St. Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization

The mission of the organization is to build a society where all children are provided the necessary love and care essential for growth. The organization is run by a small group of local volunteers, dedicated to improving the lives of poor and marginalized children in Kibera, Kenya by promoting their social integration into the community.
Mar 23, 2011

A Safe Space for Orphans and Vulnerable Children

On Monday, January 11, 2011, the St. Vincent’s Nursery School commenced a new school year. Twenty-three newly admitted children reported to school for the first time, together with returning students from the Pre-Primary 1 and 2 classes. There are a total of 87 children enrolled in the Nursery School in 2011.

The new students were accompanied by their parents and guardians who waited patiently for their turn to be served and cleared by the head teacher, Miriam Wawira. For some of the new children, they could not hide their anxiety of starting school and could be seen looking curiously at the older children, now comfortable with their surroundings and the school routine. While for some of the newly admitted children, tears rolled down their cheeks as they saw their parents leave them behind.

With the New Year, St. Vincent’s also welcomed two new members to its teaching staff. Alice Wanjiru joined St. Vincent’s as teacher of our Pre-Primary 2 class, while Millicent Kituku joined us as instructor of the Pre-Primary 1 class.  While we were sad to say goodbye to our two dedicated teachers Virginia and Esther, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome Alice and Millicent who come to us from local teacher training colleges and are extremely enthusiastic about the opportunity to join our team.

More than just provide education and daycare, the nursery school serves as a safety net for families in the community so that they are able to continue caring for the children. Parents and caregivers come to St. Vincent’s when in need of support for food, housing, medical costs, and other basic survival needs. This support is provided on a case-by-case basis and is made possible because of the close relationship that St. Vincent Board members and staff (teachers) proactively establish with the families they serve. In addition to direct support, St. Vincent’s provides referrals/linkages to other social services in cases where they are not able to assist and even liaises with other service providers on behalf of families, which is particularly important considering the marginalized population with whom the organization works.

By prioritizing the enrollment of orphans and other children living in the same households, St. Vincent places an important value on the orphaned child.  Their existence in the household serves as a gateway for the other children in the same household to enter into school. Thus, despite the additional burden that may be placed on the household in caring for an additional child, the prioritization of orphans and children living in the same household enables orphaned children to bring something positive to their households, thereby serving as a protective mechanism for that child. St. Vincent’s also subsidizes school fees depending on families’ ability to pay; enabling the most needy and vulnerable children to attend.

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This year, St. Vincent’s admitted 3-year old Baraka to its Baby Class.  Baraka is cared for by a young couple from Kibera who recently adopted him. A few months ago, the couple spotted Baraka in the local market while they were setting up their shop; he had been abandoned and was the victim of abuse. As nightfall approached, Baraka was still in the market, alone and crying.  The couple made the decision to take Baraka, who would not speak, to the police station to try to find his family, but without any luck. Ultimately, the couple took Baraka to their tiny one room home --– a 10 foot by 5 foot room with no sanitation, running water or consistent electricity, where seven people live – and eventually adopted him as their fourth child.  Shortly following his adoption, St. Vincent’s admitted Baraka to the nursery school where he is receiving early education, daily meals, and a safe place to go during the day while his mother is at work.  At St Vincent’s, he’s slowly started to speak, to interact with the other children and to trust his teachers.  Baraka’s mother is hopeful that St Vincent’s is the start to a successful education for her son.

Links:

Mar 22, 2011

School Days

Dennis
Dennis

The Rescue Center house is located in Kibera’s Olympic Estate. The Center is currently home to 14 children, eight children who reside full time at the house and attend local primary and secondary schools and six children who are enrolled in boarding schools outside of Nairobi and spend school holidays at the Rescue Center.

This year has brought some important victories for the children at the Rescue Center. With education being a key focus of the St. Vincent volunteer Board Members and staff, much time has been dedicated in recent months to ensuring that all of the children are enrolled in school and receive the education support they need to learn and grow to be productive young adults. In a setting like Kibera, this is no simple task and it takes the dedication of an extremely committed St. Vincent team to make this a reality.

In November 2010, Dennis, aged 11 years, was enrolled at Red Rose Academy in Kibera. Red Rose is a private, non-profit community school that provides an alternative to Kenya’s public school system. While most of St. Vincent’s children are enrolled in the public school system, Dennis’ situation made public school enrollment impossible and the organization worked long and hard to come up with an alternative for Dennis. His enrollment at Red Rose is a huge feat for St. Vincent’s.

Dennis came to St. Vincent’s a little over a year ago, after having lost his mother, his only surviving parent, to HIV/AIDS.  Before her death, Dennis’ mother, knowing she was sick, had left Dennis with extended family in northern Kenya. Eager to be with this mother, Dennis left northern Kenya alone, to trek back to Nairobi to find his mother.  The two reunited, but only weeks before Dennis’ mom passed away. Now alone, with his extended family unwilling to take him back, Dennis came to St. Vincent’s and has made it is home ever since.

