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Changing the way we care

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Research shows that children who grow up in orphanages are harmed in numerous ways. They are more susceptible to violence, abuse and exploitation, and their physical, intellectual and psychological development is delayed. At the Coast of Kenya, Kesho Kenya is an implementing partner in the Changing The Way We Care (CTWWC) initiative which seeks to educate and advocate for Family Based Care. Rose is one of our beneficiaries.

Rose is 12 years old and from a family of 5 children. She is a total orphan and was left in the care of her grandmother. Her family which still has other children to take care of, placed her in an orphanage. She has been staying in  Mother’s Vision Children’s Home since 2015. Her family hoped she would be able to access better nutrition and education for her to finish her studies.

Assessments to identify needs

COVID 19 saw many Charitable Children Institutions (CCIs) close down and children sent home. Rose was among the children who were released from the CCI and went back to her grandparents’ home. CRS through the Local Implementing Partner Kesho Kenya has been supporting Rose and her family for the past weeks. The Kesho Kenya social worker conducted child, family and community assessments to identify what support Rose and her family may need and the services that are available or are needed within the community.

Cash transfer, household items and personal items

CRS provided Rose’s parents a cash transfer to cater for critical household needs combined with livelihood training to improve their home and living conditions through income generating activities. The care givers also received cash transfer which they used to purchase food for the household as well as panties, sanitary towels, body oil and a pair of shoes for Rose. The rest of the money was used to boost their fire wood business so as to increase the daily family income.

The family also plans to start Chicken rearing business, and they already have some chicken to start with. They asked for assistance in building a store for their firewood and a chicken coop. Rose was also signed up in the National Health Insurance fund (NHIF) for medical support that will also benefit her grandparents and their child who is under the age of 18.

From distressed to cheerful

The caregivers reported to have noted a great improvement on Rose.  At the start, she was very distressed returning back home from the CCI, She sat alone, lost in her own thoughts, and refuse to mingle with other children in the household. The teacher was called in several times to counsel her but she did not respond or get better. The care giver noted that when we started engaging her, coming for follow up visits, giving cash to the family and a dignity pack to her, she lit up and became cheerful. She said that if the economic status of the family can change by being supported to achieve economic empowerment, she will not go back to the CCI.

Changing The Way We Care is working with the government, civil society, and other non-governmental organizations in Kenya to begin the process of changing the culture of orphanages throughout the country. Changing the Way We Care promotes safe, nurturing family care for children reintegrating from residential institutions and prevents child-family separation by strengthening families, reforming national systems of care for children, and working with others to shift commitments and conversations in support of family care.
Students make their dream come true

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There was a time when students at Uyombo Girls Secondary were far from feeling associated with their school. Girls were even urging their parents to transfer them. Now, one year after the SHINE project started, they are proud of their school because things have changed.

It just took a school exchange visit to spark the fire. “We want our school to be like Bahari Girls Secondary”, said the members of the Uyombo integrity club after spending a day at the national boarding school which has everything they dream of: a laboratory, nice classrooms, spacious dormitories, and a school bus. At their small school in a rural area, nothing really developed since it was built in 2009, apart from the construction of an office and a dining hall.

Science classes in regular classrooms

Above all, a laboratory was missing,” stated Uyombo Girls’ integrity club member. During science classes, practical work needed to be done in regular classrooms.  Smoky and burning chemicals were very disturbing. In a laboratory, the bad-smelling gases could escape through fuel channels. The students approached the principal who saw the necessitate and gave consent to build a laboratory. The first project at Uyombo Girls was born.

New laboratory: Students volunteer to minimize costs

In November 2019, construction started. The national government contributed to 6,000 KSH (60 USD) per student. This was far away from being enough. How could costs be minimized? The integrity club members decided to volunteer and fetch stones from a quarry on the school compound. Four days after they started the work, the principal ordered all other students to support them. “This building will be used by all of you!” Furthermore, students took stones from a burnt office building, raised money, and bought stones from a quarry in the neighborhood.

The big surprise waiting

The building was finished in June 2020, although the school is closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “The students have not seen it yet”, says Dennis Ogero, a teacher at Uyombo and in his function as patron head of the integrity club. ”It will be a big and nice surprise for them when they return.” What is missing now is only to furnish the empty big room and to add the already stored equipment.

