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Adoption: access to a loving home

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Every child deserves to be brought up in a loving, and kind home. Most children, growing in orphanages, do not get to experience parental love and care until after they are adopted.

Trizah is a middle aged  mother of two, whose love for children is unending. Motherhood for her stretches beyond biological ties to anyone who raises and brings up a child into a responsible being. She adopted two daughters one staying away from her as she is over eighteen and is trying to make ends meet. The younger one is a six year old whom she adopted while she was eight months. She placed her request to adopt a child and was able to get one after two years. Her dream of adopting a child had become a reality.

What were the requirements for adoption? 

I first visited an agency in Mombasa, and underwent a pre-counselling session as they wanted to establish my intention for adoption. Thereafter, filled out a very detailed form costing Ksh. 1,000 on my background, and financial information. Had to get two referees to vouch for my character, skills and abilities. I  then underwent several medical tests before being on the waiting list to be placed with a child.

How was the experience for you?

It was lengthy, although my case is different  as the laws were changed mid way. This then meant I had to restart the whole process afresh. I had made up my mind on adopting a child and I made sure I attained that. The baby was brought to me at seven months for us to bond, and “Maua” (name changed) officially became mine at eight months.

What was the reaction of your friends and relatives about the adoption?

If I were one who views life through the lengths of other people with negative perception on matters particularly adoption, I never would have adopted my bundle of joy. My friends and family were so much against the adoption stating that the child may become rebellious once grown, but all this reactions fell on a dead ear.  I always told them, a child is a clean slate; you deposit into their hearts and character as you raise them. Therefore, raise them prayerfully.

How was your first experience as Maua’s mother?

It was beautiful. Maua did not have any problems adjusting or fitting into my social space. I am above all grateful to my church support group that stood by me through it all and prayed with me.  The first few months, we struggled with her immunity and were in and out of hospital, because she didn’t suckle. Again, I was mentally prepared for it all. Good thing with Maua is that she isn’t selective when it comes to food, she eats everything. Children reciprocate what they receive, when they are loved unconditionally, they love back endlessly, the same applies to Maua.

Does Maua know she is adopted?

I always want her to know that she is adopted, because I would rather she hears it from me, than from someone else. Whenever, I bring up the adoption conversation, Maua is always disinterested, but this is a conversation I will continue having with her and give her ample time to adjust and come in to terms. I want to be involved in every stage of her life.

 What is your feeling towards Maua tracing her roots after she is grown?

When she will be grown and starts, tracing her roots, I’m praying that God gives me a heart to walk with her while doing it. I know I will be hurt, but I want to do what is in her best interest. To me, Maua will always be my daughter.

What challenges have you experienced in raising Maua?

The birth certificate application process was a hustle because we were not through with the adoption paper work. When I was enrolling her for school, it was quite hectic because she did not have a birth certificate and needed to apply one for her. Two schools could not admit her.  It is my wish, that when the government formulates rules, they consider different circumstances like those of adopted children.

What would you suggest to be done differently, in matters adoption?

I’m not sure they have constituted a children adoption committee. I kind of feel, matters adoption are not given urgency like the way other matters are given. Children officers should be motivated because they are dealing with a vulnerable group and it is only fair if they are well compensated and supported fully.

We would like the government to consider having an adoptive parent in the children’s committee as we will know that someone has our voice.

Any word for anyone looking to adopt a child?

I would like encourage anyone  thinking of adoption. They need to do a self audit to be sure that they want to adopt and be sure that it is what they want. Once, decided, they should turn a deaf ear to the society’s opinion and stigma associated with adoption. We have a support group called “adoptive parents” and would encourage them to find one and enroll for support.

I would also like to call out on married couples and single men to adopt children as we have so many boys unlike girls in orphanages waiting for people to adopt them. Single ladies should also come out to adopt, although baby girls are not as many as boys in the orphanages and singles cannot adopt children of the opposite sex. Let us give these children a home to grow up in and not leave them in orphanages.

Diligence is the mother of good luck

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Some people were born under a lucky star and Bahati is one of them. Her journey with Kesho Kenya only began after a misfortune in the office. She came with her mum to request for support and accidentally knocked over a big partition that separates our office area from the resource center. It was at this point when we realized she could not see properly. She was immediately taken to hospital where the doctor stated that she was partially blind. Kesho Kenya paid up her medical bills and that was how she became a beneficiary.