Upon coming to the Rescue Center, Dennis had been out of school for two years. Unfortunately, upon his arrival, Dennis could not be enrolled in public school because he did not have a birth certificate, without which you cannot be enrolled into school. St. Vincent’s Board worked tirelessly to track down Dennis’ extended family to get the needed documentation, but the family, consumed by the worry that they would have to take on the burden of caring for another child, refused to even communicate with St. Vincent’s.  After months of making attempts to reach out to extended family, with time wasting, St. Vincent’s went in search of an alternative option for Dennis. In the meantime, Dennis received daily tutoring from one of St. Vincent’s nursery school teachers and was given the role of “teacher’s helper” in one of the nursery school classes. Finally, in November 2010, Dennis was accepted to the Red Rose Academy and St. Vincent’s scurried to find funding for this additional cost.  Dennis is now enrolled in Red Rose’s Grade 5 class and is thrilled to finally be back at school like the other children at the Rescue Center!

A similar story is that of Diana, who came to St. Vincent’s a few years ago after experiencing ongoing abuse in her household from her mother, a sex worker and drug addict who is HIV-positive. Like Dennis, Diana also lacked the necessary records for enrolling in public school. St. Vincent’s again worked hard to try to get the necessary documentation for Diana, meanwhile keeping Diana enrolled at the St. Vincent’s Nursery School, but Diana’s mother was uncooperative. Diana, quickly outgrowing the nursery school, desperately needed an alternative option. We are pleased to report that in January, we were able to place Diana at Red Rose Academy with Dennis, where she is currently in Class 1.

Red Rose is a special place, offering small classrooms in a clean and safe environment. It is an extreme contrast to the public education system in Kibera. While St. Vincent’s is unable to cover the costs for all of the children to enroll in private schools such as Red Rose --- we are thrilled that this opportunity has been availed to two of our most vulnerable children.

In 2000, primary education was made free in Kenya. While this opened the doors to many students, resources were not availed to hire new teachers. As a result, classrooms have become overcrowded, and education quality has subsequently declined. This is particularly true in Kibera, where government services are extraordinarily inadequate to meet the needs of the burgeoning population. Indeed, a typical public school first grade class has 85 students per teacher. In addition to the poor quality instruction that results from large teacher to student ratios, the infrastructure too is a significant barrier to learning. Children are squeezed into small classrooms, where they must share desk space and even have to take turns sitting. Textbooks are virtually non-existent and with so many people crammed into such small spaces, temperatures in the classroom soar and it becomes nearly impossible for children to concentrate. By the time children reach seventh and eighth grade, many students have dropped out.

In addition to Dennis and Diana, St. Vincent’s has also succeeded in enrolling the following children:

  • Teresia, age 12 years, commenced at Sega Girl’s Primary Boarding School in Kenya’s Western Province. Teresia is in Class 5.
  • Achieng was enrolled at Little Rock School in Olympic Estate. Little Rock is a community school that is tailored to the special needs of children with disabilities. Achieng, who is thought to be about 10 years old, came to St. Vincent’s last year, unable to speak, and was enrolled in the Nursery School.  
  • Denver, aged 17, was enrolled in Nyaga Polytechnic located in Kiambu, Kenya. Denver, an extremely talented artist is undertaking art studies.

 The Rescue Center is led by Grace Morani, known as ‘’mathe’’ by the children (meaning mother in Swahili). In addition to her extreme love for and commitment to the children, Grace’s ability to fulfill her extremely challenging job of caring for all of the children has been enhanced through workshops for caregivers offered by Lea Toto. Lea Toto is another community-based organization that provides medical care and counseling to children and families members. Through these workshops, Grace has been equipped with important skills to better handle issues of caring for children living with HIV. There are currently four children at the Rescue Center who are HIV-positive. 

Teresia
Teresia
Diana
Diana
Achieng
Achieng
Thomas, Volunteer/Board Member
Thomas, Volunteer/Board Member

Links:

Nov 23, 2010

Donate to our project without paying a cent!

SVPCDO is pleased to announce that it has been selected as one of three organizations (among thousands) to be selected as part of this promotion from Rough Roads (UK). All you have to do is visit the site below, play the game, and at the end select the "Feed and Educate Kibera Kids" option from the drop down menu and a donation will be made each time you play.

Click here to play: http://www.roughroads.co.uk/

It's super easy, only takes 2 minutes, and most importantly, it will benefit our nursery school and the children in Kibera at a time where we are still in great need of funds. We hope you will help us by taking a couple of minutes to participate.

Remember -- it's NO cost to you! And also by spreading the word about this great opportunity through Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thanks for your help!

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