STUDENTS on a life-changing trip to Africa have witnessed poverty beyond their imagination after visiting a 14,000-strong community who live on a rubbish dump.
The shocking revelation came as a party from Darlington School of Mathematics and Science made their first ever trip to the continent.
Three staff accompanied a group of specially selected students on a 12-day trip to the impoverished community of Nakuru, three hours north west of Nairobi.
The group devoted its time to improving conditions in the local community including rendering, concreting and decorating buildings in 80 degrees of heat.
But it was the abject poverty that students found so moving. Teacher Natalie Bane explained: “I think we all found it upsetting to see 14,000 people living on a rubbish dump, picking over the scraps.
“None of us realised just how poor some people in this world are until witnessing it for ourselves. They really have nothing yet the children are lovely, full of smiles and hugs and always wanting to play.”
She said the DSMS students had returned from the trip determined to do more to help.
She said: “The only route out of such poverty is through education so they can help themselves. We were told that the first ever child from the dump has just managed to go to university so there is hope.
“But the schools can only take as many children as they can feed so need help. Our students want to do more and will be fundraising like mad next term.”
Deputy head boy Liam Pape said: “It was an eye-opening experience which was completely different to any other trip we have been on.
“We made a noticeable difference on the projects we were working on and I felt we also connected with the children despite language difficulties.
“Visiting Nakuru dump was a poignant experience. It has changed my outlook on life and made me a more grateful for my blessings.”
Headteacher Calvin Kilping said: “The trip has had a tremendous impact on school. It has broadened the horizons of those who went and what they witnessed has been fed back to all of our staff and pupils.
“We will keep the momentum going. The whole community got behind us when we had to raise £36,000 to send the students to Nakuru and I am confident this aim to make a difference will continue in the future as we strive to help those less fortunate than ourselves.”