New Photos are Online!
When I received the call from Aaron that ”Kakenya” had won an award, I could not believe it. I was stunned speechless. When he went on to tell me that the award came with $25,000 that Vital Voices was going to donate to the school, I was overjoyed. The money would make a huge impact on our girls.
We had started building the dormitory, but we were $40,000 short, and Phase 1 must be completed by the first week in January. If construction was not finished, I worried that we would need to choose between not admitting the next group of girls and admitting them without housing. Just as bad would be having to send the 63 girls we currently house in an unused classroom—the one we need for the new students in January—back to their homes at the end of every day. We would no longer be a boarding school in a safe, sheltering environment. Most girls would need to walk long distances—up to 5 miles each way—and would be subjected to the dangers of animal and human predators, And for the 63 girls, the necessity of moving off campus would demoralize them. Although they have been sleeping two to a bed, they have been happy, self-confident girls with a growing sense of academic excellence and a higher self-esteem. Walking would necessitate lengthy chores at home and greatly diminished time for homework, along with the complete loss of extra-curricular activities on which our school prides itself.
The award has renewed hope that the new dormitory will be completed before the school reopens in January. With this $25,000, only $15,000 remains for our end-of-year fundraising efforts. Construction is continuing aggressively. Thank you so much, Aaron and Vital Voices, for your generosity. Our goal is for our girls to learn; play, and dream just like any other happy, healthy young girls elsewhere in the world. Because of this award we are able to extend our reach to include more girls in this dream from surrounding villages. Thank you for giving hope to the young girls in my homeland.
On behalf of the Kakenya Center for Excellence, thank you for your support; we have made amazing progress because you have believed in our dream for girls in Kenya.
In January, our first class of 4th-grade girls’ graduated to 5th grade, causing great joy all around and opening the way for our incoming class of 4th graders! Four teachers with a fifth to be hired next month are helping our sixty-three girls ages eight to twelve with their studies and life skills – their lives will be forever changed because of your generous support, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Our dedicated and caring team also includes a cook, a security guard, and a store clerk. Kenya and US-based Boards of Directors, and, of course – you, our loyal supporters are making sure that our girls are cared and provided for.
We are now establishing sleeping quarters at the school so that our girls can remain on the premises overnight. Over the past year, the girls have been walking up to six miles a day to and from school. If they can stay at the school, they can use the time it takes to walk to and from their homes each day to study and improve their overall academic performance as well as to engage in extra-curricular activities such as leadership training. More critically, however, staying at the school ensures their safety, since walking to and from school, sometimes in the dark, leaves the girls vulnerable to attacks from humans as well as wild animals.
I remember my own first experience as a boarder at age fourteen when the doors of education were opened to me. For the first time, I had my own bed with a mattress, bed sheets and a blanket. I even owned my very own towel! As is the case with our girls, I had always shared a bed with my sisters and we used a cow skin as a mattress. We shared the blanket and we never had bed sheets. So, I was completely thrilled to have my own little bed and sheets and towels. You can imagine that our girls will be just that happy to have their own belongings too!
To help us realize this joy for our students, I’m asking you for a special one-time gift that will enable you to be a part of this vital transformation in the lives of these girls. All it takes is $117 to ensure that one girl gets all these precious possessions: a bed, a mattress, a blanket, bed sheets, a towel, and pajamas.
If you can help, you’ll be helping a little girl in Enoosean, Kenya, feel like a real princess – a dream that every girl has no matter where she lives.
Thank you for continuing to support the school and its progress. You can read more about its developments at our website.
The highlight of my trip home to Enoosaen, Kenya was the girls’ school groundbreaking event that took place on August 16, 2008. On this day I was very excited but also nervous. I was not sure if the community would turnout in big numbers for the event or if the only attendees would be from supporting women’s groups—Empiris group, the Kakenya Center for Excellence Committee and my friends from Vital Voices.
In preparation for the event, women from the village spent the whole night cooking: a bull was slaughtered and coupled with all of the other wonderful food that we have in Kenya. A film crew from America was busy shooting footage and other guests were beginning to arrive, traveling on rough roads for four hours to reach Enoosaen… I felt truly blessed to have such a group of supporters and friends. “Why worry about the ones who don’t want to come?,” I consoled myself.
As you may have guessed, the turn out was unbelievable. The young, the old, women and men traveled long distances to come be a part of this event. By 11am (the time the meeting was to start), people had gathered and small groups had begun conversing in different corners of the compound. When the event started, the speeches focused on girl’s education and praised the efforts of making education in this community a reality. The area Member of Parliament Gideon Kochellah sent a representative to pledge support of this project, both morally and financially. The District Officer, promised adherence to the law, prohibiting parents from engaging in early marriages. The education officer promised that his office would ensure that the girls at the Center excel academically and live up to the name of their school. The community promised to whole-heartedly support the cause for the school—girls education. And my friends from outside Kenya pledged enduring support to the school.
As for the Big news: Vital Voices announced they will sponsor the first ten girls’ attendance and Beth Brooke, the Global Vice Chair of Strategy and Regulatory Affairs of Ernst & Young offered to support next ten – making a total of the twenty girls. YES – the first twenty girls have sponsors already! Thank you Vital Voices and Beth Brooke for setting the bar so high!!!
At around 2pm the event ended officially with the ground breaking – My mother and I stood in front of a big crowd as the pastor blessed the ground. I wondered what my mother was thinking – was she proud of me? What was going on through her mind? I did not actually ask her the question yet but I hope to.
Although this project is focused on the Center for excellence and ensuring that girls in my community get a chance to become better leaders in the future, it is also an empowering opportunity to the women of the community. They took a lead role in organizing the groundbreaking event and are taking a central role in building the school. There is power when women come together, things happen – they wash dishes together, they reason together, they welcome visitors together: these women care together – I love it.
I will be posting regularly on my experience in Kenya- so please check back frequently.
I want to thank all people who attended the event, the local leaders, community members, and the girls who entertained us endlessly and made many of us cry. A special thank you to Vital Voice for bringing such a team to support the work I am doing in my community. This meant a lot to me! THANK YOU
This past summer I was privileged to spend two months in my rural village of Enoosaen, Kenya. The main reason for my trip, other than to visit my family after two years away, was to implement a way forward for a girls’ school I am building in Kenya. I was so glad to be home after a two-year absence but my sense of relaxation was almost immediately replaced by a sense of desperation. The needs of the community are plainly overwhelming; lack of basic needs such as water, power, proper roads, proper education facilities, health care facilities—these are the first things you notice as you near my village. As I drove home on a dusty road, I could not help but wonder how strong my people are and how spoiled I have become living in America. Why did I even complain that there was dust on my nine-month-old son who was having fun watching the open road? He didn’t complain but I was worried he might get sick. Fortunately, he is a strong little man- he was well the whole time I was in Kenya.
Anyway, during my stay I spent time with young girls who shared their desires and dreams with me. These girls desire to contribute positively to society – becoming better individuals with lives that are better than their mother and sisters. They often pointed at me, saying they wanted to become like me. This made me happy but at the same time sad because I understand the barriers they face in their current state. The drop out rate from school has increased, not only because of forced marriages but because of teenage pregnancies. This is a growing plight for girls who are already pressed by early marriages. Unfortunately, teachers cause most of these pregnancies. How sad…I feel helpless as I search for reasons why a teacher who is supposed to be a mentor to the girls would cause them so much pain. I, myself, had been in the same situation where teachers sought to have relationships with me and to, therefore, effectively destroy my life. Years ago, I found my way around these situations that young girls in my community are currently facing. How can I help them!?! I have to build the school- that is best way to save them from the culture that does not value them.