sport Rwanda and is determined to make a difference to one small community that has experience so much poverty
A school trip to Africa in 2009 transformed life for one North Berwick High School pupil and a whole community in Rwanda.
Kari Spence, now a 26-year-old PE teacher, was so inspired by her visit to the Faith and Hope Academy in Rwanda, she set up a charity.
After years of maintaining contact with the school and working to help the community develop, she has created a ground-breaking initiative to help improve the quality of education both here and in Africa.
This summer Kari was in the position to select 18 young teachers from the UK to go and help out at Faith and Hope – and in turn take some valuable life lessons back to their own pupils.
And she is now looking for the next group of enthusiastic teachers to go out in July 2018.
Kari set up Together in Sport Rwanda specifically to work with the school in the village of Gako, in the rural district of Bugasera, Rwanda.
Many of the pupils are living in extreme poverty – under the shadow of the 1994 genocide which saw the mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu’s.
The group of volunteer teachers she recruited this summer spent time at the school both in the classroom and the sports fields, covering topics such as sex education, gender balance, numeracy and English and ended the two weeks by delivering a sports festival for all 500 pupils.
They also spent the afternoons sharing their expertise by delivering teacher education to the local teachers at Faith and Hope. This included helping the teachers work the laptops the charity had donated to the school.
Spence, who works as the PE specialist at Niddrie Mill Primary School in Edinburgh, said “Taking a group of teachers out to Faith and Hope has been a dream of mine for a long time. Thanks to the support of my trustees the charity is now in a place to drive forward our volunteering programme.
“This summer was above and beyond my expectations and I couldn’t have asked for a better team of volunteers.”
The teacher, who this summer was invited to the Queens Garden party in Edinburgh, in recognition of her charitable works, added: “This has not just been about passing on valuable teaching tips and guidance to The Faith and Hope Academy, it has been a two-way process, and these 18 teachers went back to their own schools with a slightly different perspective on life – which can only enhance the way they approach lessons in their own classrooms, benefiting the pupils they teach here in the UK.”
The group of volunteers also raised over £12,000, which means the charity can start building a water well at the school.
Currently the families in the village of Gako are walking over 5km to the nearest lake for drinking water, which is full of disease and the home to both hippos and crocodiles.
Speaking about his time at the African school, teacher Scott Fusco, 29, who is now working in Kuwait, said: “Before travelling to Rwanda, I had hoped to pass on my knowledge to the children and teachers at the school. I quickly realised that in reality it was me who was learning the most.”
Elayne Gray, who works at St Cadoc’s Primary, Newton Mearns, added: “Spending time with the children and learning about Rwandan history has given me so much to stop and think about it.
“If, in our country, we were to approach new things in the same positive and energetic way those children do; embrace differences with the same kindness and love; be grateful for the things we have no matter how small – we would gain so much more from life.”
This is the latest in a long line of initiatives that Spence has been involved in with the school.
She first visited the school in 2009 on that life-changing school trip when she was just 18, and set up the charity Together in Sport, Rwanda in 2012.
Through the support of five trustees, Together in Sport became a registered charity in March 2016 which has enabled the charity to grow and increase the support they are able to provide to Faith and Hope Primary.
They have built a kitchen so that pupils get a hot meal; started an initiative Friends of Faith and Hope where individuals from the UK are a part of making a difference to the school through monthly donations, raised money to buy land to build sports facilities for the pupils so they can play football, basket- ball and volleyball and is currently raising £20,000 to build a fresh water well.