When good luck came knocking …

She was then allocated a sponsor whom they connected beyond the termly letters.  Over holidays, the sponsor travels all the way from abroad to Kilifi to visit Bahati and her family. She has supported them in various ways and bought them scholastic materials, bedding and other items. She even bought Bahati a pair of spectacles help her in reading.

Last year, the sponsor sent Kesho Kenya 350 Pounds (Ksh. 45,000) to enable Bahati’s mum start up a business. The saying, give man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish and feed him for a lifetime applies to this case since a business would enable Bahati’s mum generate income to look after her family. She therefore joined our business classes where she was individually coached by Ms. Elizabeth. Kesho Kenya offers entrepreneurship classes to community members to help them start small scale businesses that generate income to enable parents financially support families.

Business ideas such as selling groceries, vegetables and fish

“I learnt so much from the entrepreneurship classes like businesses I could venture into such as selling groceries, food stuff and vegetables. The training opened my eyes up as I learnt how to keep my business afloat once it starts.” Says Bahati’s mum with a wide smile. She adds that besides learning how she can diversify her income, she learnt on maintaining high hygiene to keep her customers happy and buying from her.

She started off by selling local fish (papa, kumbu), onions and prepared chapati which she sold out to students in the nearby school. “Ms. Charity and Elizabeth helped me kick off as they bought me a table and an umbrella to put out as a stand so as to display my merchandise.”

How the Corona Virus Pandemic affected her business

“My target customers for chapatis were students in our neighboring school but since they closed and students are at home, I cannot continue preparing as they will not sell out and will register a loss.”

She explains that her business was doing well but since corona virus came to the County, it has been adversely affected. This is because the cost of purchasing items is very high and selling it to her customers at an even higher price is becoming a challenge. So she decided to save up the money which she will use in restocking onions and vegetables after the pandemic.

She is only left with her fish (sardines) selling business which she sells from her house as she has established customer base and they buy from her house. Also, she has a newborn who is only a week old forcing her to stay home and nurse her baby as she recovers from delivering.

Planning to buy a savings kit to support children in education

“As you can see, the house I live in is in a dilapidated state. With the long rains here with us, water sips through the roof into the house. My plan is to save up a good amount of money to enable me to rent out a better house.” She also says that she wants to buy a savings kit so that she can save up as much as possible to enable her to buy stationery and other school materials for her children.

Bahati’s family is also lucky to be among the house holds that benefit from a weekly cash transfer of Ksh. 1,500 to ensure they are able to afford meals and other items during the Covid 19 period.

“I am very grateful to Kesho Kenya for continuously supporting me and my family. I cannot even imagine where I would be had they not come in to support my daughter and family at large four years ago.”

Greatness is inspiring others to be the best

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I am Francis Kitsao, a Kesho Kenya alumni and currently in my final year pursuing my degree in gender and development studies. Kesho Kenya has walked with me since I joined high school in 2012 to date. Kesho did not only pay my school fees but also molded me by equipping me with various life skills that enable me to thrive in this very competitive world.

Kesho offered me trainings on leadership, entrepreneurship, goal setting and career selection among others that have not only helped me in selecting my university course but also discover what I’m passionate about and that is bringing about positive change to my community. The trainings also taught me how to manage my finances while at the university, boost my self-esteem, and develop leadership skills.

Passion for mentorship

My journey with Kesho did not just stop at high school since i was given an opportunity to volunteer so as to gain relevant work experience before joining university. The experience there helped me explore my abilities in various ways I could never have imagined. From time to time, I would mentor secondary school students on achieving academic success. Well, this was not easy as I had never been in front of an audience but with time, I developed passion for mentorship, urge to bring change and solutions to some of the problems in our society.

So when I joined the university, I had the idea to start up an initiative that would influence positive behavior change among students but did not know where to start. For starters, I was only in my first year of study and still familiarizing with the institutional policies and structures. I continued with my studies but never lost focus on what i wanted to achieve before completing my course.

When men dominate women

When I got to my second year of  studies, I felt that was best time to start up the drive since Ihad made a few friends with the same interest and had good relationships with some of my lecturers who came helped out both in cash and kind. To be honest, I was full of uncertainties like “what if I start this up and it flops?” Nevertheless, I never let my doubts weigh me down and went ahead with my drive. Most students were at first not willing to pay up club registration fees but I managed to convince them that it was all for a noble course which will change our society.

I had witnessed what was happening both in my community and the university. Having been brought up in a patriarchal family, I understood what it was like, for men to domineer over women compelling them to think that’s how it should be.

