BMEC Student Experience's blog posts for 2017

Seven Sisters - Our work in Nairobi



While in Nairobi the Seven Sisters carried out some recruitment work on behalf of the school and university. This work included a University of Sussex Open Day within the Uniserv Education offices, a Sussex Pre-departure and Q&A session and a special talk in partnership with The Arena Kenya looking at the impact of volunteering/fundraising. During the latter, our students also spoke about their experiences of University and there was a presentation to the runner-up and winner of the Sussex ‘One World, One Voice’ video competition.


Our students did so well presenting and we are extremely proud of them! Well done team!! They even managed to persuade a prospective student to change their choice of university to Sussex.


We would also like to congratulate Sita the winner of the ‘One World, One Voice’ video competition. Sita’s prize for winner the competition is to come to Sussex and attend some International Summer School sessions. Sita is actually here on campus right now, the Student Experience team are looking forward to meeting Sita again tomorrow morning!


While most of the team attended the volunteering/fundraising talk, Julie and Karen headed to Strathmore University where Julie was giving a seminar on migration, poverty and development drawing on her own work in 3 African countries (Ethiopia, Ghana and Zimbabwe). While at Strathmore Julie and Karen also gave a talk about life at the University of Sussex, BMEc courses and scholarships.


The work carried out in Nairobi also gave the team the chance to meet up with Sussex Alumnus Naliaka a former supervisee of Julie’s. The team also met Chidima Atueyi a current Sussex student and International Student Ambassador who is studying LLB Law, who helped out in some of talks. It was great to meet Chidima and hear her experiences as an international student at Sussex.


It was a great experience for all involved to represent the University of Sussex in another country. It was so nice to meet all of the amazingly helpful and friendly staff at Uniserv Education and also to meet those interested in applying to Sussex and those who have already accepted a place. We look forward to welcoming you all to Sussex in the near future!



Here are some photos of our students in action:

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Reflections on an incredible experience in Kenya



A week ago today, the Seven Sisters touched down at Heathrow after what I think we would all agree was a wonderful, challenging, intense, colourful, thought-provoking, humbling 16 days in Kenya. The main aim of the trip was always to raise as much money as possible for Team Kenya, a small but extremely hard-working charity who have been based in Ndhiwa, a small community in Western Kenya since 2007. The work they have already done and that they continue to do has been nothing short of transformative within this community, although there is still so much to be done. This was made clear to all of us when we went to Ndhiwa and visited some of the community projects and met some of the people whose lives have been changed by the work that Team Kenya are doing.

Our home for the week in Ndhiwa were the Karibuni Eco-cottages, a beautiful little haven in the middle of the countryside, built by Team Kenya, designed to provide work opportunities for local people as well as a sustainable income for the charity (and a home for some unbelievably cute baby chicks!). Staying there gave us all the chance to live in our very own authentic Kenyan huts and more importantly, to get to know the lovely people who work there. I know none of us will forget the incredible Millicent, who fed us the best food we had in Kenya (I still think about her delicious eggy bread!), as well as washing our clothes, keeping everything clean and making some of us beautiful clothes using her sewing machine powered by solar power in the hut at the bottom of the garden. As well as employing her, Team Kenya have also sponsored one of Millicent's daughters through high school, and she has recently finished, achieving grades in the top 20% of all students in Kenya. This family are a brilliant example of how the work Team Kenya do is genuinely transforming people's lives and lifting them out of poverty. As long as we don't mention the drop toilets (!), I think I speak for all 7 of us when I say that the few days we spent here were incredibly special, and incredibly moving due to the things that we saw out in the local community.

On our second day in Ndhiwa, we visited Bongu Primary School, one of the 6 local schools that Team Kenya have created partnerships with. In all of their partnership schools, as well as giving agricultural and financial training to parents in order to give them the means to pay their children's school fees, they run the Brighter Futures programme. As well as providing training to teachers and community members on things like positive behaviour management, the programme identifies girls in the partnership schools who are considered to be particularly vulnerable and provides them with mentoring. These training and mentoring sessions are intended to help challenge attitiudes and behaviour in the wider community and to try and reduce the amount of violence directed towards women and girls. After each of their mentoring sessions, these girls are given the chance to play football, which is designed to strengthen friendships and foster a culture of co-operation and mutual respect. One member of our group, Halima, who apparently was the best footballer in her primary school, took part in one of these football sessions and was so impressed by how enthusiastic and skillful these girls were, despite the fact that some of them turned up to play without shoes, an apparent luxury that some families simply can't afford.

