Rafiki Ya Maisha

We founded Rafiki Ya Maisha to provide vocational training to unemployed young people & women in need, who have no secondary education nor access to trade schools in rural Western Kenya. This forgotten group of youths gets material assistance for acquiring life skills through our small college in Chepkanga. This village empowerment endeavor has components in conservation, health, culture, micro-finance, counseling, brick making. We are building a larger polytechnic center to serve Sergoit area.
Feb 28, 2013

The student Arc

Risper, electrical student in Kenya
Risper, electrical student in Kenya

Risper goes to school in Chepkanga, Kenya and Paloma goes to school in Paris, France.

Our two students dream of a bright future yet lead diametrically different lives. Their backgrounds and struggles, their ambitions and dreams have pushed them, mysteriously, to help each. They will most likely never meet but through RAFIKI YA MAISHA, the energy and commitment of these two young women helps the other to achieve their goals.

Risper K., 26 years old is an electrical student, in fact the only female electrical student at the Sergoek Training center in Chepkanga. "I chose Electrical because it was my goal to be an Electrical engineering since I was young".

Paloma N., is a 16 year old high school student following an intensive English and History curriculum in the International Baccalaureat program at the International Bilingual school in Paris." I’m not sure what I want to do after college, I’m very interested in social relations and media and I’m passionate about history".

Risper is the second of a family of 8 children (4 girls, 4 boys) from Iten Elgeyo Marakwet County in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. Her parents are farmers and struggle to pay for her education.

Paloma is the second girl of a family of 3 girls and was born in Paris. Her mother is American and originally from Mexico, her father was born in Morocco and raised in France. She is a dual national, French and American.

"I feel to have a bright future since I am working hard so that I can pass my national examination." says Risper

 "I love History and English a lot. I take these two subjects as a higher level and hope to continue with them when I go to university".

Paloma explains that her program demands that each student fulfills a certain amount of Community-Action-Service hours to get his/her diploma. This is how she chose to volunteer in the RAFIKI CLUB. "I very much enjoy volunteering in general and I think everyone should try and do something to help others even if it isn’t demanded or graded. I enjoy knowing that by trying my best to organize events and fund raisings in school here it will help construct schools and build the future of young girls my age who aren’t able to have a life like mine." 

Risper writes: "I would like to thank you and your fellow colleagues in RAFIKI YA MAISHA.... and the students for joining the hands together to ensure that Sergoek is developing. We really appreciate your support and I do believe that you will do the same to the needy people". She would love the students "to visit us once more so we share together."

Risper's needs are encouraged by Paloma's efforts and she herself benefits from helping Risper. We trust that a new permanent school building in Chepkanga will nurture more sharing together and enrich the lives of many more girls.

Paloma, International student in Paris
Paloma, International student in Paris
Nov 28, 2012

Groundbreaking for the New School Building

Mr. Julien Marx and officials at present site
Mr. Julien Marx and officials at present site

November 7, 2012
A much awaited event took place: the 1st stone for the permanent structure on the new plot was put in the ground.
The French diplomat from the French Embassy in Nairobi was our guest of honor. Mr. Julien Marx was greeted by all the members of the community:
The principal of Rift Valley Vocational Technical Training Institute (RVTTI), the regional director of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, the District Officer from Mininistry of Youth Affairs and Sports, the District Officer from the District Commissioner's Office, the regional director from the Ministry of Works, the Bishop's Development director, father Okoth and his manager for Polytechnics in the region, the architect, the headmasters & headmistresses of area schools, the Board members of Rafiki Ya Maisha in Kenya, the Board Of Governors of the Polytechnic, members of the Eldoret business community, several area counselors and chiefs, women's groups, swarms of school children, middle school students, our Polytechnic teachers, students and former students, friends and many elders.
A call from the Minister for Higher Education Science and Technology, held back in Zambia that day, made our day complete.
The actual school welcomed the guests with a tour of the improved facilities. Test books arrived, a cupboard and school desks were built, the catering students learn with pots/pans/plates/cutlery and the hairdressing students now have dummies with hair on them to practice hair plaiting. After songs by the younger children, the guests moved to the new site, 3 miles by road. The two hundred guests from all walks of life were delighted.
Pictures speak louder than words. They capture perfectly the ceremonial and official nature of this defining moment.
Construction on the permanent buiding should start in the very near future. Stay tuned.
It was a truly wonderful day and you helped us make it perfect. Thank you!


Claire Mathijsen


Tree planting with Mr. Edwin Tarno (RVTTI)
Tree planting with Mr. Edwin Tarno (RVTTI)
Bricklaying and Blessing of the new site
Bricklaying and Blessing of the new site
Student songs & dances
Student songs & dances
Claire Mathijsen, main speaker
Claire Mathijsen, main speaker
School children celebrate the event
School children celebrate the event

Links:

Aug 17, 2012

POSTCARD: Project Site Visit

Shonali and Aliza with founder Claire Mathijsen.
Shonali and Aliza with founder Claire Mathijsen.

Shonali Banerjee and Aliza Appelbaum are In-The-Field Representatives for GlobalGiving.  They are visiting projects in Morocco, Spain and France.  Here is their most recent "postcard" from France: 

On Tuesday August 14, 2012, Aliza and I had the great pleasure of meeting with Claire Mathijsen, founder of Rafiki Ya Maisha.  After living in Kenya with her family during the 1980s, Claire understood the need for more schools in rural Kenya. Though she and her family are now based in Paris, Claire created Rafiki Ya Maisha ("Friends for life" in Swahili), to help fund the creation of schools and educational workshops where rural Kenyan children can learn practical life skills in adition to pursuing their education.  
We sat down with Claire to discuss her successes, but also the challenges of maintaining a project like this from abroad.  Claire and her family have invested a great deal in the organization, within the realm of Rafiki Ya Maisha and private donations, visits to the schools and local community in Kenya and recruiting volunteers for the project.  
Claire was thrilled to announce that the organization had secured a 5-acre plot of land to build a new school, whereas previously they'd only had one acre.  She also confided that she and on-site project manager Elizabeth are in contact with several influential leaders within the Kenyan educational system, all of whom are on board with the Rafiki Ya Maisha projects. 

From what Aliza and I heard from Claire, we are confident that she and Rafiki Ya Maisha have all of the right wheels in motion.  We could see her obvious frustrations with the slow rate of progress when dealing with Kenyan bureaucracy, but that she and Elizabeth remain confident and upbeat while progressing forward with the school.  Although we (sadly!) coulnd't be in Kenya to visit the project itself, Claire paints a wonderful picture of the rural Kenyan site, the students benefitting from the school and how a community that previously had little to no educational infrastructure now has created numerous schools and educated hundreds of students in just a few short years.  We were very impressed with Rafiki Ya Maisha and look forward to hearing many more success stories from Claire in the near future. 

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