I felt the need to educate people against Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) that has seen many girls and women in my community suffer terribly. Imagine, a girl at the uni in a toxic relationship where she is physically and emotionally abused, suffers in silence and thinks it is okay. It really pains me when these girls stay in such relationships simply because the guy meets their daily expenses  which they are unable to cater for.

Passionate about change

To stop all this, I started up a campus club in 2018 whose main aim is to end SGBV within and outside the student community. Since I was green on running such a club, I visited National Gender Equality Commission and United Nations office in Nairobi to learn their ways of running things. I did not stop at that. I went ahead, researched and brought on board partners who we to date work together in organizing events and activities. Our club has about 60 registered members who are committed and passionate about change.

To ensure smooth running of the club, every member pays up a small amount to enable us organize for activities like visiting children homes and conducting forums in the university that bring SGBV experts to talk to the students on various topics. Also, since I believe in the power of a story, we create a platform for students to hear from people who have experienced and successfully come out of SGBV so as to be encouraged and prompt them to do the same while they still can.

Member of “Do it with Boldness” Foundation

My dream is to register this club as a foundation that will be sensitizing members against SGBV, toxic masculinity and sponsor relationships not only with in the university but also in my home County: Kilifi and our country at large. To prepare me for this, I am a member of “Do it with Boldness” Foundation in Nairobi where I volunteer as a program coordinator. This equips me with hands on skills on managing and running an organization. I wish to have my organization up and running as soon as I complete my degree course.

I can attribute a great part of my success to Kesho Kenya since it has helped me grow into an independent thinker. Whenever I count my blessings, I count Kesho twice and cannot thank them enough for the impact they have had in my life. You guys made the right choice to academically, socially and financially invest in me when I needed you most and thought all hope was lost.

 

Passing KCPE beyond all odds

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The 10th of a family of 12, parents divorced, mother without a job, no money – for Martha it is coming close to a miracle that beyond all odds, she managed to pass her KCPE exams and to even score 334 marks, a result she would never ever have expected to achieve. But as a beneficiary of the WWW project she got support that helped her to succeed. Now she has transited to St. Johns secondary school despite experiencing all those family challenges.

Selling local brew to cater for family

WWW evaluation in the Mnazi pub

Unfortunately for her, her dad and mum separated as she was in her sixth grade and this demoralized her as she thought that was the end of her education journey. Being a tenth born of twelve siblings, she was left with her mother together with her younger sister as the other siblings left with their father. By then the mother did not have a job.

To enable her look after her family, Martha’s mom started selling local brew so as to bring in income and enable her cater for her family. The money she raised was barely enough to put food on the table. Martha felt life had taken a different turn on them and there was no coming back from it. They could not even afford one meal a day forcing them to sleep hungry. She was then schooling at Viriko Primary school.

Students from project schools benefit from WWW interventions

Viriko is a Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu (WWW) project and they benefit from various interventions the project implements. For instance, they have the mentor-mentee clubs where girls have been divided into groups of five and each assigned a mentor who is in the next level of education, most being secondary school. The mentor gets to help the younger girls (mentees) succeed in various subjects, prepare time tables that give time for house chores and to play to ensure the girls remain in school.

Support when all hope is lost

“My mentor helped me.”

“My mentor helped me when I thought all hope was lost for me to remain in school especially after my parents separated. She would constantly advise me to attend classes, work harder, score high marks which will enable me to join a good secondary school.” She utters. She continues to explain that holiday mentorships which would be conducted over school holidays greatly helped her as they were constantly advised on taking interest in science and maths subjects which according to her has helped her in her form one where most subjects involve calculations and have science knowledge.

Learning how to take care of yourself

“I even learnt how to set goals from the holiday mentorship which I initially did not have any idea about.” She states. She adds that the group discussions they would have during the sessions were of great essence to her as an individual as they discussed life challenges they were experiencing and how to curb them. “Topics such as sexual reproductive health which most people normally shun from speaking about them have helped me to know my rights, how to take care of myself and avoiding bad company which could result in using drugs.”

Hoping to benefit from the WWW bursaries

“I am more than grateful”

Currently, Martha awaits to receive bursary which she applied for and hopes she will be among those who will benefit from it. She states that it was very difficult for her to enroll into form one as her mother could not afford to even purchase items required. “I am very much thankful to our Community Health Volunteer (CHV) who is always checking up on me to ensure I have basic needs, encourages me to maintain good behavior, focus on my studies and not let my family challenges get to me to an extent of affecting my studies. I adhere to her advice since I know my current status does not define my tomorrow. I aspire to be a doctor when I grow up and I understand to attain this I need to work harder in sciences to enable me get good grades to take me to university to pursue medicine.”

