Kenya Keys

Kenya Keys bridges two cultures as a catalyst for educational and leadership development where potential abounds but challenges persist. In the rural Kinango District of Kenya there are many obstacles to education, but there is one organization working hard to remove those barriers for as many young Kenyans as possible. That group is Kenya Keys and its purpose is to unlock the enormous potential of young people in Kenya. Kenya Keys is a vibrant witness that one person really can make a big difference. In June 2005, Rinda Hayes and her daughter traveled to the remote village of Bahakwenu in the impoverished Kinango District in Kenya. Rinda was stunned by the extreme poverty she found in Baha...

Kenya Keys
5314 Tualata Ct
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
United States
801-259-6323
http://www.kenyakeys.org

Board of Directors

Rinda Hayes, Megan Wilcken, Deborah Shimkus, Gail Zimmerman, Brent Hayes

Project Leaders

Megan Wilcken

Mission

Kenya Keys bridges two cultures as a catalyst for educational and leadership development where potential abounds but challenges persist. In the rural Kinango District of Kenya there are many obstacles to education, but there is one organization working hard to remove those barriers for as many young Kenyans as possible. That group is Kenya Keys and its purpose is to unlock the enormous potential of young people in Kenya. Kenya Keys is a vibrant witness that one person really can make a big difference. In June 2005, Rinda Hayes and her daughter traveled to the remote village of Bahakwenu in the impoverished Kinango District in Kenya. Rinda was stunned by the extreme poverty she found in Bahakwenu. She was also inspired by the tenacity of the children in the village, who would do anything necessary to get an education. She had never observed such a single-minded desire to learn. Perhaps no Kenyan impressed Rinda more than Joseph Mwengea, the Headmaster of Bahakwenu Primary School. Joseph is an intelligent and driven man and a determined advocate for his students. As he and Rinda met together during her first visit to his village, he pleaded with her to help him help the students of Bahakwenu. He watched bright and capable students leave primary school with little or no hope of attending secondary school due to their inability to pay the required fees. After her visit, Rinda determined to return to the United States and share her stories of this community and the people who had so impressed her. She believed she could find caring American individuals and families that would be able to provide financial support for top Kenyan students, enabling these students to complete a secondary education. The Kenya Keys sponsorship program began with 14 students. Now, seven years later, Kenya Keys has supported approximately 250 students. And that's not all. Kenya Keys' work has expanded to include multiple worthwhile programs. Kenya Keys works with local communities to improve educational infrastructure and resources, such as libraries, dormitories, classrooms, desks, and so forth. The Kenya Keys Boards of Directors (one in the U.S. and one in Kenya) also provide financial and other supports to grassroots organizations run by local Kenyan community leaders and councils. Each of these components of Kenya Keys' efforts in rural Kenya is described more fully in the following section. Everything Kenya Keys does is guided by its founding principles: First, that education is the most important tool available to combat the ravages of poverty. Second, that volunteerism is critical to the success of an organization. Nonprofit groups run by volunteers remain vital, dynamic, and free of corruption. Volunteerism also connects global citizens in a meaningful way. Third, that cultural exchange is vital and enriching for all participants. We live in an increasingly connected world, and exposure to new cultures and ideas is key to creating understanding and appreciation for one's own culture and for the cultures of others. Fourth, that there should be no giving of things that run out or wear out. Giving such things only increases dependency, invites discontent, and isolates the givers from the receivers. Instead, giving should empower the receiver and provide an enduring benefit. Fifth, that all critical decisions should be made by local leaders and councils. Local leaders and community members know their own needs and circumstances far better than any outsider, however well-intentioned. Allowing local people to make key decisions gives them vital ownership and accountability. It also provides the opportunity for these individuals to develop crucial leadership skills. Kenyans will always find the best solutions to the deep-seated challenges in their communities.