Visiting Bongu really highlighted just how little most families and indeed schools have in terms of the sorts of material possessions that we take for granted. It was shocking to learn that before the school was supported by Team Kenya, there were no toilets, nowhere for children to wash their hands and a shortage of classrooms meaning that some children were taught in the open air, under trees. Despite all of the things that Team Kenya have helped provide, we were all still so shocked by how crowded the classrooms were, meaning that 4 or 5 children were crammed onto benches that were designed for 2, some children didn't have their own school bag, pen or exercise book. In the middle of what was a very sunny day, children were learning in almost darkness due to how small the windows were, and those children who didn't have shoes were walking around on an uneven dirt floor. Another striking feature of this school was the lack of colour on the walls and around the building generally. The mud walls of the classrooms were noticeably lacking in pictures, posters or anything in fact to make learning come to life. We were introduced as the "special visitors from the United Kingdom", but it was difficult to imagine how these children could have any conception of the world outside their village, never mind a country that's thousands of miles away.

I know that all of us left Bongu wishing that we could stay longer and spend more time with these kids, who seemed so eager to learn and to eventually make something of their lives. We met some of the older girls in the school who attend the Brighter Futures programme and had ambitions to become journalists, teachers and doctors. We can only hope that with the continued support of Team Kenya, these girls might just achieve their goals, just like some of the Brighter Futures mentors we met have already done.

Some of these mentors came along to the Fun Day on our last day in Ndhiwa. These fun days are organised by Team Kenya every few weeks at Karibuni cottages and give some of the girls who are part of the Brighter Futures programme a day playing games, watching and taking part in performances, a hot lunch and presents and prizes from the volunteers who are visiting at the time. It was wonderful to be able to have fun with these girls and watch how excited they were to be together. Their talent for singing, dancing and performing poetry was so impressive. Particularly captivating were the performances from girls who stood up and passionately recited poems that acted as open letters to AIDs, describing how the disease had destroyed their families and communities.

Before the girls left Karibuni, all of us emptied our bags of the numerous uneaten snacks that we'd packed and carried around Kenya and the girls were told they could help themselves, which resulted in incredibly unsure, curious reactions that were fascinating to watch. Another example of how things that we take for granted, like energy bars are to people in Ndhiwa, a luxury that they couldn't even contemplate being able to afford.

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As well as wanting to stay longer in Ndhiwa, I know that we all came away with a real burning desire to keep doing as much as we can to help this amazing charity continue building on the vital work that they're already doing. Visiting Bongu in particular made us realise what a massive difference seemingly basic things like text books and toilets have already made to the children in the partnership schools, but also made it clear how much there is still to do in order for every child in Ndhiwa to receive the education they deserve. The thought of a Ndhiwa without Team Kenya is just too dreadful to contemplate, and the fact that they are doing what they're doing means that children, particularly girls, and families have hope of a better future.

I just hope that our visit to Ndhiwa is the start of a strong link between Sussex and Team Kenya and that together, we can try to do whatever we can to improve the lives of the amazing people we met and the entire community in Ndhiwa.

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Seven Sisters take on Mount Kenya!



Around mid morning on Friday, we began our climb of Mount Kenya from Sirimon Gate (2650 metres ASL). We walked for 4 hours, uphill, on a tarmac path. At first we were all very warm from the hot blazing sun! But the higher we walked the cooler it became - and during the final hour there was gentle rain. We arrived at Old Moses Camp (3300 metres ASL) around 4pm. A relatively easy first day - we had no idea what was coming!


On Saturday we woke up around 6am, had breakfast at 7am and had started walking by 8am. Whilst we were cold during the night, we were all warm again once we started walking - most of us having to take off layers. The walk was off path, through grassed and rocky areas. The views were outstanding - not surprising as Mount Kenya is a National Park!


At the half way mark we had our packed lunches, and then once again began walking. However, the weather took a turn for the worst and we struggled through the cold and hail! It was definitely a tough afternoon! We arrived at Shipton Camp at 5pm - exhausted, cold and wet! After we'd had dinner we went to bed around 10pm, none of us feeling all that great! A majority of the group were suffering from altitude sickness - headaches, dizziness, feeling sick, stomach pain etc. 4 of us woke up at just after 1am to begin our climb to the summit just after 2am - unfortunately those with altitude sickness had to remain in bed as they were too unwell to climb. We all had very mixed emotions - worry and fear, but primarily excitement! After an hour of climbing 1 member had to be taken down as they were suffering with bad altitude sickness.


The climb was very difficult - it was dark, it was cold and there were low oxygen levels. However the 3 of us pushed through! We made it to the summit (4985 metres ASL)!!!! The conditions were amazing - there was clear skies and we were able to see the sunrise just before 7am! Emotions were very high - we were all so proud of ourselves and each other for making it!


We began our desent just after 7am. It was now light as the sun had risen. Everyone agreed that the desent was a lot scarier than the climb! We could now see the sheer incline and slippery ice! However, we managed to make it back to Shipton Camp just after 9am, where we were greeted by the other 4 group members with congratulatory hugs - what a wonderful team! We quickly got changed, packed our bags, had breakfast and then began our decent back to Moses Camp at 11am.