“I’ m more than grateful to Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu project and what they did for me and my school mates at Viriko Primary. I have friends who benefitted from solar lamps, others from school uniform and I have seen how it changed their lives in so many ways. I would just ask that they help pay up my school fee so as to ensure I stay in school since secondary school requires one to pay so much school fees that my mother cannot afford.”

 

WWW background Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu (Let our girls succeed) project has the aim to enable 14,445 girls in Kilifi County who are in primary school to complete their current phase of education, achieve improved learning outcome and transition successfully to a productive and positive next phase. The girls will gain skills, qualification and confidence required to take control of their lives. To achieve these objectives, the project is working together with 55 primary schools and four TVET institutions in Kilifi County.

Happiness is always on the other side of being teachable

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“I have always been a harsh mother. I would scold and shout at my son every time he did something wrong. Little did I know, my approach made him distance himself from me and fear me to a point of not sharing his challenges,” says Radhiya a middle aged mom.

Street Business School (SBS) Background

All this drastically changed when she joined Street Business School (SBS) project being implemented by Kesho Kenya. Its main aim is to empower women living in poverty to change their lives through launching their own micro-businesses and igniting their spark within. SBS offers a dynamic, transformative entrepreneurial training experience including basic business skills and confidence building.

Our safeguarding officer trained the Mtwapa cluster group through the various entrepreneurship modules and after every session, she would discuss with them child protection issues, forms and signs of child abuse, children rights and the right reporting mechanism.

From a harsh to a friendly mom

Radhiya: “My ears are now open on how to deal with children.”

Radhiya is now very much grateful for the child protection discussions they frequently had. She says, “My ears are now open on how to deal with children more so teenagers. I now know how to approach issues and ensure I maintain open communication lines between me and my child.” She adds, “He is

currently my friend and bodyguard. Whenever he encounters challenges I am the first person he runs to for help.” She expresses that the son was greatly concerned on her change of character when dealing with him unlike previously when she would scold him and be tough on him. She says that she told him that was because of the child protection classes she had undergone. Radhiya explains that she currently know where to report a child protection issue if she witnesses within her surroundings.

Juice making business

Radhiya learnt how to manage her business financially.

The hard-working mom is married with one child and the husband resides in Sudan. He is currently not employed forcing her to get into businesses so as to cater for her family’s needs. When she heard that Kesho Kenya was conducting entrepreneurship training for Mtwapa community members she hurriedly joined. She blends juices and sells them out to earn a living.

“Before, I would just sell the juices I would produce but did not know whether I was making profits or losses. Elizabeth, our couch taught me how to do record keeping, balance sheets and how to determine if I am making profits or losses.” She elaborates that now she knows how much she can spend for other needs and how much she should put back in the business.

Radhiya’s son has currently completed his primary school education and is looking forward to joining high school. She says that her wish is to have her son joining a good boarding secondary school in up country because they instil discipline into students unlike many coastal schools. She says that he has a few savings that she is planning to use to take her son to secondary school beginning of next year.

Growing her business

Radhiya preparing tamarind juice

After the son goes to school, she wants to start up a fast food joint where she will be preparing meals and drinks, packing them up in plastic containers and distributing to schools at an affordable price. She explains that she has noted that most students do not usually like the food prepared in their schools claiming that they are tasteless. She feels that students will be placing orders with her since her food will be hygienically packed and retailing at an affordable amount.

Importance of cluster groups

“We call ourselves Mwangaza group because we all live in unity. In as much as we have completed the SBS modules and graduated, we are still united and will continue to support one another grow. She gives an example and says that they will be having a wedding in her family in December 2019 and they will be sourcing for most stuff like firewood, vegetables, cooking pots and plates from her fellow group members so as to promote them.  All our businesses have greatly grown and improved thanks to Kesho Kenya.”

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another…”

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Mentorship is vital for young people to grow up into responsible beings. Identifying a role model, who has been through similar challenges as those of a young person and has successfully transitioned to the next phase of education beyond all odds, can be emulated especially if this mentor is a peer.

“Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu” (WWW) means “Let Our Girls Succeed” and is a holistic project specifically designed to remove cultural and socio-economic barriers that have prevented or made it difficult for primary school girls in Kenya to transit to secondary schools and other alternative pathways. Girls in project schools form one on one mentorship clubs where the mentor is a peer who went to the same primary school and is currently in the next level of education.

The vivacious mentor

Zawadi, the mentor

Zawadi, a form two student at Mwangea Girls is a mentor for two mentee groups in Mtepeni. We met with grade seven girls in Mtepeni primary school who are Zawadi’s mentees a school she previously attended.

“It was kind of difficult to mentor them at first. I was a bit shy and my mentees were not very free with me thus would not open up concerning their challenges. I started by befriending each of them, told them my experiences and they gradually developed trust in me, started opening up and sharing their challenges.”

She adds that she has taught them on how to study, developing time tables that include time for studying, playing and doing house chores which has helped most of them improve their performance and start-up discussions with their guardians on not overburdening them with house chores so that they get ample time to study. They have also discussed Sexual Reproductive Health, goal setting and career selection.

Juggling between mentorship and studies

Since Zawadi is a student, she has learnt over the period how to manage her time in order for her to meet up with her mentees, perform her house chores, study and still find time to meet up friends and relatives. “The most challenging incident I ever tackled was when one of my mentees opened up to me on something that was so personal and touching. I did not know how to go about it and I had to involve teachers because I felt it was over and beyond my capacity.”

Mentees testimonials…

Mary, mentee

Mary states that the mentorship has helped her as an individual as her sister has been her biggest derailer. She kept discouraging her from going to school and studying as she did not value it. “Zawadi helped me reach out to my aunt who encourages me to stay in school and work hard. I currently live with my aunt and my sister doesn’t talk to me anymore.” She utters sadly. Mary explained that she was able to find a prayer partner in Zawadi who would pray with her whenever her aunt was unable to pay up school fees.

Yasmin, mentee

Yasmin is also a mentee and for her, she was glad for what the mentorship program has helped her overcome. She says that her performance was wanting initially. Yasmin says, “I at first did not even have the courage to discuss my grades as my performance was very poor. Zawadi helped me come up with a timetable and linked me up to a teacher who supports me academically.  Now, my performance has greatly improved.”  She adds that Zawadi and her mum counsel and advise her accordingly and she is very grateful for that.

Mwaka, mentee

“Mentorship has given me friends with whom I can sit down to discuss academics and how to improve our grades.” Says Mwaka, another mentee.  “I initially did not have friends to offer me support as I support them too. Zawadi has taught us how to love, look after and care for one another. We still meet when she is in school and support each other where possible. There are mentorship groups that aren’t working because members aren’t cooperative and they try to discourage us but we do not pay attention to them.”

 

Mentorship has not been a bed of roses

Zawadi with a grin on her face explained that at some point, two of her members were not in talking terms and this made their meetings unbearable as they would argue all the time. She called them individually and established the root cause of the problem and later called upon the two girls to forgive one another.

Zawadi explains that she is proud to see what has become of these young girls. She adds that it has not been easy especially for another group she oversees.  “What really broke my heart was when one of my mentees got pregnant. To be honest I really cried because this was a girl I had talked to on several occasions on how to protect herself. Her mother was so furious and was blaming me for her daughter’s pregnancy.” She adds that together with the Community Health Volunteer, they managed to calm her down and explained what the project is about.

Zawadi Thanked the WWW project for supporting the girls with sanitary towels as those were major challenges her mentees were facing. She also urged the project team to engage parents once in a while by enlightening them on what the one on one mentorship is about. She added that her reason for doing this is because some parents do not allow their girls to attend the sessions.

Every leadership role has its own challenges

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Is leadership learned or innate? Many individuals argue that it is learned while others would say that it is inborn. One of our beneficiaries, Moses seems to be born a leader and has learned skills that have kept him a leader throughout his school life. Many would wonder why him? Why is he always in leadership positions and what makes him always stand out as a leader? Here is why…

Class coordinator in class two…

Moses was first appointed into a leadership role when he was seven years: an age where one can barely pronounce syllables right. As a class two student, Moses was already coordinating the class in small activities but by then his performance was not very pleasing. His teachers urged him to work hard, get good grades to enable him to be successful in life.

