November, we were graced with the presence of 11 students from Peponi House School in Nairobi, Kenya. They were accompanied by two wonderful members of staff, Doris Kwambo and Ezekiel Odanga.

Arriving at school from Heathrow on the Sunday morning, the children had a warm welcome from their host families. With their belongings in tow, they embarked on a very brave and exciting adventure. While several of the children have been to the U.K. before, and indeed have family members here, it was still a daunting thing to leave their immediate family and friends behind for two weeks. Luckily, our host pupils – Bea R, Lily H, Scarlett S, Tilly T, Freddie F, Oliver A, Tom C, Georgia A and Charlie P were their usual friendly and helpful selves, and made their guests feel immediately like part of their family.

The sunny weather held out for a day trip to London, although the photos show lots of children wrapped up in their scarves and hoodies – after all it is November, and it is England! We boarded the sightseeing bus and toured around the capital, taking it all in with our audio guides. We then had a meander through Trafalgar Square to see the lions and grab some lunch to take with us on our riverside cruise along the Thames. A few of us braved it outside on the top deck while everyone else huddled in the warmth below as we saw London from a different perspective. The Tower of London awaited us as we disembarked, with a wander through the White Tower and then an envious and longing look at the Crown Jewels. By this time, the sun had well and truly disappeared and the rain had started to fall, so it was about time we headed home.

On Tuesday, the Peponi House pupils went to the Houses of Parliament to have a tour around the Houses and then an exclusive question and answer session with Douglas Carswell, our only UKIP MP. They had some insightful and probing questions to ask, but the morning went smoothly, and Mr Carswell escaped unscathed! The children loved walking through Whitehall and seeing London at its best.

Thursday evening saw us travel to Woking to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the theatre. The cast was excellent, the car was phenomenal and the ice cream delicious! Not even the ‘child catcher’ could bring us down as we sang along to all the tunes. In fact, some of us still have ‘Truly Scrumptious’ still playing in our heads.

While at school, the pupils were immersed in our school community. They attended lessons, tutor time and Chapel services, with informal concerts, matches and swimming galas interspersed among their busy daily schedule. At our Upper School Chapel Service, Toby and Louise were interviewed and then all the children sang the Kenyan National Anthem and another song called Jambo, which we all tried to join in with. They enjoyed a tour of the Senior School and a trip into the village, all the while dodging the increasing inclement English weather; well, mostly!

The children really loved boarding, with the fireworks display on Bonfire Night being a personal highlight for several of them. There were oohs, aahs, and lots of laughing as we watched the fantastic display with our hands full of hog roast sandwiches and chocolate brownies covered in cream.

 

With nights enjoyed with their host families and in the boarding houses, the Peponi students really made the most of their time here. Some of them managed to visit their relatives as well as forming firm and lasting friendships with our pupils. The weekends were spent walking on Leith Hill, shopping, jumping around at the Air-Hop in Guildford, walking the dog, shopping, going to the cinema, having roast dinners, oh and did I mention shopping?!

The last evening that the students and staff spent with us was having dinner here, at school. Mrs Kwambo spoke to us all about Kenya – a very passionate and warm speech about a country of which she is proud to be a part. Then each of the children spoke from their hearts about their time here after which, they treated us to some of their excellent singing while Mr Odanga accompanied them on the guitar. It was a delightful, yet moving, evening and no one really wanted to say goodbye. One of the children put it perfectly – it’s not ‘goodbye’, it’s just farewell, until I see you again’. I think it’s safe to say that we can’t wait for that moment!

It was a pleasure to have the Peponi House students and staff to stay with us and we hope that they enjoyed themselves as much as we did. We all learned a lot from each other and have made some very good friends. 

Most importantly, both sets of pupils were able to interact and see how children from countries with hugely different cultures think, believe and live their lives. The Cranleigh Prep children will be hosted by Peponi in February.

The exchange was an idea hatched by the Headmasters of Peponi House and Cranleigh Prep and their wives, as they watched the sun go down on a hillside on a farm overlooking the Kenyan/Tanzanian border.  It has been translated into a wonderful opportunity for children from both schools to explore each other’s countries, make new friends and open their minds to the possibilities….

 

Claire Sanders