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Utah volunteers building schoolhouse in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya (ABC 4 News) Kenya is a land at once beautiful and brutal. In the Masai Mara reserve, hundreds of Wildebeest float dead in the Mara River. They drown trying to cross during their annual migration. Their carcasses now a feast for vultures and crocodiles.
NAIROBI, Kenya (ABC 4 News) Kenya is a land at once beautiful and brutal. In the Masai Mara reserve, hundreds of Wildebeest float dead in the Mara River. They drown trying to cross during their annual migration. Their carcasses now a feast for vultures and crocodiles.

Just a few kilometers away, a lion rests under the shade of an iconic Acacia tree. Tonight he will hunt.

The volunteers with the Utah based World of Difference foundation have seen that and more on a weekend safari in the tribal lands of the Masai. It was the experience of a lifetime and ABC 4 Utah cameras were there to record it.

Yet, the volunteers are not tourists in Kenya.

The trip to the Masai Mara is something of a reward for a week of hard work.

One group of work volunteers tore down a school of wood poles and corrugated metal in the Embakasi slum. The new school will have bigger classrooms of stone and mortar. That’s the first phase; later phases will add a 2nd story and a library.

The school in Embakasi was selected, in part, because the operator actually has title to the land, something that is rare in the slums.

Charles Otieno was a local volunteer who added muscle to the project. He was educated in another school built by the foundation. “I am not here if it weren’t for them,” Charles said. He’s now in college and is studying medicine. He explained, “I want to be a critical care nurse.”

While one group from World of Difference works on the school, two other groups are at Kenyatta National Hospital and Nairobi Hospital. These groups are made up of doctoral students in physical therapy at Rocky Mountain University for Health Professions.

Before they came to Kenya, the students were told they would be “shadowing” physical therapists at the hospitals, strictly observation only. On the first day, however, they were given “hands on” access. They worked from outpatient to the critical care ward. What’s more, the students found themselves teaching as well as learning. "The experience has been beyond belief," said Joshua Hall, a 2nd year student.

Now back in Nairobi from their trip to the Masai Mara, the volunteers are beginning a 2nd week of work. The school’s foundation has to be finished, so the wall can go up.

At the hospitals, there is already talk of making the volunteer experience a permanent collaborative effort between Rocky Mountain University and the Kenyan hospitals.

ABC 4 Utah continues to follow the work of these Utah volunteers. This fall we will show you the finished school and tell you the stories of Utahns who are making a world of difference in Kenya.

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