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.
May 29, 2013

The Student Arc II

Ingu, International Student in Paris
Ingu, International Student in Paris

Kwambai is a trainee in Chepkanga and Ingu is a student in Paris. Like the young women portrayed in our last report, these 2 young men stand out in their own communities.

Both have reached out, over and beyond, and have touched each other's lives.

Kwambai K. is a 17 year old from Uasin-Gishu County, Rift Valley Province in Kenya and has the ambition of becoming an electrical engineer. " I chose Electrical because it was my goal to be an electrical engineer since I was very young".

He pays for his school fees by working on installations thanks to side jobs he gets with his cousin. He has 3 brothers and 4 sisters and is the last of 8 children.

Ingu K. is 17 years old and comes from Seoul, South Korea. His father's job took the family to the United States  when Ingu was 3 years old. He moved back to Seoul when he was 7 years old and then to Paris 2 years ago where he attends an International School. His one and only brother is a university student in the US and Ingu hopes to follow soon too. "I would like to have a job as an economist in an investment bank rather than a financial analyst since I do not like excessive stress".

Kwambai speaks 3 languages: his mother tongue, then English, the language of instruction in Kenya and Swahili, the common language of East Africa. He found out about the Sergoek Youth Polytechnic training center through an advertisement that caught his eye. It takes him one hour to walk to school or 45 mn by vehicle, he says.

Ingu also speaks 3 languages: Korean, English and now French. He feels he has "had the great opportunity to be the leader of the Rafiki Club at school ....with 12 other clubmates, I organize events to raise money so that we can show our support towards the Chepkanga students".

Kwambai aims "to get a good job as well as advance himself in his studies". He studies until late at night by the light of kerosene lamps. Keep in mind that there is no electricity in his family's mud house.

Kwambai is the wonderful student from Chepkanga who announced in church a few months ago that he was volunteering to redo the wiring in the church! Everyone was impressed by this young man and will remember him for their next job.

Ingu is a very enthusiastic and dynamic leader who says he has learned about Kenya and Africa thanks to being in France and in the Rafiki Club. He feels his world has gotten larger and is happy to be an active member of his community with a social outlook. He "wishes our Kenyan friends nothing but happiness".

We applaud these two young men for their initiatives and open heart. Both have taken the responsibility that comes with the privilege of an education: both are giving to the community, either at large or locally. We are proud of them. Aren't you?

Mathew, Electrical trainee in Chepkanga
Mathew, Electrical trainee in Chepkanga
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

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