Another project which is under construction is a new and spacy dormitory. “This upgrade is supported by the local member of parliament”, explains Ogero. “It allows us to take soon 36 more students. The old dormitory is very small and thus congested. Students wanted to board but we did not have the facilities to accommodate them.”

Girls become proud of their school

It’s a new experience for the school as the number of students requesting the board has increased. “There was a time where students were so unsatisfied with the school and its infrastructure that they urged their parents to send them somewhere else”, says the watchman who is also the guardian of a student.

In his eyes, both projects, laboratory, and dormitory became triggers to improve things at Uyombo Secondary and thus to retain and attract students. “The girls now want to be associated with their school. They are proud of being here.”

Since the SHINE project was implemented, also the relationship between students, teachers, and school management changed. Ogero: “Before, orders were given from up to down, and students feared the teachers. Now we are in dialogue, and students speak out if they see any problem, inform us and we try to rectify. Students have become more confident. They are encouraged by what they see as possible and they can cause when they get the chance to participate.”

SHINE means “Students Acting for Honesty, Integrity, and Equality”. The project is established at 45 schools in Kilifi County, Kenya. The project aims at empowering students to act with and demand integrity in their school communities. Behind is the belief that integrity creates the conditions for people to resist corruption.

One component of the SHINE project is Integrity Clubs in which students are empowered to identify problems existing within their school communities, amicably come up with possible solutions, and mainstream intolerance to corruption. They monitor the development of projects through an app that is publicly accessible. In doing so, students practically learned the virtues of responsibility, accountability, transparency, hardworking, honesty, inclusivity.

Integrity Club members from our SHINE project girls schools interact and share experiences during an Exchange Visit at Bahari Girls’ or Sokoke Boys’. There, each school presented projects they are implementing, shared their challenges as others helped them find possible solutions and showcased their talents.

 

 

 

A dream becomes reality: Studying in the USA

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My name is Rachael. I study at Hillsdale College in the USA. I am a Kesho Kenya beneficiary. As a young girl in 2012, my dreams of ever becoming a resourceful person in my community like a mentor seemed unreal because of my family’s poor living condition. No one in my family line had ever finished secondary school. I guess they all knew education was important but how to get there was one impossible riddle.

Kesho financially supported me through my high school education. It not only made my dreams a reality but also the dreams of the whole community. I am sure many young girls and boys are motivated when I tell them I go to school in the USA. The “nothing is impossible” norm has been validated or at least I can say I’m a living testimony.

At school, I serve as the coordinator of the International Students Mentorship Program and also the Resident Advisor to a freshman dorm on campus. These roles give me the opportunity to serve as a mentor and a support system to the students in school.

I qualified for these opportunities because I underwent resourceful trainings at Kesho Kenya like leadership, first aid, reproductive health and many others. All these trainings equipped and developed my social life. My ambition is to be successful in my academic journey. Not just for myself but for everyone who is looking up to me as an example.

I consider my experience with Kesho Kenya exceptional, it is one that has formed the foundation of all that I am today.”

Rachael has awed many by her tremendous achievements. In Primary School, she attained very good marks but her family could not afford to take her to Secondary school. Lucky for her, Kesho Kenya offered her sponsorship. Rachel scored an A minus and thus was the top female student in Kilifi County.On March 2017, Kesho introduced her to Zawadi Africa Educational Fund which empowers exceptionalgirl students in Africa to secure college opportunities abroad. Kesho Kenya guided her through theapplications and college selections in where she was accepted at Hillsdale College in Michigan State.

 

“Debating is in my blood”

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“I am passionate about debating, it is in my blood”, says Mapenzi, one of our beneficiaries. She recently emerged position 3 at a national debate competition. Mapenzi imagines making a career from debating. Here is what she says in an interview with Kesho Kenya.
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𝙃𝙤𝙬 𝙙𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙛𝙚𝙚𝙡 𝙬𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙞𝙣 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙖 𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙜𝙚 𝙖𝙪𝙙𝙞𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚?

“It is normal to be nervous but I love composing myself. When I speak to a crowd of over a 1,000 people, I assume nobody is watching me. I also think of people who have made it in life, I get encouraged, start speaking and then all my fear disappears.”

𝙒𝙝𝙮 𝙙𝙚𝙗𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜?