Heeding to his teacher’s advice, he started working hard and by the time he got to class six, he was appointed the class monitor. His performance kept improving and he even became position one while in class seven resulting to him being appointed as the school’s timekeeper locally known as a bell ringer. He was the “teachers’ favourite” he describes with a grin on his face, Moses says, “It is so difficult for one to break school rules or be on the wrong when you are in a leadership role.” He adds that he has been able to build up his confidence and assertiveness over the years.

Learning to be a leader…

Moses in a training

His poise, eloquence and buoyancy make people notice his ability to lead. He is a dapper who stands out wherever he goes and if in a group, he is always asked to take charge and look after others. “It has all been a learning process for me because each leadership role I undertook came with its own challenges,” Moses utters confidently. “It has not been a bed of roses for me as it calls for wisdom, critical thinking and a good decision-maker to be a good leader”. He has undergone quite a number of trainings that have enabled him to be assertive when speaking to other students and known when to be a friend and when to be a leader.


And now the president of the school

Moses is currently in Jaribuni Secondary school in Kilifi and he is the president of the school after being appointed by teachers and majority students. He was immediately sent to Nakuru County to represent his Sub County in leadership training.  He says that he did not have to convince other students to vote for him as the president of the school, neither did he have to ask teachers to vouch for him. His character and personality spoke for him. He would walk past students and would hear them murmur “that’s our president.”

“The higher you go, the cooler it becomes.”

Moses facilitating a training

His journey may seem to have been easy but he states that it hasn’t been. “In fact,” he adds, “the higher you go, the cooler it becomes. It challenges me when a fellow student and friend breaks a school rule and I am asked to reprimand them.  This is difficult for me since I don’t usually want to lose a friend but I have a duty to fulfil at the same time.  So, I try my best to be neutral and fair to all students irrespective of one being a friend or not.”

 

As his way of giving back to the community, Moses gets to volunteer in some of our Kesho Kenya activities and trainings. In the just-ended school holiday, he mentored form ones and twos on what to consider while selecting subjects in secondary school. As if not enough, he trained his fellow high school students on being good public speakers. He told them that he perfected his public speaking by addressing audiences since he was young and speaking in front of the school during parades. It has indeed been a journey that has enabled him to sharpen his life skills and think broadly.

Leadership beyond high school

He will not only stop at high school. He plans to practice his leadership skills in university an even beyond. He wishes to be a leader in his community. He says, “It pains me to see politicians who are our leaders take care of their personal interests forgetting the people’s interest. I would like to be a leader in my community, lead by example and act in a way that can be emulated.”

His dreams and aspirations

Moses says that he would like to be a lawyer as he would love to help people from his community get and demand justice. He says that he will start by enlightening his community on their rights and work closely with organisations like Kesho Kenya in transforming and impacting the society positively. He plans to work industriously in his academics so as to attain good grades that will enable him to enrol into law school.

 

“Success is not for the chosen few”

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This is so cliché but true. To all the high school students, never be afraid to stand up for yourself. Sometimes I was a bully and sometimes I was bullied and not just by strangers but friends. School is a place where you find who you are and I am by no means the same person I was in high school. My past experiences and life lessons have although moulded me into being Adam. There are so many things I wish I would have said even if that meant losing a friend because I would have been true to myself.

Figuring out the direction life would turn

Adam working in safeguarding department

If I were to go back to high school as the same person I am now, I would have been an even better person. Bearing in mind, success is not for the chosen few but for the few who have chosen it.

I came home after my final exam not knowing what the future held for me. I was ecstatic for I was now embarking a new phase of life that is adulthood. I mean who isn’t looking forward to growing up? All I wanted was to do something constructive that would keep me occupied. Should I start up a business? I did not have capital to do that. So I was still trying to figure out the direction life would turn, I learnt of the Graduate Assistant position at Kesho Kenya. So, I scribbled down my Curriculum Vitae and cover letter and threw in my application to try my luck.

Kesho Kenya: the sense of belonging

Eventually, I was selected after a very tough interview among finalists. This gave me confidence and hope for the future. Green in the employment field, I came into Kesho Kenya not knowing where to start or how my life here would turn out. All thanks to Bobby who was then the outgoing graduate assistant, he introduced me to other staff members who were very welcoming and I felt part of them. This gave me a sense of belonging to Kesho Kenya.

Shift from comfort zone to be bold

To get me started, I was attached with the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Officer who assigned tasks to me. Oh! My, so where do I start? I kept asking myself. Fear of the unknown engulfed all over me and I kept wondering how I should proceed. Should I ask him how all this is done? What if his response isn’t pleasant? Things weren’t easy at first I say but I had to shift from my comfort zone, be bold and ask for clarification where instructions were not clear. The M&E officer, Joshua Mlolwa guided me well and helped me sharpen my computer skills which were by then not so satisfying.

