Dear Friends of Kenya Help:
Ten years ago, in September 2005, I boarded a plane headed for Nairobi. I can’t remember my expectations, but I assure you, they didn’t involve a foundation, building a girls high school, donations exceeding $1.6 million, 250 graduates from the school and 35 orphans who seem like my own grandchildren. I thought I was going to teach math in a mixed boarding high school and learn about Africa. Nor did I imagine the chord this project would strike with so many wonderful people whose donations make it all possible. Several grandmothers give a Christmas gift of a scholarship instead of “things”, children have requested donations to Kenya Help in lieu of birthday gifts, a group of elementary school girls earned about $40,000, part of which built our basketball court. Many of you have opened your hearts to children, both boys and girls and helped send them to high school and university.
Where are we now? As I write, 51 form 4’s have just completed national exams, each with her own dreams about her next phase of life. They eagerly await late February when the results are published.
Quinter wants to be an engineer, Cynthia hopes for med school, Magdalene dreams of a stage career, Veronica wants to teach, while Selena, has run in the Kenyan nationals and has Olympic hopes. We have aspiring architects, doctors, lawyers, accountants, designers, nurses and business entrepreneurs. They have lived with their diversity of 9 tribal cultures, learning to adapt to many differences. They continue to become more confident in their worth as young women–something they often don’t learn within the tribal culture–and in confidence that they can make a positive difference in their world. They are learning to share their challenges and discover that others have had the same issues. They are becoming aware of the parts of the culture that should be preserved and the parts that no longer serve them. Female Genital Mutilation is a case in point. Many tribes, including several represented at SFG, still practice FGM but many of our girls now have the courage and confidence to say NO! Even more importantly they can take back to their age-mates still in the village the information that this is not a universal practice and to encourage more to say NO!
The students have developed compassion for the poorest among them, establishing a fund to help pay “arrears”, and provide for personal needs. Girls donate their extra pocket money and even items, such a soap and toothpaste. Earlier this year a group visited the neighbors, bringing gifts, planting trees and getting to know them. As an extra incentive to girls who struggle, the SFG board instituted a “most improved” student award, one for each class. The girls really like that.
St. Francis continues its efforts to be “green”. The latest effort is a biogas system, which will convert all organic waste to methane gas for cooking. The final product is fertilizer, good even on food crops. It’s the perfect recycling system, as well as eliminating wood burning–thus saving trees and adding no greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. We have asked Safaricom, Kenya’s largest phone company, to fund this. Already our water-harvesting from roofs to a huge underground cistern and our solar/wind electricity generation system (funded by Safaricom) are attracting attention. We sent the SFG agriculture teacher to the Grow Bio-Intensive Demonstration project in Thika (http://www.g-biack.org/) and provided organic, non-GMO seeds, purchased with funds raised by 4 young girls in Palo Alto. They provide the basis of a seed saving program.
The children of Mji Wa Neema children’s home are growing up and are either in high school, university or training courses to learn skills to support themselves. We hope the parish will decide to bring in more orphans to join the home. It is such a warm, loving, nourishing, supportive place, with staff who encourage, teach, train and help them move through childhood to become responsible adults.
We are happy with Empower the World (ETW), the Kenyan foundation established to receive our funds and to evaluate applications for scholarships. Fr. Kiriti is one of the executive board members, which ensures his involvement regardless of where he is posted. ETW is making plans to solicit donations from local people and from other Kenyan foundations, like Safaricom. Our hope is that the scholarship program will eventually be self-sustaining. That’s a long way off, but the first steps are under way.
We continue our efforts to keep our overhead at a minimum. All of the Kenya Help Board and myself are volunteers who give our time to keep this program growing. To date our 2014 expenses are 4.6% of donations. The other 95.4% has supported 72 high boys and girls and 15 students in post high school, purchased shoes, clothing and supplies for the children of Mji Wa Neema, supported Fr. Kiriti’s work in East Pokot, including a mobile medical clinic bringing prenatal care, immunizations and information to remote areas. We purchased the badges you see on the red uniform sweaters, a camera, and other needed supplies for St. Francis.
Future needs include more housing for teachers, 10 laptops for our teachers, new desktop computers in lab, and scholarships. With your help and encouragement, these needs, too, will become realities.
Margo McAuliffe, Executive Director and the Kenya Help Board Members