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Understanding another culture

This morning I led an assembly in a Suffolk primary school. They are excited to build part of this year’s curriculum around Kenya and my assembly was to launch the year’s activities. All the school’s 180 children were present, aged between 5 and 11.

How to get across to a child from rural Suffolk how different life is in rural Kenya? I showed them photos and I told them stories. I’m sure that as the year goes on their knowledge will grow and they will begin to appreciate a little more how an accident of birth has enabled them to grow up in a situation where they are relatively well looked after and secure….

Two weeks ago I was talking to a group of elderly retired business men at Lowestoft Probus. One of my stories moved one listener to tears:

When the Suffolk school where I worked had a close relationship with a Kenyan secondary school we asked children aged 14 in both schools “What worries you most in life?” In Suffolk the most popular answer was “losing my mobile phone” In Kenya it was “my parents dying of AIDS”. You can imagine how moved the Suffolk students were when they realised how trivial their response had been.”

It’s vital that different cultures understand each other and respect their similarities and their differences.  Let’s hope that the children in the primary school today can start on that journey through their work on Kenya.