Letter from Our Founder
Thanks to our village of supporters, 2018 was a transformative year for Kakenya’s Dream. Sending our pioneer class of students to universities around the world marked a major milestone for the organization, as did opening our second campus to its inaugural class. We are realizing bigger dreams than ever before and it’s all because of the generosity of our Kakenya’s Dream village.
Our village is a global network of passionate, action-oriented individuals working together for a common cause, and our village had a busy year: a gala in Boston, a bake sale in Connecticut, an annual paddle tennis tournament in New York, a reception in Sydney, an orchestral concert organized by a high school student in Massachusetts... the list goes on! You accomplished these acts of kindness — and hundreds more — to support Kakenya’s Dream in 2018. Together, these actions generate the momentum to transform goodwill into impact that is changing the lives of thousands of vulnerable girls and their communities in rural Kenya.
Last year was truly a testament to the incredible power of community, and we are eager for what awaits in the coming year. When we dream and work together, girls’ lives change for the better. And, as we know, when you empower a girl, you transform a community.
Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD
Founder & President
We also believe in the importance of ensuring our students have access to a wide array of stimulating activities outside the classroom, including enriching field trips around Kenya, volleyball, soccer, drama, choir, and more!
This year, we were able to provide a very special extracurricular opportunity to several students.
In March, four of our 8th grade girls were selected to participate in the 2018 Montessori Model United Nations conference in New York City. The trip was full of new experiences, like leaving home for the first time and flying across the world, building a snowman, and taking in the view from the top of the Empire State Building.
Our girls have spent their lives in a very remote part of the world, so enriching field trips like these are a critical part of our educational program, as they introduce the girls to different ways of life, career possibilities, and new perspectives they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
On this trip, the girls encountered women excelling in a variety of careers, and they began to see the many possibilities available to them. They were inspired and encouraged as they returned to KCE to continue pursuing their dreams.
It’s opportunities like these that help ignite our students’ passions for the changes they want to make in the world.
NETWORK FOR EXCELLENCE / Career Aspirations / Class of 2018
The Network for Excellence ensures that all KCE alumnae receive the support, resources, and guidance they need to transition to their first-choice destination in their educational journeys and pursue their dream careers.
Neither of Naomi’s parents are educated, but both have come to recognize the importance of education for their children. “My parents are deeply appreciative of Kakenya’s Dream. Before I joined KCE in fourth grade, they could not afford to put all of my siblings and I in school. Because Kakenya’s Dream supported me, they had enough to educate the rest of my siblings,” she says.
At KCE, Naomi wore new shoes and slept on a bed for the first time. In addition to receiving a high quality education, she was paired with a mentor who is still one of her greatest role models today. When she was in the eighth grade, Naomi says her mentor gave her the confidence she needed to perform exceptionally well on the national primary school exams. This resulted in her placement at a prestigious high school, Starehe Girls Center. “I am the first girl in my family to have been accepted at a national high school. I am also the first student from KCE to join Starehe, opening the door for other KCE graduates after me,” she says.
Naomi excelled in high school and graduated in December 2018. Today, she volunteers as a mentor for students at our second school, KCE II, as she waits to join university in the fall. “I want to become a nurse so that I can help save lives and make a positive difference in my village, and I would like to continue being a part of the Network for Excellence as a mentor for girls,” she says. Naomi hopes that like her mentor did for her, she is able to give other girls the confidence they need to finish their education and pursue their dreams.
Health & Leadership Trainings
Kakenya’s Dream brings together vulnerable youth across the region to take part in two-day and week-long Health and Leadership Training camps. During each session, girls and boys participate in a series of high-impact educational activities designed to teach them about sexual and reproductive health, safety and self-defense, human rights, and life-skills.
Through group discussions, skits, role playing, and even puppet shows, our experienced facilitators impart vital knowledge and health information and dispel myths and misconceptions about harmful traditional practices like FGM and child marriage.
kakenya’s dream reached Over 75 schools through our Health and Leadership Trainings in 2018.
In 2015, Lyn was selected to participate in our year-end Health and Leadership Training camp. The timing was critical; she had just completed seventh grade and feared that her education was coming to an abrupt end. Her family wanted her to undergo FGM in preparation for marriage, and Lyn was trying to take a stand and refuse.
“I was against FGM because I was aware of its harmful effects, thanks to conversations with some of my friends in the village who had previously attended a Kakenya’s Dream camp,” Lyn explains. “There were a lot of arguments in my family as a result of my refusal to undergo FGM and get married. I faced abuse, and my family threatened to disown me.”
At the camp, Lyn gathered the courage to confide in one of our trainers, who brought the matter to Kakenya’s Dream staff. Lyn was given psychosocial support, counselling, and financial assistance to continue her education. Our staff worked with her family to educate them about the detrimental effects of FGM and early marriage. Today, Lyn’s life is transformed. She was able to stay in school, and now, she’s receiving support through our Network for Excellence program.
“The Health and Leadership Training camp that I attended was an eye opener for me as I was able to learn more about my health and rights, and I had someone to turn to who helped me navigate a difficult situation that could have ruined my life,” Lyn explains. “I am so grateful for all of the support I am receiving from Kakenya’s Dream.”
As for Lyn’s family, both of her parents had a major change of heart, one that will greatly impact the lives of their other 10 children. “After speaking with staff of Kakenya’s Dream, my father now understands and supports my decision not to undergo FGM, and my education has made him look up to me as a beacon of hope for my siblings. Now, he wants them to follow in my footsteps.”
