Climate Run returns to Norfolk to bring more help to Kenya

The ground-breaking Climate Run project was held for the first time in Norfolk back in April.

After much deliberation since then organiser Yvonne Mason yesterday confirmed to the EDP that another Climate Run event will be staged in the county next year. ADAM LAZZARI reports.

Yvonne Mason has just from an emotional trip to Nairobi, Kenya with some great news.

She went with a party of 42 students and nine staff from four Norfolk schools where they met some of the pupils and teachers who will benefit from, �3,500, half of the money raised at April's Climate Run, with the other half going to environmental projects at Norfolk schools.

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The desperate conditions they witnessed, which the Kenyan people deal with on a daily basis, reduced many to tears.

Kenya was chosen to benefit from the Climate Run because it is a country deeply affected by climate change.

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Long droughts that have persisted since 2005 have dried up grass and water sources and destroyed large herds of cattle.

Approximately three million farmers are losing a way of life that has sustained their people for thousands of years.

News that the Climate Run will be held again next year will be a massive boost to the pupils and teachers from the three schools visited.

They are all in the severely deprived Jericho slum area of Nairobi and are given the equivalent of just �1 per student each year to educate them.

Mrs Mason, founder of The Mason Trust, a not-for-profit organisation which provides educational and career support for people aged 12 to 25 in Norfolk and Suffolk, said: 'Yes, I can absolutely confirm that The Climate Run will be going ahead in Norfolk in 2012.

'We are aiming to do it in September and to do it at a location in central Norfolk, as this would enable more schools to get involved. This location has not yet been confirmed.'

April's Climate Run was held at the Holkham Estate, near Wells, and saw about 1,200 Norfolk secondary school and college students take part in a 5km fun run and attend a careers fair focused on show casing the great number and wide range of career opportunities within Norfolk's energy industry.

Mrs Mason said: 'We learned lots of lessons from April's event and a priority is to get a greater volume of students next year.

'Some students didn't seem to understand fully what the Climate Run was all about; some just thought it was a fun run and didn't understand the educational and careers side to it or the environmental message behind it. 'Since April I've been into 12 schools and done presentations to get the messages across and to talk about our trip to Kenya and how the Climate Run has helped people over there.'

Mrs Mason was joined on her 11-day trip to Nairobi by pupils and teacher from Cliff Park High School, Gorleston, Acle High School, Norwich, Flegg High School, in Martham near Great Yarmouth, Robert Kett Junior School, Wymondham and Methwold High School.

They visited Rabai Road Primary School, Dr Craph Primary School and Martin Luther Primary School.

The trip was part of the Starehe leadership project, organised by Cherry Crowley, a former head teacher of Flegg High School.

The project is in its fifth year and has seen more than 250 students and teachers from across Norfolk supporting students in Kenya and gaining leadership skills from it.

It has been funded by The Mason Trust for the last three years.

Mrs Mason said: 'When we arrived at the first school on Rabai Road the pupils gave us a rapturous reception and we have no doubt that the visits by our students provide a very welcome highlight in an otherwise desperate existence.

'It is difficult to convey with words the emotions of the visit, from the pride in our young people as they worked with the Kenyan students to the numb reality of the life and conditions found there.

'But it was clear that our previous visits had made an impact as basic projects such as tree nurseries, vegetable gardens and some building improvements had been undertaken.

'It was therefore a natural progression to allocate the funds raised by the schools at The Climate Run to this project; many of the slum inhabitants have come in to the city from their villages where lack of water has ensued in drought and famine. The conditions found in the schools range from difficult to dire.

'Teacher ratios are in the region of 700 pupils to 14 teachers and they have to make their educational materials, which double as covers for the windows, from maize sacks.

'The conditions found in the reception class brought tears to many of us. But the quality of teaching is excellent and we were very impressed with the high standards in the basic three rs .

'Our students prepared lesson plans and delivered them professionally and participated in sports and play groups. Lessons were delivered by hand painted murals on the school walls.'

The Norfolk students have implemented a porridge programme where each pupil receives a bowl of porridge a day.

By providing something as basic as this they have helped raise attendance levels at the schools, in one school, by as much as 30pc.

Mrs Mason said: 'The kitchens which deliver our porridge programme are primitive to say the least and two poorly paid and equipped staff cope with feeding the 700 children their daily meal. This meal may be all they get in the course of the day.

'Money raised from The Climate Run will fund and implement improvements in the kitchens, providing running water, chimneys to allow the putrid wood smoke out of the room and the most basic of kitchen facilities and working surfaces which will allow more efficient and hygienic food preparation areas.

'We also hope to have sufficient funds to support a maintenance person to give continuous support to the three schools.

'Future visits may incorporate young apprentices from Norfolk who will have the opportunity of delivering their skills in a challenging but very rewarding environment.

'The students who completed our inaugural Climate Run can therefore be very proud, not only of their achievements on the day but of the impact the funds they raised will have on these very poor communities in Kenya.'

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