Trade 54 | Roko 20 Academy

I had experienced a similar surreal feeling during my first night of Trade 8. A sort of 'how on earth have I ended up here'. 8 trades in it had occurred sitting by a tent out in the sticks of Cornwall, 54 trades in and that tent in England had been swapped for a shack in Kenya. That morning I had met Tracey in Nairobi to catch a 2hr Mutata minibus North to Murang'a to Roko 20 Academy.

It’s not too cramped.
They won’t leave until it’s full.

Tracey had left her London job and moved to Kenya to volunteer and teach. But that was 5 years ago. While initially expecting it to be a temporary stop, during her teaching she had met Job, a Kenyan who shared similar ideas for education, and together they co-founded and built Roko 20 Academy from a class of 5 to the school of 70+ I was now trading with to photograph the school, environment and lifestyle for imagery that could help further fundraising.

Teacher Richard!

The school provides a free education, clothes and food to children they are able to sponser while also assisting parents/guardians with small income generating projects. The long term goal to help families help themselves in breaking the poverty cycle.

I’m not always sure we’re doing the right thing.

The more stories Tracey told me and the more she showed me the more I could understand this was not an easy cycle to break. Simple values the school maintained such as no corporal punishment was going against the grain here and could be enough of a reason for parents to remove their children from the school. The doubt felt in such a task was certainly understandable. But I was also thoroughly impressed by the fortitude that must have been and still is required to stand your ground on such a project while keeping the logistical plates of development and fundraising spinning.

Tracey and Job clearly cared a great deal for the community. I could see what kept them going too. Additionally, half a week spent constantly hot and dusty bouncing around the dirt roads in the school bus and on the back of a boda boda motorcycle... there was something else to be said for the complete change, purpose and challenge the lifestyle presented that had a draw to it during my brief time there.

Should you feel the same draw they are currently looking for volunteers to join and contribute to and help develop the school. You can get in touch through their website below.

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British photographer moving between hosts and countries through a back-to-back series of creative trades. Exchanging my photography for all of my needs in a mission to reach every continent without needing money.