Teachers, Principal, Counselor, Health and Leadership Training facilitators
School support staff
Nurses, Cooks, Caterer, Matrons, Security Guard, Groundskeeper
Program Officers, Program Interns
Project Coordinator, Contractors, Construction Workers
When Noolkiramat received the news that her granddaughter Neema would be admitted into the fourth grade class at KCE in 2017, she was over the moon. “I did not go to school, but having lived this long, I have come to know that education is important because you gain knowledge that can make life better,” she says.
Like many Maasai women, Noolkiramat underwent FGM when she was 14 years old and was married off to a man older than her father. “I was his fourth wife, and we had six children together,” she explains. Her daughters followed the same path as Noolkiramat, undergoing FGM and child marriage. Tragically, two of them died from complications in childbirth. “Among them was my first-born child, Neema’s mother.” Noolkiramat is now the sole guardian of Neema and her brother. “After the death of their mother, their father left to start a new family, so I stepped in as their guardian.”
Noolkiramat says that thanks to Kakenya’s Dream, her perspective has shifted. Now, she does everything she can to ensure that her grandchildren receive a great education and have a chance at a better life. “I have six grandchildren, and all of them attend school. None of my granddaughters will undergo FGM or be married off. They must all have an education and a better life than I did,” she says.
Noolkiramat has stood by her promise. 11-year-old Neema is in the sixth grade now, and Noolkiramat already has big dreams for her. “I want her to complete her education up to the university level and become successful in whatever career she desires. Right now, she says she wants to be a lawyer. I don’t know what that means, but I hear it is a very good career! Once she has achieved this, she then can decide to marry a man she loves and start a family of her own.”
These are the transformations we strive for at Kakenya’s Dream. “No child should have to face the same struggles as their parents or grandparents. All children, whether boy or girl, should be educated and receive a chance at a brighter future.”
In addition to being involved with our programs, we also engage our community in international advocacy efforts.
At Kakenya’s Dream, we believe that every girl around the world deserves the resources she needs to live free from harmful practices that threaten her rights and well-being. As part of our advocacy efforts, we celebrate major international observance days throughout the year, from Zero Tolerance for FGM Day in February to Day of the African Child in June to Day of the Girl in October. Each of these observance days offers an opportunity to engage and educate our community on important issues affecting women and girls around the world.
International Day of the Girl
In honor of International Day of the Girl, observed each year on October 11th, our small community gathered 600 strong to celebrate the occasion. Community elders, parents, teachers, and students from schools across the county marched together through the streets of Enoosaen in a parade to raise awareness about the challenges girls face, and to demand better opportunities and protections for girls in Kenya and around the world.
As part of the Day of the Girl celebrations, girls wrote commitments to themselves and their future by finishing the sentence, “If you invest in me, I will…” Likewise, parents, teachers, and community members pledged to invest in and improve opportunities for girls in our community. By the end of the day, hundreds of pledges and commitments were made. Now, we are holding ourselves and others accountable to these promises to invest in girls and create opportunities and bright futures.
Every year, demand for the life-changing education offered at the Kakenya Center for Excellence far exceeds our capacity. For every girl we’re able to enroll, six or seven others are turned away due to lack of space. All of these girls are deserving, and we could not bear to leave so many behind. We decided to dream bigger than ever before.
As you know, we’ve been growing our programs and building a second school. In 2017, we broke ground on KCE II, and in May 2018 we welcomed its inaugural class of students. Construction on the campus will continue through 2022, accepting a new class of students each year until all the buildings are complete and we reach full capacity of 500 students in grades K-12.
Vivian is a proud member of the pioneer class at Kakenya’s Dream’s second school, KCE II. Before coming to KCE, Vivian’s schooling was inconsistent. When her family was unable to pay for school fees, she was asked to leave for months or more at a time until her family had saved enough to pay the fees again. But since coming to KCE II, Vivian hasn’t had to worry about paying school fees, and she’s able to attend class every day.
Vivian says one of her biggest accomplishments since coming to KCE II was improving her grades in Swahili. She says she woke up one day and made herself the following promise: “As from today I’ve decided not to give up.” Keeping true to her promise, she began asking for help after school, and even took the initiative to ask for extra assignments to improve her learning. Vivian’s hard work paid off, and now she’s getting straight A’s in every subject, Swahili included!
Vivian says she is grateful for the dedicated teachers at KCE II, and their willingness to give personalized attention to her and her classmates when anyone needs extra help. Vivian says wants to use her education to give back to her community one day. Her favorite subject is chemistry, and she says she aspires to attend “the best university in Australia” after high school.
Bringing Innovation & New Technologies to our Community
Building a World-Class Campus in a Small, Rural Village
From the beginning, Kakenya’s Dream has been committed to transforming communities, which requires sustainable interventions that create lasting change. KCE II, our second campus, is driven by our values, which means it is innovative, environmentally-conscious, and world-class.
In addition to using innovative building materials, energy sources, and having running water, we are working with global experts and partners to bring more sustainable building practices, knowledge, and techniques to the local community, which will have a continued impact long after our last building is completed. We have just started construction on phase II of the project, and there will be at least two additional phases. By the time the KCE II campus is complete, there will be close to 30 buildings.