The History of Red Roof Academy

In 1999, Paul and Gillian Bell, originally from Belfast, Ireland, visited Nairobi, Kenya on a holiday golfing trip. While there, Paul asked his caddie to show him the church where he worshiped on Sunday. The church turned out to be a windowless hut, which also doubled for a local school. The Bells were disturbed by the level of poverty and destitution in the slums, as exemplified by the condition of the school. Having a special compassion for children, they returned home determined to raise enough funds for a purpose-built school.

Nairobi Slums School Project Trust

Paul created the Nairobi Slums School Project Trust in 1999. The charity’s mission was to help improve the prospects for the children within the slums by providing “sustained educational facilities, essential healthcare, and where possible a little bit of fun.” He then founded the Charity Sale, a thrift store in Jersey, the island dependency of the UK, where they relocated, that sold a variety of merchandise and hosted several fundraising events. The Charity Sale, an offshoot of local charity Nairobi Slums Schools Project Trust, was also opened by NSSPT founders Paul and Gill Bell in 1999 with the aim of funding the building of a school in eastern Nairobi. The charity raised enough money to build a school with eight classrooms, called the Red Roof Academy, in the slum called Mukuru kwa Njenga. The Charity Sale, which sold over £70,000 of merchandise (or over $87,000 in today’s dollar) in 2014, incurred no marketing or administration costs – every single penny went directly to the children. The money raised by the Charity Sale warehouse not only enabled the building of the school, but also provided uniforms and shoes for the children and paid for all the teachers’ salaries.

Programs and Projects

Typically, parents would have to spend the equivalent of £1,000 to send a child to school in Nairobi. However, parents sending their children to Red Roof Academy didn’t have to pay a penny. They ensured the integrity of the buildings, brought student enrichment programs to the school, funded a clinic and feeding program on campus, and provided free dental care to the students while in the school. Since the start of the school in 1999, Paul and Gill visited Nairobi every year, forfeiting vacations for their children, when finances were tight, and when danger had to be taken into account. However, last year, in full faith and confidence, the Bells signed over their beloved school to Dr. Dana Carson, an African American pastor and scholar, from the United States.

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