NEWS IN DETAIL...
Andrew's Return from Africa
A horticulture lecturer from Duchy College Rosewarne has just returned from a volunteering trip to East Africa - 26 years after he'd previously worked there.
Andrew Gunderson spent two weeks in the village of Rongai, Kenya volunteering on behalf of The Vanessa Grant Trust, which is a UK registered charity established to fund and support educational projects in Rongai.
Andrew, who worked in the neighbouring country of Uganda 26 years ago said: “It was quite emotional going back, I worked in East Africa for five years and have a lot of memories from my time there. They say that once you have tasted the waters of the Nile you will always return, and I found the people and places just as welcoming as before.
“We drove through the Rift Valley which I remembered for its dramatic scenery. The roads are better nowadays, as is communication with the internet and mobile phones present in most locations but there is still a lot of poverty with 80% of the population relying on subsistence farming for their living. For me, Africa stirs deep feelings, but we need to remember that life is hard and often quite short for many of its citizens.”
Staff and students from Cornwall College, of which Duchy College is part, are in Kenya as part of a fundraising project to help finance and build a new nursery on behalf of the Vanessa Grant Trust. Andrew was the only member of staff from Duchy College and he was only too happy to lend his horticulture skills to the project.
“The building is surrounded by a fence for security reasons so we wanted to make the surroundings pleasant. With funds donated by staff at Duchy College I was able to buy fruit trees from a local horticulturalist, these will give both shade and nutrition. A real highlight was in both receiving some advice about planting the trees and then being able to share some of my expertise in grafting with the person from whom I bought them. I also managed to brush up my Kiswahili - the local language I haven’t used in so long!” explained Andrew.
The group planted mango, avocado, guava and passion fruit vines and bottle brush trees. As well as helping to finish build the nursery school the volunteers have also been lending their expertise with some teacher training sessions.
“We donated a flip camera to the Vanessa Grant Girls’ School and gave some of the teachers training on how to use this. They will use the techniques to expand their teaching using PowerPoint presentations in class. I spent quite a bit of time with pupils and staff from the Rongai Agri-Tech Boys School; this was really interesting because Duchy is obviously a land-based college so it was great to share experiences.
“I had an amazing time, hard work but really rewarding. It’s good to see how things are changing – simple things like you can buy chocolate now. When I was last there I didn’t have a mars bar for four years - I took a supply of treats with me this time but could have bought them there!” added Andrew.
Part of Andrew’s previous work in Uganda was working for an aid organisation where they introduced breeding rabbits as a source of protein in diets and this is still happening in the region: “It was nice to see that the schools keep and breed rabbits, this was a relatively new thing to do 26 years ago but it obviously works.
“I’d love to return to Rongai and it would be fantastic if we could take some horticulture students as they would learn so much about planting and growing in different conditions. The College should be so proud to be involved with this project, it’s great to be working with the community and listening to what they need.”
The project is still receiving donations and is currently just short of its £20,000 target, if anyone can help please contact the College on 01726 226626.
Andrew Counsell, Head of Duchy College, said: “This is an extremely worthwhile project; it’s wonderful to see our staff sharing their expertise and skills with the Kenyan community and a perfect opportunity for Andrew to return to the country. I’m sure the students will love hearing about his time there, it really demonstrates the importance of sharing and experiencing different cultures.”
For further details about the courses available at Duchy College Rosewarne phone 01209 721321.