“I am very talkative and I like English. When it comes to debating and I see how people express themselves and are talking in front of others, I want to be the one doing that. Who knows, maybe one day, I will be the president of Kenya because of, my public speaking skills.”

𝙃𝙤𝙬 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙨𝙩 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚 𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙞𝙣 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙖 𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙜𝙚 𝙘𝙧𝙤𝙬𝙙?

“I was feeling like I am going to lose, I was not speaking at my best but I was encouraged when they announced me as the best presenter and was awarded. It felt so nice.”

𝘿𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙧𝙚𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙨𝙚 𝙙𝙚𝙗𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜?

“Actually, I don’t practice. I only need to know what I am going to talk about. I ask myself, which style I am going to use on stage to get everybody’s attention.”

𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙠𝙨 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙪𝙨𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙜𝙚𝙩 𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣?

(Laughing) “You talk unique. You speak at your best. You use all the styles that you can, e.g. acting or making people laugh. I start speaking with all my passion. You have to know how to talk to the audience and who they are.”

𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙢𝙤𝙨𝙩 𝙢𝙚𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙖𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙣𝙩?

“It was when I went to St. Thomas for the national debate. All the big schools were participating. At the end, I was position 3. The other event was when I was elected Vice-Chairperson of Kilifi County. To me, it feels I can be a leader in the future.”

𝙃𝙤𝙬 𝙙𝙤𝙚𝙨 𝙙𝙚𝙗𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙗𝙪𝙩𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙡𝙞𝙛𝙚?

“It can support me to be more than I think about myself. I can be a lawyer, a teacher, a social worker, the president of the country. I feel like I can also make a career from debating. I don’t want only one career. I want to be a lawyer, a lecturer, a journalist and a motivational speaker.”

𝙒𝙝𝙤 𝙢𝙤𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙨 𝙮𝙤𝙪?

“Actually Kesho Kenya. When I came to Kesho Kenya I was shy. Through the trainings they offer and the smiles I get from staff when I am in the resource center, I am motivated to work harder so as to make Kesho Kenya proud. I thank them for moulding me into who I currently am.”

 

 

Awarded Talents

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What is nicer than breaking monotony during events, trainings or community outreaches and additionally communicating creatively and vividly to an audience to bring a message home? Education through entertainment, that’s the powerful formula of edutainment and the mission of the Kesho Edutainment Youth Group. Through their skits, edutainment group cackles up their spectators, entertain them — and also give them a serious message to take home.

Creating employment opportunities

Edutainment group photo

The theatre group was revived in 2018 and it is under the Youth Development program at Kesho Kenya. “We could kill two birds with one stone”, says programme officer Lilian Mbula. Kesho sought to empower and support talented youth to gain theatre skills hence create employment opportunities. Additionally, through the edutainment performances, Kesho Kenya, its programs and projects as well as other organisations or institutions can reach out to communities on sensitive issues in an entertaining way. “Thanks to our network, we can get gigs for the Edutainment Youth Group. When members go and perform in communities or at events, we facilitate their transport and offer them a small stipend.” Moreover, they get trainings, e.g. on perfecting their skills or conflict resolution. “Thus the members can avoid issues with one another leading to conflict.”

Spreading the wings

Edutainment Youth Group, barely one-year-old, is on the way to spreading its wings to becoming independent. It all started with the group’s participation and success in the “Youth Extravaganza” talent festival in August 2018 in Malindi. The team emerged position three in a skit they performed. “We didn’t expect to win an award in this competition,” said Samuel Garama, the leader of the group. It was their confidence, creativity, humour and how they owned up to their respective characters which convinced the adjudicators.

Performances during local and national events

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Currently, Edutainment Youth Group is known beyond Kilifi town. Its members have performed locally and nationally. Through their work, they transform and enlighten societies on the emerging social and environmental issues, e.g. teenage pregnancy, positive parenting, commercial sexual exploitation of children or countering violent extremism in communities. At present, the group has 12 members of different age and background working together to develop, write and perform their skits and songs

Their humour makes people cackle up

What’s their recipe for a successful skit? “We combine action research and participatory theatre to sensitise and educate communities”, says Samuel Garama. The team starts on a piece by choosing a topic based on real issues affecting the community. Then they draw a story of a cast which summarises the situation in all aspects. “Everyone is given a specific character, and each of us embody it with his or her own words. To create humour, we exaggerate action and movements and make funny comments. People cackle up while we pass powerful transformational messages through spoken word, songs, poetry and plays.”