Twice as brave whilst speaking in public

Adam at Eza Moyo primary school

Once in a while I would be expected to break office monotony and head to the field. This offered me an opportunity to connect with my fellow youths. An instance came up when I was required to talk about Kesho Kenya before the students of Bahari Girls Secondary School. Imagine standing before so many ladies when you are a young man. Can you imagine? I was so scared and didn’t even know what to say besides being flushed the whole time. The Officer I was with instilled confidence in me.  “A boy in the midst of girls has to be twice as brave.” She always said to me.  Eventually, I managed to surpass the stage fright and shared with them Kesho Kenya’s overview. From then on, I visited more schools and this made me bolder, built my confidence and improved my public speaking skills as well as my way of articulating issues in matters youths.

Sealing bonds during a teambuilding exercise

They say work without play makes Jack a dull boy. The same applies to Kesho Kenya.  At least once in a year, staff take time to unwind, seal bonds in relation to work and get to interact amongst themselves out the office. This year was no different. We went to Bahari Dhow Beach Villas in Diani. It was my first time on a team-building exercise. I was very curious to know what happens during such activities. The ambience of the place was so surreal and welcoming. We were warmly welcomed and checked into our rooms. Good thing there were no plans set for that day so I familiarized myself with the place and enjoyed swimming with my team members.

Breaking the gap between co-founder and me

Adam playing volleyball during team-building

The teamwork was excellent, the meals, sports and all the activities were perfect. Actually, it was an eye-opener on how team-building activities are conducted. I learnt crucial aspects of team building and the importance of having teamwork. I got the privilege to play an intellectual table game with the co-founder of Kesho Kenya. This actually made me break the gap between Mama Zena and I. I found out that she is such a friendly person and we had fun together. I learnt a lot of things from her such a being confident and pro-active.  I would advise everyone to interact freely with her.  I also had an interesting chat with Anthony. It was in an informal environment but he majorly advised me about campus life, opportunities out there, how to deal with obstacles among others. Anthony has brought fulfilment in my life.

Connecting with the community and making it a better place

I believe that once you have the momentum, making new friends is easier. I have made new friends who have built up my social relationship skills that would help me in future. Actually, Kesho Kenya has given me a chance to connect with my community and make it a better place, see the world from a different point of view and provided me with a sense of purpose. It may not be the best candidate to stretch your professional muscle but the perfect place to give a hand and help the community.

Understaffing and underfinancing has been a thorn in the flesh for me but I have the passion to help the community. Some of the facilities are few and very old. These facilities in most cases have huge challenges that impede me from executing my duties perfectly. However, these overlooked functions play a critical role in the provision of excellent service to clients and the community at large.

Why I volunteered at Kesho Kenya

Kesho Kenya office has lots of laptops for its beneficiaries, though old. Though the resource Centre is small, it has had a positive impact on our lives. I’m looking forward to seeing Kesho Kenya expanding its services to the youths nationwide. My decision to volunteer at Kesho Kenya is not solely a community service endeavour, but partly gains experience. I am hopeful that I have left an indelible positive mark whilst am a student.

What next?…

Adam and friends attending a youth training

We all had dreams and aspirations when we were young, about where we would like to see ourselves in life when we grow up. I have always wanted to be a pilot since my childhood. But this is not the case right now. I am going for Community Nursing because I admire the life where a person will always be connected to his community bearing in mind that the world cannot change on itself, it needs people with great goals and holding themselves accountable for it.

Having a second chance makes you want to work even harder

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County officials raise alarm on the number of teenage mothers. In 2018, about 17,000 teenage pregnancies were registered in Kilifi County, a huge menace. Most of these girls drop out of school. “They feel shy when they get pregnant and drop out because their fellow students laugh at them”, says Elpinah Jembe, a teacher at the dressmaking department of Mkwajuni Vocational Training Centre.

“I had to sell cassava while pregnant to earn income…”

Life has not been a bed of roses for Amina (name changed and photo hidden) who is firstborn of eight siblings.  She became pregnant in 2012 when she was in class four after getting herself involved with a standard seven boy. This devastated her as her parents are casual labourers and her having a baby meant additional expenses for the family.

