May I take sometime today to give you some highlights of what has been going on with the Mathari Children’s Fund since the beginning of the year.
We held a workshop with Amani People’s Theaters on Participatory Theatre in Child Rehabilitation (from playing, to learning to change) for 5 days which I must say was very successful. A total of 68 children were led through a creative journey of self discovery and self awareness through interactive techniques of theatre and other participatory games and exercises. This process will help them to develop coping mechanisms for the myriad issues facing them as young people in the slums. One of the initiatives resulting from the workshop was to organize outreach programs during school holidays themselves, to enlighten and raise awareness on the dangers of risk behavior, such as promiscuity and drug abuse. This activity has the potential to raise the self esteem of the young people as they become part of the change they want to see in others and themselves.
Selected children were visited in school during the January – March school term, for a one-on-one between the children and the facilitators after which a follow-up workshop for the children during the next school holidays would be conducted. This particularly targets aggressive behavior which remains following the election violence two years ago.
We completed our annual medical checkup. This saw 62 children go through a complete program of medical tests. We usually do this for the early detection of common health risks. Following this check-up, 19 children were found to be ailing from different diseases and had to seek medical attention in a hospital with the necessary facilities. All the 19 children are now doing fine.
We also held our annual end of year party with our children on the 22nd of December. During the party, various awards were handed out to those deserving especially those that performed very well in academics and areas of interest to different children. We had a great time, with dance competitions, drama and poetry among other competitions like soccer and volleyball.
In January this year, 11 children joined different secondary schools all over the country after they performed well in the Kenya national examinations for primary education. 4 joined prestigious national schools. All the children in the program reported to school on time from the 4th of January.
February saw us hold a 2 days parents’ workshop facilitated by Amani People’s Theatre. The workshop was attended by 23 participants – 19 parents, 2 members of staff and 2 visiting interns from Austria. Of the 19 parents, 2 were male and 17 female. The workshop was designed to build upon the children’s workshop. The parents were informed of the issues raised by the children, and it was quite an eye-opener for them. A majority of the parents present expressed a lack of appropriate skills, time and space to interact well with their children. Rather than depending on individual parents to come up with solutions, one key way forward was for the parents to elect representatives to meet either all the children or representatives of the children, in a facilitated session to design joint strategies to deal with the existing and emerging challenges. Since family issues often destabilize the lives of children in the slum, we regard this as a key initiative that we hope will lead to concrete improvements over time.
Seven of our students sat for their final high school exams, and performed pretty well. All of them have joined computer colleges, which will be a great help to them in taking up future employment opportunites.
Living with an HIV or AIDS diagnosis can be a difficult and stressful reality for many people. If you need someone to talk to, or are looking to meet other positive people from a similar cultural background, it becomes very hard especially in the slums. With this in mind we met some few parents who have been diagnosed and found to be positive with HIV/AIDS and have expressed the need to start a support group. Since our project works on the principle of working in partnership with agencies such as hospitals, community workers, benefit agencies, counselors among others who all share a responsibility for providing key services to people living with HIV, we believe we could indeed work on creating a support group. We will be taking this forward in the coming months.
It would be appropriate to mention that with your continued support, were able to raise $39,000 in the Global Giving Challenge late last year, and we sincerely appreciate your continued support and assistance as we endeavor to facilitate the uplifting of children's lives. These monies will go a long way in meeting the needs of our children under our care.
Like always please feel free to ask any questions or information regarding our project.
With many thanks for your support,
Titus Mwangi, Team Leader
It has been a busy time since I last communicated with you, so today I want to take some time to give you the highlights of what has been going on with the Mathari Children’s Fund.
The second term/semester came to an end at the end of July. For us this was a good term, and it’s clear that our students are settling down well since the violence last year. Two boys in high school were suspended for truancy, but frankly compared to the troubles of the previous year, this was a pretty normal problem to have. Also, one of our secondary school girls was involved in a hit-and run car accident on her way to school. She sustained cuts and bruises but she is recuperating well.
The general performance in school was good, and some of our students did exceptionally well. In particular, Vincent Owour has been in first position in his class for three years in a row, and as a reward was given free transport back to Nairobi for the holidays by the school.
