Summer Immersion Programme 2024
What is the Summer Immersion Programme?
Since 2008 SVCC has partnered with the Vincentian Lay Missionaries (www.vlm.ie) in working with local communities and our Vincentian colleagues in Mekelle and, in particular, Ambo, Ethiopia. To date, over 120 students and 16 staff have spent 2-3 weeks of their summer break supporting the efforts of the Vincentian Fathers and Daughters of Charity, primarily in the School for the Deaf in Ambo (which was built and funded by the generosity of the SVCC family).
Due to civil conflict in Ethiopia on the 3rd June 2023, twelve Fifth Year students and two staff members spent two weeks working with the Vincentian Fathers in De Paul School in Thigio, a town located 40 minutes from Nairobi in Kenya.
Kenya Summer Immersion Programme 2024
On 1st of June 2024, twelve Fifth Year students and 2 staff members will go to Matisi in the suburbs of Kitale, in Western Kenya to work with the Vincentian Fathers in their De Paul school there.
Summer Immersion Programme 2023 – Thigio, Kenya
Below are three accounts from some of our 5th years students who travelled to Kenya in June 2023. In their accounts, the boys explicitly state that they cannot find the words to describe their experience i.e. the people, the culture and the memories that were made.
However, one thing is for certain, the mission statement of VLM was well and truly met and continues to simmer away for these young Castleknock College men.
The students immersed themselves in the experience and culture of the Vincentian mission overseas. As they now reflect on their learned experience, they endeavour to continue the reflection process and into hope to effect change and transformation for the good into the future.
Our studentstravelled with VLM who partners with projects run by the Vincentian Fathers and Daughters of Charity across Africa. In 2023 St Vincent’s College Castleknock took part in the VLM schools immersion projects to Kenya.
One might ask why have a schools immersion programme-
- It gives participants a greater understanding of the Vincentian Mission, ethos and values
- Helps in the formation of the students
- Helps encourage the students to engage with a preferential option for the poor; the sick, the vulnerable, people living in material poverty and those with additional needs
- Encourages student to become leaders
- Greater understanding of the Vincentian family as a global entity
- Unique opportunity for students to live and work in a local community in the Global South
- Promotes reflection and gratitude
- The experiential learning aims to encourage students to help fundraise to make structural improvements to the lives of people in the community they have served in on their return.
The following are just a flavor of the cohort that travelled . . .
Since my return from Kenya, all my family, friends and teachers have asked me ‘How’d you get on?’ I’d like to say that I gave a response that justifies the incredible experiences that I had in Africa. However, unfortunately I know that my responses couldn’t possibly suffice to explain our experience. Honestly, words cannot describe the incredible people we met, the amazing culture we witnessed and the memories we made during our stay in Kenya.
I think perhaps the best way for me to detail the experience is to give examples of people we met and tasks we completed. We were volunteering in a school in Thigio, which is located about 40 minutes outside Nairobi. The school was full of amazing students, staff and had a joyful and upbeat atmosphere. We were told that we should try to treat all students equally to avoid anyone feeling left out or uninvolved. However, I couldn’t help but form a special connection with one boy named Joseph. He was a student of Grade 4 which makes him about 8 or 9 years old. He is one of the most inspiring and generous people I have ever met. I never saw Joseph without a smile on his face, he was the oldest of his family in the school and was overjoyed to call us his friends.
I think Joseph’s generosity can be relayed through one simple story. On our last day in the school, we brought in some sweets for the kids. Each student received roughly one packet of sweets each containing 7 or 8 jellies. Joseph had never had sweets like these before, yet after all the sweets had been handed out, Joseph called Liam and I over. He told us that he had a gift for us and held out his hand to reveal two jellies, he said that there was one for each of us. Even though he was so excited to have these new sweets, he wanted us to share his experience as friends. I think this just sums up Joseph and most of the kids in the school, they appreciate the value of friendships and look out for one another, no matter how little they have themselves.
If I was to take one lesson from the immersion experience would be to appreciate relationships with people over material possessions. I am eternally grateful for what I have and for my family, friends and school. However, I don’t think I could ever be as grateful and happy with what I have as those kids were. I can only hope that one day I will possess half the kindness, generosity and love that the people of Kenya had for each other and for their home. Every day, I am inspired by those students like Joseph, to appreciate what I have and not to envy what others have that I do not. We were told before we left that we may expect to teach the kids, but it could end up being them that teach us. While I know I imparted some of my life experience and knowledge on the pupils, it is true that I learned more from them than I could have possibly left behind.
I was of the chosen twelve who had the incredible opportunity to travel to Kenya last summer to teach in Thigio, a small village just outside Nairobi. Teaching in Thigio turned out to be a life-changing experience for me, one that I’ll cherish forever.
Being able to work at the local school and learn about the values and culture of the community was truly amazing. What made the experience even more special was the warm and wholehearted welcome we received from the people of Thigio. Throughout our two-week stay in Kenya, they embraced us with open arms. I’m also grateful for the hospitality of the Vincentians in Kenya, who generously let us stay in one of their residences in Nairobi.
One of the most profound aspects of my time in Kenya was the children. Despite having so little, they came to school every day with smiles on their faces, radiating kindness and generosity. It was humbling to see their resilience and positivity in the face of challenges. In many ways, I feel that they taught me more than I could ever teach them.
The school immersion program in Kenya is an experience I’ll always look back on with fond memories. It was undoubtedly the best and most impactful experience I’ve had during my time at Castleknock College.
I was one of the lucky Twelve who were gifted the opportunity during the summer to teach in the St Vincent De Paul Catholic School in Thigio, Kenya, and is undoubtedly one of my most cherished school memories to date.
Over the course of our two-week stay, we all immersed ourselves into Kenyan culture. Whether that be from learning some vocabulary such as hello (Jambo) or thank you (Assante), cooking their traditional dishes but most of all being at service to the people we met.
We will never forget the smiles and laughter of the students, teachers, and Vincentian staff. Despite living with the barest of necessities, their energy, enthusiasm, and intelligence is unmatched, from the 14-year-olds down to kids the age of 4, truly grateful for the simplest of resources or even your time. I can tell you that after going through the ordeal of minding 40 Montessori kids between the 3 of us lads, primary school teaching will not be going on the CAO. But regardless, their perseverance through the adversity of which they have been dealt, was inspiring and humbling, really leading you to reflect on the fortunate life we all live back home.
Finally, the bond between the twelve lads, Ms Dowling and Ms McMeel created an everlasting connection that will be relished forever. Whether it be through our school tasks, walking tag rugby, our heated games of charades or just general funny moments that can’t be mentioned in a public forum such as this one, it has strengthened, renewed or created lifelong friendships.
To parents, teachers, pastmen or students who helped us fundraise for this trip through our raffle, jumper day, donations or with gifts and resources, you have our sincere gratitude. To students in younger years, make sure to apply for whatever mission the VLM offers to the school, I can ensure that no matter the type of personality, you won’t regret it.