Cape High sophomore Logan Almond fulfilled his dream of visiting Africa while also working to improve the lives of villagers during a three-week visit to Kenya this summer.
Motivated by Cape High textiles teacher Alayna Aiken, who founded Sunrise Sewing School first in Turkwel and then in Siala, Kenya, Logan said he wanted to paint, build furniture – whatever was needed to ready the fledgling schools for students and teachers eager to learn and practice a trade.
Logan joined Aiken, who spent her entire summer in Kenya, in Siala first, where the men of the community welcomed him by teaching him the history of the village and their rites of passage into manhood.
“He got the inside scoop into their culture,” Aiken said. “They even came up with an animal name for him – Crocodile.”
Located along the equator, Siala is lush and fertile, with vegetation in abundance, Aiken said. Turkwel, where the group traveled next, gets rain three months a year and is otherwise a desert of harsh terrain. Logan said he is still finding burrs from his shoes in the carpet at home.
“I loved Siala,” Logan said. “It was amazing, beautiful, a tropical paradise. Turkwel is so hot, it dehydrates you.”
Accustomed to swimming in rivers in Pennsylvania, Logan had no problem jumping in the Turkwel River.
“When I got to Africa, it felt like home,” Logan said – until an alligator slithered in, causing him to get out fast.
Logan used power tools for the first time in Turkwel, where he built couches, tables, headboards, kitchen shelves, a dining room table and benches with leftover lumber. He painted windows in student and teacher dormitories.
“I held a staple gun for an entire day,” Logan said. “I hopped around and did a little bit of everything.”
In addition to carpentry, Logan also honed his culinary skills. He harvested a goat and cooked it by flashlight on a grill. He picked fresh bananas right off the tree.
“They were smaller and sweeter than the ones here,” he said.
Logan learned to make meat pies and flatbread; he sampled goat head soup, goat curry stew, and cow and goat liver. Most meals consisted of rice, beans and ugali, a type of cornmeal side dish.
“I tried everything they gave to me,” he said. “Salt and cane sugar are luxuries, and I tried sugar cane. It was hard to eat with my braces, but it was really good. It’s like chewing on a soggy, sweet popsicle stick.”
Logan didn’t go on a safari, but at a nearby animal reserve he was able to see monkeys, alligators, zebras and gazelles.
“I didn’t see any elephants or giraffes, but I heard elephants coming through the back of the [school] property,” he said. “I saw exotic birds with vibrant colors, a giant stork, venomous scorpions and fist-sized spiders.”
Logan even haggled at the local market, where he bought a spear for his room and a club for his 12-year-old brother Wyatt. “Both were only $35 total,” he said.
Aiken said the trip was another step in Logan’s journey toward becoming a man. “They kept trying to get him to drive, and now he’s taking driver’s ed,” Aiken said.
Logan balked at the idea of driving in Kenya. “There were no laws, no signs, and just random speed bumps,” he said. “They’re high and stony, and will tear up your car.”
Now a culinary student at Cape High, Logan has also enrolled in carpentry classes to further his abilities.
“I went to Africa, and they told me I was a man,” Logan said. “Two weeks after I got home, I got my first job at Weis. Now I’m saving up for a car.”
Logan said his visit to Kenya was a life-changing experience; he hopes to return. “I think about it a lot,” he said.
His mom is now collecting toys and sports balls to send to Kenya, after he told her many of the children there had never played with books or put puzzles together.
Rehab work is still needed, said Aiken, who said she plans to travel again to the region before March 2022. Monthly donors are needed to support teacher salaries and continue work on school property. For more information, or to donate, go to Kenyagather.org.