Programs

Our programs-student sponsorships, community outreach in the U.S., Interns, building projects (dorms, schools, libraries, etc.), leadership training, Leadership and Education Center, libraries, Global Classroom, facilitated programs (in the U.S. and in Kenya), sanitary project, fundraising, in-country activities Providing student sponsorships is the longest running and highest priority program of Kenya Keys. The Kenyan government only provides free access to education through the primary grades (up to 8th grade). Beyond that, students or their families must pay all fees associated with their schooling. Without assistance from an outside provider, only 12% of boys in the Kenya Keys service area (the Kinango District) are able to graduate from secondary school. It is even more difficult for girls to obtain additional education due to cultural norms related to household duties, early marriage, and a higher priority placed on boys. Without assistance, only 5% of girls in our service area graduate from secondary school. Countless bright, eager students are kept from furthering their education simply because they cannot pay the required fees. Kenya Keys ensures that these students are provided sponsorships to secondary school and beyond. At the conclusion of their 8th grade year, students complete the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). Only those who pass this test with a sufficiently high score are eligible to continue their education. Students in the Kinango District who qualify to attend secondary school but are unable to pay the required fees, make an application to Kenya Keys. The Kenyan-based Board of Directors reviews the applications and selects students for sponsorship based on academic merit and financial need. Meanwhile, the U.S.-based Board of Directors recruits sponsors and matches qualifying students with a sponsor. Sponsored students receive mentoring, academic support, and volunteer opportunities. Kenya Keys connects sponsors with their students through the annual exchange of letters and pictures. Students are held accountable for their academic performance and must meet standards established for them by the Kenyan Board of Directors. Students contribute to their schools and communities through volunteer and mentorship activities as a way of giving back. Kenya Keys students who qualify for college or university are provided with sponsorships so they can continue their training and education. These educated students improve economic and educational outcomes for their families and the entire community. Improving educational infrastructure encompasses several components. Kenya Keys' top priorities include the construction of libraries, girls dormitories, and classrooms. Provisioning these with beds, desks, books, and other necessary equipment and supplies is another integral part of this program. While educational buildings and resources are limited throughout Kenya, things are even more dire in the bush. Classroom conditions are poor, at best. Many classrooms consist of dirt floors and mud walls. Educational resources, including simple items like pencils and paper, are scarce. Through the help of Kenya Keys and the determination of local communities, many schools in the region now have vastly improved infrastructure and resources, including: Refinished concrete floors in most (in some cases, all) classrooms New chalkboards Latrines for teachers and students Libraries with an increasing supply of books Girls dormitories for key schools in the region That is great progress from seven years ago, but every school still has countless needs. The improvement or construction of buildings is undertaken as a community effort. Kenya Keys raises 90% of the required funds and the community provides the remaining 10%, as either a monetary or in-kind contribution. All decisions regarding the placement and construction of these projects is directed by the local Kenyan Board of Directors. Facilitating mentorship and leadership is another important component of Kenya Keys' work in the Kinango District. This program includes several projects. Kenya Keys recognizes that the schools, communities, and government of Kenya need strong leaders, and the Directors of Kenya Keys are committed to educating and training individuals to be those leaders. We accomplish that by creating new and/or supporting existing leadership and mentorship programs. The Undugu Mentorship Program is an organization formed by young college-trained professionals, men and women with a range of professional skills and educational backgrounds. They are based in Mombasa, Kenya and travel to outlying villages to encourage students and recent graduates in the pursuit of ongoing education and careers. This mentorship, provided by successful Kenyans, shows young students what is possible for them. It gives them information about available careers, allows them an opportunity to have their questions answered, and helps them set and achieve personal goals. Kenya Keys is working to build an Education and Leadership Center as a much-needed resource for Kenya Keys and for the local villages. There are very few existing venues in the village for holding educational and mentorship events. When the Center is built, it will house Kenya Keys directors and interns while they are working in Kenya. It will be used for a variety of important community events such as the mentorship activities conducted by the Undugu Mentorship group, meetings of local grassroots organizations such as the Matope Sub-location Girl-Child Education Development Group - which works to educate families about the importance of girls' education, and brings them back into school, and similar events. The Kenyan Board of Directors will oversee the use of the center. Another important program operated by Kenya Keys and one of its partners (U.S. Synthetic) is Global Classroom. This program connects a school in the United States with a school in Kenya. Kenya Keys Directors provide an informative presentation about education in Kenya to U.S. schools that are potential participants in Global Classroom. When schools choose to participate, they are partnered with a village school in Kenya. The schools exchange letters and cultural items (art projects, music, banners, etc.). Students in the U.S. gain valuable insight about the culture and the nature of education in Kenya. Students in Kenya are introduced to the culture and education system in the U.S. Most importantly, the schools in the U.S. find ways to raise money to provide for the needs of their sister school in Kenya. This gives the students in the U.S. a chance to make a positive difference in the world and it gives the students in Kenya a better school environment in which to study. Kenya Keys sponsors multiple programs that are led by individuals in the U.S. and in Kenya. These programs include the Ndohivyo Special Needs School, a project to supply sanitary kits to girls and women, the Save Our Sisters (SOS) group that works to train girls to help them choose to stay in school, and internal mentorship programs in our service area high schools.

Statistics on Kenya Keys

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