In Kenya, Secondary school education is not free and once a child finishes Primary School (grade 8) school fees must be paid to continue on. If the family is poor and fees cannot be paid, their child’s educational opportunities end. Sadly, girls in northern Kenya without an education face the dangers of early marriage often times to men much older then themselves. Boys will face a life of little opportunity other then the life their parents led of being pastoralists. With the extreme drought conditions in this region and with predictions of the drought becoming worse, most families have lost a significant percentage of their livestock and their livelihood is threatened.
In 2014 the KURA Project began supporting very poor but bright students from Marsabit County through secondary school. We started with four students. Today with the help of generous sponsors, the KURA Project assists 32 students from Marsabit and Samburu Counties. With the help of private donors, KURA supports 80% girls and 20% boys finance their secondary school education.
Most of KURA’s students come from a one -parent household. Others are orphans missing both parents. Their personal stories are heart wrenching. However, nothing gives more hope to these children then the opportunity of an education. Education is the one thing that can never be taken from them and possibilities open up if they have a secondary school education.
On December 29 – 31, thirty-one KURA students throughout Marsabit and Samburu Counties gathered together in Ngurunit for KURA’s second annual Mentorship Program. I have looked forward since last December for the chance to be with them again. We shared time together during the Mentorship Program, I gave many of them photos and stories of their sponsors, and watched them bond as the KURA Project family I have dreamed of them becoming.
A special thank you to the generous sponsors who have given the gift of education to a student who otherwise it would not have been possible for. I can tell you first hand, each and every one of them is grateful. Letters are on their way to you expressing their personal thanks.
If anyone reading this is interested in sponsoring a KURA student from northern Kenya, please contact me. There are many more children waiting for this opportunity.
Enjoy the happy faces!
Hadi wakati mwingine (Until next time)
Today is Opportunity kit delivery day to Ngurunit Primary School girls. Kits will also be given to each girl attending KURA’s Mentorship Program. The kits include an AFRIpads kit (four reusable pads), a pair of underwear and soap for washing. The pads with proper care will last a girl a year or more.
Due to the level of poverty in this region many girls have difficulty affording basic menstrual hygiene products. The result is many girls stay home from school all together. This becomes problematic because missing school for 5+ days each month causes them to fall behind in their studies. This often leads to dropping out and being put at risk for early marriage.
The KURA Project’s mission is to provide OPPORTUNITY for girls in the marginalized areas of Marsabit and Samburu Counties to stay in school, get the education they deserve and become the best they can be.
A special opportunity presented itself on this particular delivery in Ngurunit. The headmaster from Ngurunit Primary asked if one of KURA Project’s Sponsored students could speak to his girls about the importance of working hard in school. You see, many of his students, due to poverty and the inability to pay secondary school fees, have no hope of pursuing an education beyond Primary School. I asked KURA Project student, Rose, who will begin her Form Four year in 2018, if she would speak to the girls from Ngurunit Primary about her life experiences. and why she feels education is so important.
Rose comes from the village of Korr in northern Kenya. She is 16 years old and the only educated one in her family. Her father brought her to Primary School and Rose worked hard. However, when it came time to move on to secondary school, Rose was told there was no money for school fees and she would be married off to a much older man and live the life that comes with that. Rose did not give up hope. She wanted more for herself. Rose was given an opportunity through the KURA Project and the generosity of a sponsor from the United States. Her appreciation to the KURA Project and her sponsor for giving her this opportunity is difficult for her to put into words. Rose, thank you for sharing your story and inspiring these girls to stay in school and work hard. You have proved with determination and perseverance, everything is possible.
Many people are to be thanked for supporting the delivery of KURA’s Opportunity kits. and keeping the girls in school. These donations allow us to purchase a reusable menstrual hygiene product that is sustainable, comfortable and reliable, thus giving girls the opportunity for an uninterrupted education.
These photos of thanks are just a sampling of the many people behind the scenes making these distributions possible. Thank you is not enough.
Hadi wakati mwingine
Today is a busy one in Ngurunit with over 60 students, both boys and girls, in attendance at our workshops. A full day of activities ensues with thirty additional students from the local village joining in on the learning and the fun.
