CoH Stories:
Hellen Bwari Oyugi
My name is Hellen. I am currently working as a Montessori directress and I am also studying to obtain my national diploma.

In the year 2007, Kenya's elections triggered clashes that left many Kenyans hopeless and homeless. More than 300,000 Kenyans were displaced from their homes. I was one of them.

The displaced started to seek refuge on safer grounds, which were assigned by the government. I was taken to Nakuru Showground, together with many others who were also victims of displacement. The Nakuru Showground IDP camp had more than 70,000 people who were in transit, and more than 14,000 residents who settled in the camp for over 10 months. Later on, the government introduced a programme which was meant to give an amount of 10,000 Kenyan shillings for each family head as money to restart their lives. Some people who had their own land went back, others opted to buy land. One group bought land in Nakuru Pipeline and the other group bought land in Jandarua. I was among the group that went to Nakuru Pipeline IDP camp, which was later renamed New Canaan.

When we arrived in New Canaan, the conditions were tough. The place was lonely, there were no neighbouring people at that time. The security was poor, there was no water, no toilets, no health facilities, no school. Basically, people lacked all basic facilities, but later the government and some NGOs came in to provide support.
Through the Montessori training, I discovered that a child's development comes from within. There is freedom, something I find very different from the traditional system.
In the years 2004 and 2005, I had trained in Early Childhood Education through the Kenyan government system and I taught in Keringet until we got displaced in 2007. In January 2008, I went to the education office seeking a chance to volunteer as a teacher, since teaching was my passion. At the same time, it was a way for me to occupy myself with work and relief myself from stress. In the process of finding an opportunity to volunteer, I met Judy and Jane, whom I am currently working with at Corner of Hope, and we started teaching voluntarily. When we later moved to New Canaan, we continued to teach as volunteers.

Many organisations paid the camp a visit and one donated a tent for the IDP school. But since the tent was too small for all the children in the camp, we had to use the community church which was made of plastic sacks. The school did not have a conducive environment for learning, because the school lacked learning facilities.

In the year 2010, Lynne Lawrence visited and found us teaching and she was very impressed with our work. That is when she informed us about Montessori and she asked us to join the Montessori training. We accepted and we joined St Ann's Montessori college through the late Sister Angela. When I was told about Montessori education, curiosity go the better part of me, and I was so excited to learn about this new approach. Through the Montessori training, I discovered that a child's development comes from within. There is freedom, something I find very different from the traditional system. I also discovered that I am not a teacher but a directress because my work is to direct, not to teach, which is also the idea behind the Corner of Hope motto which states: "Help me to do it by myself".

I love the Montessori method a lot, and I think my role as a teacher has brought a great and positive impact to the community. When pupils from Corner of Hope get admitted to other schools to continue their education, I am always given feedback by teachers of those other schools that these pupils are the best.

Corner of Hope brought light to the IDP camp, it gave us a sense of hope in our lives. The school is beautiful, fully equipped and much appreciated by the community.

Hellen presenting the Pink Tower in Corner of Hope, New Canaan, 2016