Vincent’s background is worth mentioning to you. He is an AIDS orphan, and was taken in by his Aunt, whose name is Dolphine. She is a remarkable woman. In addition to her own eight children, she has taken in seventeen of her nieces and nephews, all of whom have been orphaned as a result of AIDS. She supports these children by selling vegetables, and we have seven of her children (three of her own, and four of her adoptees) enrolled in our programme. One of them has made it to university, and we believe that Vincent will do the same in time.
There were also a few children who were below par – in particular one child who has been intermittently ill throughout the year. Despite many medical tests we have yet to find out the cause of his illness. This is a real worry.
During the school August holidays, we had a camp with many of the children in Nairobi at Bethany college. We had a total of 64 children, although 42 went back to school for half day tutorials to improve on their grades. The camp is very important to staff, children and the parents as we are able not only to monitor the children, but also to have counseling sessions, parent and child meetings, hot lunches and other activities that see to the growth and development of the child and that of the guardian.
We are planning to hold the Participatory Theatre in Child Rehabilitation workshop (from playing, to learning to change) in December. Participation Theatre is meant to empower both children and their guardians to take charge of the change process, and to clearly focus on their specific needs as individuals and members of the Mathari community. The facilitation process provides the space and skills for individuals to interact with each other, the staff, guardians and other stakeholders in a creative and participatory manner. We have found that extra-curricular activities like these can really help children to develop themselves. Their confidence improves, and they become more open and articulate, and better able to face the challenges that their daily life delivers to them. The theatre project has been made possible due to your generous donations and for this we say thanks. We would like to hold a similar session for parents, but due to lack of funds we will not be able to do that this year.
In September, all our children reported back to school on time and are preparing for the end of the year exams. We have a number of primary school candidates who will be sitting for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education after eight years of primary education. We also have secondary school students who will be sitting for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education after four year of secondary education. This prepares them to join the university.
Robert Muiruri, who was working with a bank after finishing his secondary education with exceptional grades, has reported to the university for a Bachelor Degree in Commerce. He had to think it through on what to do between a well paying bank job and furthering his education. We wish him the best. Having graduated from our programme, he is a frequent participant in sessions with the younger children, and he serves as a great inspiration to them.
We would like to wish all our children sitting for the various final exams good luck. You are invited to send them best of wishes too. The secondary students start their exams in 2 weeks time while the primary school students have a month or so to sit for their exams.
We sincerely appreciate your continued support and assistance as we endeavor to facilitate the uplifting of children's lives. Please feel free to ask any questions or information regarding our project.
On the fund raising side, with the global crisis, many of our donors have been affected badly, and we are very worried about our ability to support all 120 of our children through the coming year. We have enough to get through the next few months, but that is all. As you probably know, Global Giving is running the Give More, Get More Challenge from now through December 1st. They will match up to 50% of your donations during that period. You can see the details of that programme on the global giving website, www.globalgiving.com. Two of our donors have offered to add their own challenge to this: they will match 100% of your donations to the Mathari Children's Fund, from now till December 1, up to a combined limit of $6,000 on their part. This is a great way to make your donation go further - so please give generously, and let us get these children safely through this crisis!
Its with a sad note that I start this update. During the last two months we lost a mother of four of our children to HIV/AIDS related complications. Fortunately the children have been taken in by their uncle and their education will continue with us, but we feel for them in their grief. We also lost a brother to one of the children that we cater for, also from HIV/AIDS ailments.
On another note, Alexis Nadin, a former intern with Globalgiving, passed by in April to see what we do. We are grateful to note that Globalgiving does indeed go to the ground to find out whether what projects claim to do is being done.
In April when we have the 3 weeks holiday, we organized a Tae-kwon-do training for some of our children, to help them in need and for self defense. This is key to us after a series of rapes and kidnappings currently going on both in slums and the up market places in Kenya and Nairobi in particular. The Tae-kwon-do lessons were mostly taken up by boys and we are arranging for a female coach for the girls, as they shied away from the training and yet they are the most victims.
Our youth group, which has 22 members, has embarked on a tree planting activity along Nairobi River that borders the Mathare slums where majority of the members live. This has been made possible through their own contributions that enabled them to buy tree seedlings. They intend to stop the degradation of their habitat and the tree planting has set the pace. They are also introducing farming in the slums through the use of soil loaded into sacks and planting kales and spinach which they sell at cheaper price than the local market. This is an income generating activity.
