Three local builders have returned from a life-changing working trip to Kenya thanks to the generosity of people in the Advertiser and Review area.
The Roka School Project is the brainchild of Brackley builder Wayne Martin.
Over the past year, he and his fundraisers, led by wife Maria, raised £7,800 to fund much-needed improvements at the East African school.
Mr Martin, who runs the Man About The House building company in Brackley, first got involved after he bought a house in Kenya about 13 years ago and was taken on a visit to the village of Roka, one hour to the north of Mombasa.
The school has more than 500 pupils with 90 children to a class and until recently the children have had to sit on the floor for lessons,
On his visits over the past six years, Mr Martin has used his skills to build desks for the children.
As word got around, his supporters started fundraising in earnest, enabling him to increase the amount of work done. The project has also begun to support the local economy by paying local tradesmen to help with the work.
The Roka School Project Facebook page now has 250 followers, and Mr Martin is hoping that a DVD of the latest visit will be ready for release in a few weeks’ time.
“It started from a few desks and it’s just grown and grown,” he said.
During Mr Martin’s recent three-and-a-half week visit, a new tin roof was installed on a four-classroom block and new guttering was put up to collect rainwater into a brand new 10,000-litre water tank.
This will be the first time the school has ever had fresh water.
The team also built another classroom from scratch, along with another 49 desks for the kindergarten, and created a football pitch for the children.
He was joined on the project for a week by two builder friends – his brother-in-law Paul Burgess, of Radclive, and family friend Robert Brown of Middleton Cheney.
Mr Burgess said: “It’s Wayne’s dream and we’re here to help him.
“The last two years has been really hard but it’s been a fantastic journey.
“To see the expression on the children’s faces – they’ve got nothing.
“It’s so sad to see – some children go to school without any food.
“But with Wayne’s knowledge and expertise, we’ve made a difference to 900 children.
“It was sad leaving it. They were so grateful, they were overwhelmed with the generosity of all the people who’ve helped us out.
“There are lots of people supporting us in lots of different ways in Brackley and Buckingham.
“People are following us on Facebook and praying for us.”
The money raised this year came from a Rock For Roka event at Tingewick Village Hall in June, a Skydive For Roka at Hinton Airfield in September, as well as weekly car boot fairs at Finmere.
Supporters also sponsored individual desks, which were engraved with their names.
Local firms sponsoring desks include Student Keys, PC People, Mick the Barber and VIP Security.
Quicksharp of Gawcott and Travis Perkins of Buckingham each donated five saws towards the project, and Quicksharp also donated 20 blue and red coloured tabards for the football teams.
Brackley opticians A&R Munson had donated 155 pairs of second-hand glasses and the group carried some rudimentary eye tests on pupils, teachers and villagers.
Mr Martin said: “Doing the eye tests was really difficult. We were wary of causing harm because we’re not opticians. The queue was never-ending.
“But the feeling you get when someone tries on a pair of glasses and their face breaks out into an enormous smile because they can see properly is amazing.”
But the list of work to be done gets ever longer.
Mr Martin said: “They’ve given me a great big wish list of things they want doing.
“The education chief said would it be possible to fund and build a health centre?
“And the school wants another seven classroooms – and there are 30 desks in each classroom.
“It’s growing really big and I’ve come to the point where I’ve got to decide, do I just carry on as we are or take it to the next level?”
Mr Martin said the health centre would benefit just under 10,000 people.
“It would be an amazing thing but also a serious thing to maintain,” he said.
“We’re going to look at it really closely. If we can do it, we will do it, but we’ll have to take more people on board.”
Mr Martin would like to get other professionals to join the team going out to Roka next year, including an optometrist to oversee the eye tests.
He would also love to have a sports or art teacher on board, to run sessions with the children during August. He said: “The kids would just love it. They never do anything practical because there’s no money. They’ve never painted a picture. For a couple of hundred pounds I could get so much equipment, but I need someone to teach.”
Anyone wanting to get involved in the project in any way can call Mr Martin on 07900 458013 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Burgess said: “So many people can help in so many ways to do a little bit to achieve a lot.”
Mr Martin said: “Just to see the effect we’ve had on the kids, it’s heartwarming. These kids have nothing. It’s a tough life out there for them.”