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.
Mar 27, 2012

more students, new land, great prospects !

New sign post for new site
New sign post for new site

The Polytechnic is bustling with students and activities: 76 students are currently registered at the Sergoek Polytechnic. 6 workshops with 1sr year and 2nd year instructors are operational. The flag mast is in place, 2 desks build by the Carpentry students adorn the staff room and the volley ball pitch is full during recess.

Highlights: Entrepreuneurship modules taught by 2 young teachers offer Business and Marketing basics to the students. They are taught the tools they need to set up a private business or how to search the internet for jobs after their training is over.

Apart from Computer Studies and Hairdressing, most classes are taught with little or no materials. The Catering and Food Technology students need to borrow pots from the neighboring farm ladies to do their cooking. Yet the students are full of enthusiasm.

The new 5 acre plot, located 2 miles down the road, was recently fenced and is ready for groundbreaking. The piece of land, more deeply set into the rural area, abounds with primary and secondary schools all eager to send their students to the future polytechnic. The brick factory will move to the new site in order to start making the bricks for the permanent building. An architect has been hired to oversee the construction work. She is a Kenyan "daughter" of the Chepkanga village who works from her Nairobi based firm and holds the respect of the community.

The construction is slated to start as soon as the Board of Governors of the Polytechnic has officially been elected. This will trigger the co-financing from the Kenyan government which in turn will allow us to co-sponsor!

New development: Rafiki Ya Maisha is pleased to announce that we will be working in close cooperation with Dr. Susan Chebet's program "Tumndo Ne Leel", an association mobilized in creating a new coming of age concept for initiating girls without circumcision, while upholding community values and traditions.

Our educational and gender equality project is totally alligned with the Millenium goals for developing countries and benefits from much awareness and press coverage in Kenya. Yet we are still very far from our target goal. We still need to raise over $53.000 Dollars.

We have considerable unmet needs. Your help is critical in achieving them.

We've come this far and can go further, faster, with your continued financial support !

Claire Mathijsen

Cooking class in temporary building
Cooking class in temporary building
Happy tailoring students
Happy tailoring students
Big handclap for the sponsors
Big handclap for the sponsors
Dec 27, 2011

3 new workshops open!

new teachers and students
new teachers and students

The Sergoek Vocational training center in Chepkanga opened with 3 new workshops in September!

Students can now learn Carpentry and Joinery, Electrical and Electronic Technology and Food Processing Technology for the first time in the area. A fourth government sponsored instructor is teaching Fashion and Design. These courses come in addition to the existing workshops in Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy and Computer Technology sponsorsed by RAFIKI YA MAISHA instructors. We now offer a total of 6 training workshops to students.

The interesting feature here is that we have one girl studying with the boys in the Electrical and Electronic Workshop and one boy who signed up with Hairderssing and Beauty Therapy. These gender lines are easily crossed in our Western societies, but they represent real inroads in rural Kenya.

Two youth prefects began participating in the RAFIKI board meetings and the Youth Officer for the Ministry of Youth Affairs is implementing the new courses with energy. The French government has pledged funds for the building of the new structure for the coming year.

The fact remains that the students are learning in 2 different temporary locations. One of the temporary structures  lacks windows and doors for 2 of the 4 classrooms. Unusually heavy rains in Kenya this year have not made this comfortable for teachers and students. Rain combined with an altitude of 7000ft made both accessibility and temperature a prolonged challenge.

In 2012, we'll start building the permanent structure on the newly alloted 5acre piece of land. Our main focus here is to find trained volunteers for the positions of  (a) engineer/architect (b) principal and (c) business consultant. With your continued assistance, we will find these professionals, organize new sports tournaments, systematize the brick making, recruit new student volunteers and continue to encourage gender equality.

Many best wishes to all in the New Year.

Thank You for helping us build a world beyond poverty,

Claire Mathijsen

Female student in Electrical workshop
Female student in Electrical workshop
Sep 30, 2011

Youth, Gender and Soccer in Chepkanga - September 2011

the riveting final
the riveting final


"Youth - Gender - Soccer" or "How to find the Lost Youth".

The torrential rains held back on that mid-August Sunday afternoon in Chepkanga. The finals of the youth soccer tournament took place free of mud - a miracle of the rainy season. After scoreless overtime and sudden death penalty kicks, with excitement coursing through our veins, we felt the heightened interest of the youth for what we had to say. This was RAFIKI YA MAISHA's great opportunity to advertize the village polytechnic.

This year's tournament galvanized the youth and the community and thrilled our young volunteer organizers.

2 youth representatives came forward to fill seats on the Board of RAFIKI YA MAISHA and 28 new students signed up for training courses. The freshly arrrived government instructors offered Food Processing, Fashion Design, Information Technology, Electric and Electronic Technology courses along with general education classes.

We also learned a lesson about gender equality on the soccer field that Sunday. One of the two girls' teams had not showed up to play the scheduled game thereby making one team the winner by default. A question came up : if the girls had not played hard to earn the prize, why should they receive the coveted jerseys & shorts ? "A ball could do as a prize. And afterall, we played more games under harsh weather conditions and could use a full uniform", argued the boys.  After much debate between the girl athletes, their male coach and us, it was decided that the girls needed encouragement as well as the right to safekeep their very own uniforms !

Idle boys drift to the pool houses and bars and can rally around soccer easily. Idle girls mostly stay home and are harder to reach. Our pictures show how successful our 2d annual tounament was and our story tells how it marked a place for the girls in the community.

The temproray building on the site is still unfinfished, the road remains impassable during the rains and the land swap has only just been concluded. Yet the center has opened with a new beginning.

Thank You for helping us reach this point. Thank You for anything that you can do to help us further our building and our educational mission. The happpy smiles of the players say Thank You ! too.

the chief
the chief's speach to the youth
the winning girls
the winning girls' team
the winning boys
the winning boys' team
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