We were all EXHAUSTED. We'd had virtually no sleep, and 3 of us had already climbed to the summit. However, we pushed through and made it back to Moses Camp around 6pm - roughly 7 hours of walking, including a rest by the stream to have our lunch. The 3 team members that climbed to the summit had walked a total of almost 14 hours!


We all had dinner just after 7pm and were in our sleeping bags by 9pm! Our final desent began at 7am on Monday morning. We made it back to the gate before 10am - we had done it!!!! We had climbed a mountain!


The whole experience was both a physical and mental challenge - the long difficult walks, the climbs, the early mornings, the cold and of course no internet access! Overall an amazing and life changing experience.

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Update from our student mountaineers in Kenya!



After an early start and a long flight, we finally arrived in Kenya yesterday evening at 22.00 local time. Today we've travelled from our hotel in Nairobi to Nanyuki where we're staying in Simbas Lodge. The drive was around 5 hours, including a stop at a local art store, where we all bought bracelets and trinkets, and a crossing of the equator! We've just been for a walk around the busy town, and we're now off to dinner.


Alexandra, Karen and Halima

Editor's note: The team start their climb up Mount Kenya today so the blog will - understandably! - fall quiet for a few days. Good luck team!

About the charity

Since being founded in 2008, Team Kenya have built a strong relationship with the community in Ndhiwa and the Ndhiwa Community Empowerment and Development Project (NCEDP). Team Kenya work in partnership with NCEDP and together we have transformed the lives of over 5,000 children and their families in Ndhiwa.

How can I donate?

Donate now via the team's JustGiving page

Good morning from Kenya!



Our first morning and a big buffet breakfast for us. Strange birds outside the rooms kept some of us awake last night. We are staying in a hotel near the airport and after this huge breakfast we are off to Nanyuki where we'll have one night to acclimatise before we start the climb tomorrow! We are quietly confident and not really talking about the enormity of the challenge 😉.


About the charity

Since being founded in 2008, Team Kenya have built a strong relationship with the community in Ndhiwa and the Ndhiwa Community Empowerment and Development Project (NCEDP). Team Kenya work in partnership with NCEDP and together we have transformed the lives of over 5,000 children and their families in Ndhiwa.

How can I donate?

Donate now via the team's JustGiving page

Seven Sisters in Kenya



So today is the big day for the Seven Sisters, we are travelling to Kenya to embark on a little team challenge… climbing Mount Kenya!

Let me rewind a bit, so the Seven Sisters refers to a team of seven women from the School of Business, Management and Economics who have all signed up to take on the challenge of climbing Mount Kenya. We came up with the name after a training walk over the Seven Sisters a few months ago!

Here is our story:

BMEc fundraisers gear up to climb Mount Kenya for charity

A group of students, academics and Professional Services staff in the Sussex School of Business, Management and Economics (BMEc) are about to embark on an adventure to climb Mount Kenya, Africa's second highest mountain, with the aim to raise over £5,500 for a charity empowering Kenyan women. 

The group, who have already hosted fundraising events such as a bake sale and Kenyan film night, will be setting off for Nairobi on 28 June. 

They aim to raise as much money as possible for Team Kenya, a charity working with a Kenyan NGO to educate girls, empower women and reduce extreme poverty in the rural west of the country.

The team includes:

  • Halima Ali Akbar, year 1 BSc International Business (with a professional placement year)
  • Karen Brandt, year 1 BSc Economics
  • Alexandra Butcher, year 2 BA Economics
  • Helen Greaves, Student Experience Co-ordinator
  • Julie Litchfield, Senior Lecturer in Economics
  • Georgina Lott, Student Experience Co-ordinator
  • Juliet Williams, Student Experience Officer

All have been training hard ahead of the climb in recent months by going on increasingly long and challenging hikes over the South Downs. 

Juliet commented:

'We're all very excited. I'm particularly looking forward to meeting all of the people in communities we'll be visiting throughout the trip and to arriving in Nairobi.'

Halima added:

'I'm very excited and looking forward to the trip! I'm mainly looking forward to visiting schools and the cultural tour as it will be definitely a fantastic experience to meet new people and know about their experiences.

'Also, I'm excited to climb Mount Kenya, as it will be a different experience - I've completed three days of five to six hours of walking and hoping to complete few more days before the flight.

'It makes me feel very overwhelmed about how well our fundraising is going for this trip. I've nearly met my individual target - I'm just £102 away.

'I'm glad that thanks to this support many girls (will be able to) to complete their education, especially girls who can't go into further education due to financial circumstances.'

About the charity

Since being founded in 2008, Team Kenya have built a strong relationship with the community in Ndhiwa and the Ndhiwa Community Empowerment and Development Project (NCEDP). Team Kenya work in partnership with NCEDP and together we have transformed the lives of over 5,000 children and their families in Ndhiwa.

How can I donate?

Donate now via the team's JustGiving page

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