110 children went back to school, 44 to secondary schools, and 54 to primary schools, 2 to kindergarten while 9 went back to colleges. This has been made possible by you through your generous contribution. We are also excited by the fact that 2 more students will be joining public universities in two weeks time, making the total number now 3. In addition, Robert Muiruri is now employed by a local bank and is now in a position to help his big family, and had this to say, “Am now in a position to move my family from the slums to a better living place. All this is due to M.C.F. who trusted in me and saw me through school and college. M.C.F. is the best gift ever.” Attached to this update you will find a photograph of the nursery class which includes two of the children in our programme.
Since 1999, over 300 children have passed through MCFP. As the core activity, MCFP has sponsored and seen more than 150 children successfully go through and finish Primary education, 70 through the secondary education and 37 through college. We sincerely appreciate your continued support and assistance as we endeavor to facilitate the uplifting of children lives. Please feel free to ask any questions or information regarding our project. Thank you.
On behalf of our clients, staff and Board of Mathare Children’s Fund (MCF) I offer our most sincere appreciation and gratitude for your continued support. My name is Titus Mwangi, team leader of MCF and it will be my pleasure to keep you posted on the happenings in the project that we hope you will continue to support. The progress which I’ll be telling you about has only been made possible through your assistance.
We have run 3 workshops for the benefit of our children and parents/guardians.
The Anger Management and Conflict Resolution workshop to help children address anger and conflict and to learn skills to transform these into more positive creative alternatives. This was very important especially after the post-election violence that was witnessed in a big way in the slums of Nairobi. 50 children attended the training which combined reflection, life stories and lessons learnt from schools and post election experiences. Other methods used included brief lectures, group work and role plays.
Peer education workshop for 60 children, to equip them with the necessary skills to encourage desirable behaviour among their peers, not only in the project but also in their communities. We view peer training as by far the best way to positively influence how our clients and their friends lead their lives. The Participants acquired in-depth information and knowledge on HIV/AIDS, on psychosocial issues that affect young people (alcohol and substance abuse, sex, sexuality and gender, loss and bereavement and reproductive health), and on basic counselling and communication. They developed skills on becoming behaviour change communicators, and gained an understanding of behaviour and in particular risky behaviour and how to avert it. After the workshop, over 16 young people went for HIV/AIDS tests to know their status.
Peer Education workshop for 15 Parents/guardians. The training mostly targeted informal leaders within the community and those that had made their status known as being HIV/AIDS positive. This training is to help guardians be aware of psychosocial issues that affect them and their children and empower them to be responsible parents. For those who have HIV/AIDS, the skills are meant to help them disclose their status to their children and prepare them for any eventuality. The overall aim of the training was to build the capacity of guardians, parents and care givers. Following the training, 7 parents went on to have HIV/AIDS test to know their status.
There have been over 20 schools visits which really mean a lot to the children. They also enabled staff to get updates about the progress of the children and to provide the ongoing support and guidance needed.
We are now rebuilding the Savings and Credit scheme, a small lending scheme which was hit hard by the disruption following the election violence. Its aim is to increase the financial capabilities of the parents and through that, to stabilize the lives of the kids. Savers are organized into solidarity groups of five members, each of whom has to save in order to earn the right to a small loan. Once the loan is repaid, the next member receives a loan, and so on.
We have also seen the relocation of 3 families affected by HIV/AIDS to their rural homes, to build relationships between the children and the larger family, so that with the eventual death of the parents, the orphaned children have the larger family members to take care of them, while we meet the costs of education, medical and other requirements.
This year saw 9 children report to secondary schools while 2 joined tertiary institutions after successfully finishing their secondary education. 7 joined primary schools and lastly 2 joined Pre School.
We had our annual medical check up and more than 100 children took part. After the check up, we bought medicines for those that had been prescribed for. Except for some few cases of Malaria, flu/cold and eye infections, the other children are doing well.
It’s with sadness that we lost one of the parents, she developed complications at home and later transferred to one of our public hospitals that specialise in HIV/AIDS and T.B. We have taken in two more siblings from the family.
We finally had the ground breaking ceremony for our new office building on the 22nd December, 2008. This was the same day that we had our end of year Christmas party for the children that we currently serve.
We sincerely appreciate your continued support and assistance as we endeavour to facilitate the uplifting of these children lives. Please feel free to ask any questions or information regarding our project. Thank you.
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