“Fulfilling, fun and contributing”

Performing a skit

Why does the team like edutainment? “Very simple, using art to educate is fulfilling, fun and contributing to our own, other people’s and communities’ growth and development”, explains Samuel Garama.  “Through performing in front of crowds, we have gained lots of confidence. Furthermore, it has helped us to explore and discover our hidden talents. It’s a chance to interact with different personalities and explore new places.”

Edutainment Youth Group uses theatre as an interactive tool to identify and channel information from communities to government, development organizations, and other decision-making bodies. Their skits ignite debates within communities and amongst stakeholders in the area.

High Hopes for Asma

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Asma H. comes from a small town “where girls are only taught to cook for their husbands”, as she says. The 18-year old girl is a bit shy but knows exactly what she wants. While most of her age mates at home are married or have at least two or three children, she is determined to pursue the path of education. “I want to excel despite where I come from”, Asma explains. “I want people to know that a rural girl in a marginalised area can do it.”

Winner of the Brookside “Mathlete” regional contest

Asma’s success is so amazing that in July 2019, the Daily Nation newspaper dedicated its entire page 3 to feature her. Her outstanding achievement: Scoring an A of 90 percent, Asma emerged as the regional winner of the prestigious Brookside “Mathlete” regional contest at Ribe Boys High School. She beat over 2,000 other bright students from the Coast region who participated. “I was overjoyed. I did not expect to win as the exam was very hard, and then suddenly, I heard them calling my name.” Prisca Mgute, her school’s principal praises the teenager and has high hopes for her. “She has proven that your background and problems do not determine your future.”

“I didn’t want to lose my brightest student”

Asma’s story on Daily Nation

Two years ago, in 2017, Asma’s fate hit a hard rock and was about to take a negative turn. Her uncle who supported her financially was no longer able to pay the school fees of more than 50,000 KSH to keep her in Bahari Girls, a national secondary school. What had he to do? There were not many options: a transfer to a cheaper county school, finding a sponsor or terminating the education of the girl. The uncle wanted to transfer the girl to a local day school in Malindi.

“I was born in Malindi and did not want to go back to study there and interact with my community members who do not value education”, Asma says. “Furthermore, day schools have temptations and limit one’s study time.” But fortunately, Asma’s class teacher Dennis Pundo intervened. “I did not want to lose one of my brightest students”, he says. “She has so much potential, the ability to perform and can achieve so much in future. She just needs extra support.”

 

Kesho Kenya stepped in

The principal and board members of Bahari came together and raised school fees.  That’s how Asma found her way into Kesho Kenya. When her teachers realised that Asma’s family was not financially able to keep her in the national boarding school for long, Asma was recommended to visit the NGO in Kilifi and ask for sponsorship. Lucky for her she was admitted. “Kesho Kenya came to my rescue just at the point of need”, Asma says. She is currently in form four, at the end of 2019 she will sit for her KCSE exam, and she hopes to pass with flying colours. “To date, Asma performance has been impeccable”, says Lilian Mbula. “At our last Kesho Kenya prize-giving day, she scooped almost all presents. Her discipline is commendable too.”

Grateful for quality education

Meanwhile, Asma has a scholarship from Brookside which allows her to pursue a diploma course of her choice. Immediately after KCSE, she can enrol to Strathmore University in Nairobi, one of the best institutions in the country. “I am very much interested in construction, be it architecture, engineering or something else”, Asma says. She thinks she would not be where she is without Kesho Kenya’s support. “If it was not you, I would be in a local school and not enjoying the privileges here and quality education I have access to.”

Problem solving instead of causing unrests

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“With SHINE project we protect our future”, says Splynta Buluku. The young teacher works at one of the 15 project schools in Kilifi County. Part of his work is to help in strengthening and supporting integrity club established in Township Secondary school. SHINE means Students acting for Honesty, Integrity and Equality. The students are organized into clubs to identify problems existing in their school communities, initiate possible solutions and inform the public on their status. Problem-solving through being pro-active – instead of opting for violence, strike or looting.

