I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me about the results of last summer’s Ujima Bazaar fundraiser so you’ll have to excuse the length of this exciting update! After the fundraiser came to a close, I spent the autumn and early winter months working with the leadership at Good Samaritan Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya to find the best ways to support the children of the orphanage. Then I spent nearly a month in Kenya! But I’m finally back and have some thrilling new updates for what you fantastic people were able to accomplish with your support, participation, donations, and/or purchases with Ujima Bazaar! Read the post below to get the scoop:
There are a lot of needs that the children and the orphanage have. With over 300 children living at the home at any given time, the costs for food, clothing, supplies, staff, and education (among other things) are massive and unrelenting. It was a long, difficult, and heart-wrenching process to decide how the funds would be spent but after months of collaboration, conversation, and research… it was decided that providing education to these children was the most effective way to make a huge impact on their lives.
The Ujima Bazaar effectively raised $2,050 in the summer of 2013. Additionally, a generous benefactor, Kim Phillipi (my spectactular boss and mentor), provided a dollar-for-dollar match for the project, raising our total amount raised to $4,100. With that dollar figure in mind, I set out to figure just what we could all accomplish toward providing a quality education for the children at Good Samaritan’s.
First and foremost, it’s important to know that Kenya’s public school system is… well, broken, to say the least. While primary school (through grade 8) is free in Kenya since 2003, the problems the public school system are facing are substantial. Government funding is erradic and unpredictable – causing budget and planning problems. Embezzlement of public funds by school administrators continues to be a problem due to corruption and lack of accountability. Literacy levels are low (especially in primary schools), lack of free transportation causes unbelievable rates of absenteeism, and there is a horrendous shortage of teachers. Because of these issues, it became clear that we needed to move as many kids out of public school and into private institutions as possible.
In coordination with the leadership at Good Samaritan Children’s Home, we selected 6 children that attended Old Mathare Primary School (a public institution in the Mathare Slum of Nairobi) in 2013 and enrolled them at Palace Academy, a private day school in the Pangani area of Nairobi – not far from the orphanage. The funds we raised covered their tuition, meals (breakfast and lunch), supplies, transportation, uniforms, shoes, physical education clothes, textbooks, French classes, and computer classes. As an added perk, because these 6 children received sponsorship that included transportation, the 10 other children from Good Samaritan’s that attend Palace Academy will also receive free transportation to and from the school. That means no more exhausting, long walks through the dangerous Mathare slum in the hot, hot sun for 16 children! We visited the school, met with the head teacher, and talked with all the children. They were all very excited about their new school! Check out the photo and info below to meet the newest additions to Palace Academy:
From left to right:
- John Macharia is 6 years old, currently in Pre-Unit (like Kindergarten) and loves practicing his numbers. John is shy but his smile and comraderie with his friend Peter made me weak in the knees.
- Peter Xinhua is 8 years old, currently in grade 2 and enjoys Bible Studies more than anything else. He may be small for his age but his goofy, giggly personality is larger than life.
- John Kamau is 8 years old, currently in grade 1 and likes his Social Studies lessons most of all. The biggest of the 3 boys, he helped speak for the younger ones who had some trouble understanding us – much like an caring big brother would do.
- Mercy Nyamuse says she is 5 years old, currently in grade 2 and after some prodding from Mercy M (her older classmate, mentioned below), said that she most enjoys math. She was VERY shy but seemed to look up to and follow Mercy M with much admiration.
- Mutheu Katunge is 12 years old, currently in grade 5 and loves Science! Her adorable yet subtle smile grew ear-to-ear when she told us that science was her favorite subject.
- Mercy Mueni is 11 years old, currently in grade 3 and really enjoys math. She is a natural leader which became apparent when she took charge of answering our questions, speaking confidently and eloquently on behalf of the shyer classmates.
But wait! We’re not quite done yet! (I know, I’m sorry. This might be the longest email ever. Hang with me.) We got word from Good Samaritan’s that two other children received scholarships to attend another school in Pangani but they needed uniforms and books in order to report to school. Well, there was no way we were about to let that free tuition go to waste! Although we’d already exceeded our fundraising budget with the Palace Academy kids, we scraped together some personal funds to make sure these two kids got a chance to get a quality education at a great school. We headed to the school, met with the head teacher, and arranged for tuition and books to be taken care of after some less-than-simple logistics finagling. The kids hadn’t yet started school so we headed to the home to tell them the good news. We had a great chat with them and the Good Samaritan team and they seemed really excited to hear they would be going to a new school the next day! Check out the photo and info below to meet the newest additions to Total Care Academy:
From left to right:
- Steven Gachoka is 13 years old, currently in grade 5 and loves his Math and Science studies. When he told me that he someday wants to be President, I instantly knew this little guy will make waves in the world.
- Mama Mercy is the Founder and Director of Good Samaritan Children’s Home.
- Damaris Mwende is also 13 years old, currently in grade 6, and enjoys both her Math and English lessons. The head teacher at Total Care was especially impressed with her admissions interview so it was no surprise that she aspires to be a doctor when she grows up.
So, that’s the recap – long, but thorough! – of what your incredible contributions to Ujima Bazaar resulted in. 8 ambitious little tikes now have the opportunity for a brighter, more enriched future through a quality education! But my efforts here aren’t over. In the coming months, there will be some exciting things happening to ensure these kids can STAY in their new schools. I’d like to encourage you to follow along this thrilling adventure in doing good, making change, and starting a ruckus by signing up for the Ujima Project mailing list. I promise to totally respect your inbox: no sharing of your email address with others, absolutely no spam, and only occasional email updates pertinent to the work I’m doing with Good Samaritan Children’s Home. To do so, just sign up in the box below the post! (If you’re already subscribed my copywriting list, you’ll get updates there so there’s no need to double-subscribe.)
From the bottom of my heart, the hearts of my family, and the hearts of the kids we helped to sponsor, THANK YOU (or ASANTE, in Swahili)! We’re all eternally grateful for your support and participation in making an impact on these little lives.