How 10 days in Kenya changed the life of this Whiteley woman

When Sara Bigham flew to Kenya to volunteer at an orphanage, she had no idea what a huge impact it would have on her life.

Saturday, 6th April 2019, 12:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th April 2019, 10:05 am

But spending time with a group of young girls has changed her perspective on everything.

Now, she hopes to inspire others to make a positive difference and support those in desperate need. Those who have nothing, yet appreciate life as it is.

Sara travelled to Kenya as part of a programme called Travel Teacher – based in Emsworth – which is designed to empower people and give them life-changing experiences while making a difference to communities around the world. What made the 31-year-old mum-of-two from Whiteley want to get involved?

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Sara Bigham in Kenya as part of the Travel Teacher scheme.
Sara Bigham in Kenya as part of the Travel Teacher scheme.

‘I have always wanted to do charity work,’ she explains. ‘This year I was put in a position where I could do it because my children are a bit older. I had a really bad year last year. I was ill and my son was diagnosed with autism and ADHD. There was lots going on.

‘Kenya was a challenge for me to find out a bit more about myself. It was probably the best 10 days of my life. I got lots out of it. I was working with quite vulnerable children.

‘The way that we interacted with the children out there is completely different. I got quite emotional throughout the trip.’

The 93 orphaned girls were victims of domestic abuse, violence and rape. It made Sara realise what is really important in life. ‘It was little things like getting off our phones,’ she says.

Travel Teacher founder Matt Ray giving a talk in Fiji.

‘There was no wifi. It was just us and those girls. We were playing board games with them. We were playing outside and making up our own games. I came home questioning everything I do regarding parenting. I’m trying to do more things with my kids now.’

Sara now ensures her family spend more time without their phones or games consoles.

‘There were lots of things I found hard so I started debating my parenting. It takes someone to go out there and live like that with these girls who have nothing but love and the other children. It was an eye-opener.

‘It was the best time of my life. I went to the Maldives at Christmas and I had a better time at this orphanage in Kenya then I did there. It was very emotional for a lot of people. You look at things completely differently.

Sara Bigham with Travel Teacher founder Matt Ray in Kenya.

‘You realise life isn’t about what you have, it’s about who you have.

‘The first day the girls were quite shy. It took a couple of days for them to come out of their shell given the sexual abuse that had gone on. They see guys as a threat. The guys had to really build a relationship with them and they did it so well.’

Sara wants to encourage others to take part. ‘Everybody should do something like this to open their eyes to what the world is like. We see it on the news but we don’t pay attention until we are there.

‘If everybody did it the world would be a much nicer place and a better place to be.

Sara Bigham in Kenya as part of the Travel Teacher scheme.

‘When you go somewhere like that and it’s all you have, you don’t think about anything else. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Every day I woke up looking forward to seeing those girls.’

Later this year, Sara is going is taking her two boys to Kenya with her. She says: ‘I am excited to see what else I can do.’

Make a difference while you travel the world

Matt Ray, from Emsworth, is the founder of Travel Teacher. He started the programme after taking a year out to go travelling.

He spent two months in Fiji and fell in love with the country. He built a relationship with a family out there and promised to return. Now, that family host people taking part in the programme.

‘I went away to discover who I was and to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to identify where I fitted in,’ he said.

‘I wanted to challenge myself. It enabled me to meet people from all walks of life.

‘After returning home I became a teacher.

‘I wanted to combine my passion for teaching and travelling.

‘People join us for different reasons. Some people want to explore, some want to make a difference.’

People from all different backgrounds take part in the two-week cultural and educational programmes. They can be students, teachers or just keen travellers who want to make a difference.

As well as Fiji and Kenya, trips are also organised to the Cook Islands, Bali and the Maldives.

To find out more, please visit travelteacher.co.uk.