The need to address problems

The number of unrests at Kenyan schools is alarming, even for the government. A report tabled in parliament indicates that in 2018, 107 schools out 8,900 public and 1,800 private institutions were affected. The causes were amongst others; bad food provided by schools, fear of exams, lack of sufficient time to sleep or engage in extra-curricular activities, immense autocratic rules or being highly pressurised to perform. Resulting in students fear in addressing their problems or asking for help.

“Whoever asks critical questions is criminated”

Boarding schools, which account for at least 80 per cent of schools in Kenya, are often the target of unrest because students feel imprisoned there. “Missing occasions to express yourself and your needs can lead to rebellion or misbehaviour”, is written in the report. Many young people complain that there is no dialogue between them and the administration which hinder peaceful solutions. Students resort to unrest with the impression that they will be noticed or heard. “Those bold enough to approach the

Splynta, teacheradministration in a diplomatic way end up being victimized and slowly the administration will look for a reason to push them out of the school through expulsion or frustrating them.”

 

Searching for solutions instead …

Sharlett from EACC

Many grievances at Kenyan schools have their roots in corruption, mismanagement, lack of competence and fraudulent activities. SHINE project intends to involve young people in the fight of corruption and to form their characters at an early age. They are to learn or identify problems in their schools, look for solutions themselves and to act against corruption – without causing chaos and unrest. “The students are involved in decision-making processes and learn to be honest and act with integrity also when not being observed.”, explains Sharlett Mlongo from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) in an interview about SHINE project at Baraka FM in Mombasa.

When the school ran out of water…

End of 2018, Kesho Kenya introduced SHINE project and its Integrity Clubs in 15 Secondary schools in Kilifi County. 20 more schools will join in 2020. One of the partner schools is Kilifi township Secondary School. Even though SHINE project exists only since a few months, successes are already visible. Once the school ran out of water. “The students did not strike but sat down to discuss how the problem could be solved and water is provided,” says Splynta Buluku. In the end, the students themselves took jerrycans and organised the transport of water from the regional sampling point – without causing unrest and chaos.

Public observation of the project’s state of affairs

The Integrity Club members identify problems or challenges at their school, develop ideas for their solution and document the process and state of affairs on a tablet. They are supported by a patron teacher and a monitor who is a fellow student. Everybody can download the Development check tool as an app in the play store and thus access information about the project’s progress and if the problems were solved to the complete satisfaction of all involved parties.

Lets’ work on the library!

To everyone’s satisfaction, the Integrity Club of Kilifi Township has solved the problem with the school’s library which was quite messy. “It initially took one quite long to find a book. So, students had the idea to introduce a directory which now allows them to access books more easily and, in less time”, says Splynta Buluku. The Integrity Club convinced the headteacher to acquire a big shelf from an abandoned table outside their classrooms. Supported by the librarian, they set up a systematic register and sorted the books during their breaks. “Now we find the books we look for in a short time”, says Everest George, head of the Integrity Club. “There was a book I could not find from the library for five years. After the library was organised and books arranged per subjects, I asked for it – and actually, it was brought to me!”

Now the library’s redesign is in its second phase. This time, the purchase of seating furniture is on the list so that reading becomes more comfortable. “We needed to either stand or sit on the floor to read as we did not have enough tables and chairs”, explains Everest George.

Beautification of the school

The Integrity Club also had the idea to beautify the school by constructing a flower bed. After seeking for the headteacher’s consent, students raised the required funds. “When we started planting, other students grabbed plow tools and rakes to help us”, says Everest George. Definitely, there are setbacks he and his team are suffering from. “After planting the flowers in the beds, younger students went heedless over it and tread down the young plants.” Nonetheless, the Integrity Club members were not discouraged but replanted. Since then, everybody pays attention.

Hoping for an end to corruption

 “Through SHINE project, students learn and apply leadership qualities”, says Damaris Aswa, SHINE program officer at Kesho Kenya. “They acquire skills on how to face challenges and sort them out themselves instead of striking. Students are being taught and inculcated with integrity in such a way that it becomes part of them. When they leave school, they are used to acting with integrity and then can have an impact on other people.” The hope is that in the long run, this will end corruption because a generation has been brought up that acts with integrity and honesty.

 

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(audio in Kiswahili, English summary below)