Welsh founder of Mombasa school visits women’s prison during latest Kenya trip

St Ronnie’s Academy Kenya
Ronald Cavie with one of the pupils from the St Ronnie’s Academy, Mombasa. Photo: Facebook

A retired postman from Prestatyn has recently returned from his latest trip to Kenya to visit the Mombasa school he founded.

Grandfather and father-of-three Ronald Cavie spent five weeks at St Ronnie’s Academy in the Mombasa suburb of Shanzu, during which he helped the children enjoy a sports day and oversaw the painting of the walls of the classrooms.

As well as taking gifts paid for by generous donations from North Wales, he joined headteacher Lilly Pendo for a visit to the women’s prison in the village, after being invited by the lady prison pastor. 

Ron explained that when a women is sentenced to jail, if there is no-one to look after her children they join her until they are four before going to live with foster parents if their mother is still incarcerated.

Expecting it to be, in his words “hell on Earth”, Ron was “amazed” how clean the prison was. The women sleep in wards each with around 15 bunk beds along with a shower and toilet. There are also classrooms so young prisoners can receive an education as many of them are unable to read or write. 

On his next visit, Ron plans to return to the prison with nappies for the children plus treats.

St Ronnie’s Academy
The children of St Ronnie’s Academy thank the people of Wales for their generous donations. Photo: Facebook

Ron first went to Kenya on holiday in 2009 and stayed at the Neptune Beach Resort, in the south east of the country. Wanting to see the real Kenya, he went for a walk and found a dirt track, which led to a village where he came across some children playing outside a school who asked him for sweets. He subsequently bought them about 40 lollipops and was shown around the school by headteacher Lilly with whom he developed a friendship.

Before returning home to Prestatyn, Ron donated £100 to the school and continued his fundraising efforts after his holiday, quickly raising hundreds of pounds.

A few years after regularly sending pens, pencils and books to Shanzu, he heard from Lilly how the school was starting to get overcrowded and she shared her dream of opening a second school nearby with him.

Returning to Kenya in September 2013, Ron and Lilly found a nearby building to rent and he stayed for four months to help paint the classrooms and buy desks and stools.

On the first day, the school had nine pupils, but now has around 90.

Since the school opened, the team have created a playground and are currently building a fifth classroom. They employ 4 teachers, a caretaker and have also installed a water supply and charcoal stoves as well as providing mattresses for the youngest children to sleep after lunch.

Ron has had such an impact on the school that the pupils and teachers asked if they could name the school after him and “canonised” him in the process, renaming him “Saint Ronnie”.

If you would like to learn more about his work, Ron carries out talks and slide shows on St Ronnie’s Academy and he can be found hosting a quiz at Central Beach Club in Prestatyn every last Tuesday of the month.

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