Amina’s parents sent her to the boy’s family which forced the young man here referred to as Katana to drop out of school too so as to look after his young family. This did not go on for long as Katana asked Amina to go back to her home for he was no longer capable of taking care of her.

‘’When I was six months pregnant, I decided to sell cassava so as to earn money to look after my unborn baby.’’ She stammers. ‘’My classmates would laugh at me whenever I ran into them and this made me feel so sad.’’

Amina’s chance: the “Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu” project

Mkwajuni Vocational Training Centre

Two years later, Amina was called by the class teacher and asked to re-enrol to school as the baby was all grown. In 2014, she joined class four. It was uncomfortable for her at first but after a while learnt to adapt. She persevered and stayed in school throughout her four years until she completed her primary school education.

‘’I was overjoyed when Madam Sarah called and informed me that I had been selected to benefit from the Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu project which is being implemented by Kesho Kenya.’’ She was asked to select the course of her choice and she chose dressmaking. The project bought her school uniform and paid her school fees for TVET.

 

14,445 girls benefit from WWW

Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu (Let our girls succeed) project is supported by DFID under the Girls Education Challenge fund. Its main aim to enable 14,445 girls in Kilifi County who are in primary school to complete their current phase of education, achieve improved learning outcome and transition successfully to a productive and positive next phase. The girls will gain skills, qualification and confidence required to take control of their lives. To achieve these objectives, Kesho Kenya is working together with 55 primary schools and four TVET institutions in Kilifi County.

The project focusses on three points of transition: from primary school to secondary school, from primary school to an alternative learning pathway and from having dropped out of school back into catch-up class in primary school or an alternative learning pathway.

Advising young mothers to re-enter school

Amina wishes she could travel back in time to change everything that happened to her but that’s not possible.  She tries to advise her fellow young mothers to re-enter school in order for them to have a second chance to change their livelihoods. “Although I have not yet grasped all concepts in my course, I am working hard to learn as much as I can to be among the best dressmakers in my region.”

‘’Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu project sends me monthly cash transfers that provide for my upkeep in school and look after my child. I am so grateful to the WWW project as were it not for them, I would never have re-entered leave alone staying in school in the first place.’’

“Young mothers learnt their lessons in life”

Teacher Elpinah Jembe says Amina is very hardworking and shares with other students of her motherhood experience.  She states that it is very unusual as others shy off and choose to only keep it to themselves and their family

Elpinah Jembe

‘’Young mothers have experienced life and have learnt life lessons so they tend to concentrate on their studies but for other teenage girls, they give me a headache as they want to explore the world. ‘’

“Thank you so much to WWW”, TVET teacher says and requests the team to talk often to the girls in the institution in order for them to understand how they can benefit from the project.

Difficulties getting the girls to open up                                                             

Catch up tutors feel like the main challenge teenage girls face is peer pressure and they need so much counselling and mentorship. Speaking to one of the catch-up centre tutor, Sophy Mbaru, she states how she had difficulties getting the girls to open up at first. She, therefore, had to befriend them; tell them her life experience which they could relate to. She serves as a counsellor and mentor to the girls and encourages them not to give up their dreams as they are still valid.

’’Catch up centers under the Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu project”, she says, “will be of great help to our girls as instead of them staying home idle and giving up on their dreams, they get to attend classes and where we guide and counsel them into going back to schools and continuing with their studies.”

When young men take advantage of the girls

Some of the TVET students in the dressmaking department

The tutor states that young mothers are majorly impregnated by boyfriends who are almost their age mates. The girls don’t understand how they get into romantic relationships. For most of them, they are normally sent home due to school fee arrears, stay idle at their homes and young men take advantage.

After impregnating them, they abandon them and refuse to take responsibility. Sophy Mbaru says that others engage with Bodaboda guys who offer them 20 bob for lunch, drop them off to school and back home. The girls enjoy the favours not knowing that they will have to pay back. Others are lured by older men who provide financial support to the girls for sexual gain.

In her eyes, it is also important to create more opportunities for more young mothers to join the catch-up classes as there are lots of them in the communities. “Most of them are willing to join but got no means to develop themselves through their skills.”

Life beyond motherhood

How many of the young mothers are courageous enough to re-enter school after becoming pregnant? Most of them have huge aspirations that are shuttered the moment they drop out of school.  Only few who undergo counselling and mentorship see that there is life beyond motherhood. Thanks to projects like WWW, that one can re-enter school and still attain their life dreams.

Note; Photo of the young mother whose name has been changed has not been used in this article due to privacy reasons