By Savannah Coombe, Food Editor
The Croft Magazine // Savannah reports on Bristol based charity.
In July 2019, Olivia Cowell volunteered at Excel Emmanuel School in Kenya with education charity Porridge & Rice. The school - situated in Ngando, Nairobi - is responsible for the education of about 400 children up to Year 8 (age 14). While volunteering, Olivia struck up a close friendship with Year 8 pupil, Carolyne Wakio.
Carolyne now writes letters to Olivia: scanning them to send by email at a local Internet Café. In one of her letters, Carolyne mentioned that her mother had lost her job as a result of COVID-19. After hearing this, Olivia reached out to the headteacher of Excel Emmanuel, who informed her that Carolyne’s was not an isolated case.
Although rent is largely paid for by Porridge & Rice, parents also pay an admission fee of around £5 a month; due to school closures and unemployment, a significant portion of fees was no longer coming in. Closures also meant many teachers were forced to consider leaving the school to earn a steady income elsewhere.
Olivia has made over 900 sales, and raised over £3500 in donations
Without the Porridge & Rice feeding program, there was also serious concern that lengthy school closures could lead to starvation.
Hoping to raise some money to help, Olivia started her handmade crafts charity 'Hope for Excel'. Inspired by her time in Kenya, she sells cards, soap, prints and earrings: all personally handmade. She works closely with the school and Porridge & Rice to provide the most vulnerable children with monetary support.
Olivia shows no signs of slowing down: since starting the charity - and despite working full time as a teacher in Bristol - she has made over 900 sales, and raised over £3500 in donations. It hasn’t always been easy, but she says the results keep her motivated and she loves being able to see how the money helps in real time.
One of the things Olivia loves about Porridge & Rice is the charity’s acknowledgement of - and active opposition to - ‘volun-tourism’. ‘If you wouldn’t come here without a camera, don’t come here at all’, the organisation states.
According to Olivia, ‘Porridge & Rice’ has ‘diverted her life onto a new path’, and she hopes to return to Kenya as soon as possible to continue expanding the charity: with the dream of one day opening her own physical shop.
As for Carolyne - she has now graduated Excel Emmanuel and is attending boarding school. She loves maths and hopes to be an accountant one day. She and Olivia are still regularly in contact.
featured image - one of Olivia's handcarved soaps | Olivia Cowell / Epigram