Before the program begins, surveys are given to each student asking questions regarding knowledge of the topics being presented and topics they are most interested in learning about. It was noted the topic they most wanted most to learn about was Female Genital Mutilation and its effects.
FGM is a practice still followed by many in northern Kenya with little knowledge about the effects. I am proud to say one of our male students stood up and spoke to the group. He announced he will not condone this practice and will not choose to marry a girl who is circumcised.
When the workshop was completed a post survey was given. Each student was asked to write a letter to a future KURA student telling them what they learned in the last two days. We were rewarded with thoughtful, well-written feedback. Most every student reported how much they enjoyed the Mentorship Program, how they now have the information to make informed decisions regarding, how they will benefit from what they learned and that they will bring this information back to their villages and share with family and friends.
That evening, popular Kenyan musician, Saningo, treated students, mentors, and the entire village of Ngurunit to a live performance. Everyone danced the night away.
A special thank you to Bill and Linda Drunsic, Karen and Jim Rowley and the KURA Project board of Directors for making the 2017 Mentorship Program possible.
Hadi wakati mwingine
Everyone I spoke to before I left Vermont knows how excited I am to be visiting Kenya again and also about the very special gift I am going to receive this time around. Yes, believe it or not, I have been promised a camel and no, he will not be traveling back to Vermont with me.
I am told my camel lives on the outskirts of Nemeray, a remote village in northern Kenya where one of KURA’s sponsored students, David Galgithele lives. I have named my camel, Chester, short for Manchester, the name of the town I reside in Vermont.
As we travel north on very difficult roads towards our destination of Ngurunit, I am told I will have the opportunity to meet Chester. Sure enough, approximately 4 hours into our journey we stop at a compound and are greeted by two men. One is the owner of the compound and the other a warrior who is in charge of taking care the camels. Both men are very friendly and seem as excited to show me my camel, as I am to meet him. As I am brought over to a group of camels surrounded by a thicket of thorny brush, I see him. He is black in color and am told one year old. Sadly, he is not as happy to see me, as I am to see him. He is very nervous and it has become apparent it will be difficult to get near him. After some time, the men are able to round him up so I can at least get close enough to touch him.
This particular breed of camel can survive three weeks without water, which a good match for northern Kenya considering the long stretches of drought this region suffers. The people who live in northern Kenya are pastoralists whose sole source of income is livestock… goats, cows and camels. The drought this year has been particularly harsh with most families losing a large percentage of their herds.
I was thrilled to have the chance to meet Chester and the good people who care for him. God willing I will have many chances to see him again.
Next stop Ngurunit.
Hadi wakati mwingine (Until next time)
We arrive in Ngurunit where we are greeted by 31 of KURA Project’s Sponsored Students. They have gathered from many villages, far and wide throughout Samburu and Marsabit Counties to attend a series of workshops we have prepared for them and 30 others from the host village of Ngurunit. Three professional mentors from Kenya have been hired to present this information to sixty students over a two and a half day period.
Many of our students come from one-parent households, while others are missing both their parents. All of them are poor. By providing these workshops we hope to help these young people make the most of their education and give them guidance on how to take care of their health. Topics include: Importance of Education, Drugs and Drug Abuse, Career Choice, Stress Management, Teen Pregnancy, FGM and HIV awareness.
Hadi wakati mwingine
After a 17 hour flight from Boston via Paris, I have arrived in Nariobi, Kenya. Tomorrow is shopping day. We will make the three hour drive to Nanyuki to collect AFRIpads, purchase a generator, and basic supplies such as water and tea for our 4+ hour trip to Marsabit County in northern Kenya. There will be no network available while in the north so future blog posts will be delayed.
I am looking forward to KURA’s 2017 Mentorship Program that will take place in Ngurunit, a beautiful mountain village in northern Kenya. Sixty students from the Samburu and Marsabit County region will be in attendance. Three professional mentors have been hired to deliver a program for KURA’s 31 sponsored students along with 30 students from Ngurunit. This program will address health related issues that pertain to this region. An Opportunity Kit(reusable menstrual pad, underwear and soap) delivery to Ngurunit Primary School is also scheduled to take place.
Stay tuned as I make my way to northern Kenya and the beautiful desert communities I have grown to love.
Hadi wakati mwingine