Caroline's parents died when she was young. She and her younger siblings moved in with their grandmother, but the grandmother's own frail health meant Caroline had a lot of responsibility taking care of the family. In spite of these challenges, Caroline was the top performing student of her class throughout primary school. With tuition support from the Umoja Project, she was able to go to high school, and again she excelled. However, in her third year, she disappeared from school one day. After weeks of trying to trace her, the Umoja Project staff found her staying with a distant relative with her newborn son. She was ashamed of the circumstances that led to her pregnancy and assumed she would not be able to complete her schooling.
To Caroline's surprise, Umoja Project staff and school teachers worked together to make sure Caroline could resume her education. A relative provides care for baby Charles while Caroline studies. Back in school, Caroline quickly resumed her position at the top of her class, and has held onto it ever since. Caroline is currently in her last year of high school and is expected to perform exceedingly well, perhaps even setting a school record for her score on the national exam she will take in November!
Caroline is a soft spoken leader who presents herself with confidence. Her big, warm smile is accompanied by dimples. She says she loves her dimples, which is a small glimpse into the self-acceptance and courage of this young woman.
GET UP is critical for girls like, giving them confidence and the opportunity to see beyond challenges they currently face. Teachers, guardians and former Umoja students lead sessions on a variety of topics such as coping with emotions, legal rights and reproductive health. The attention given to the girls and the unique struggles they face gives a message to Caroline and her friends that they matter. Knowing they matter inspires them to speak up in class, to value themselves and to dream.
Your support for young girls like Caroline equips them with the information and the confidence needed to overcome challenges they face due to their vulnerability. We thank you for your support!
One of the joys of running a program designed to empower young women to follow their dreams and reach their full potential is that we get to witness it happening! Carolyne is one of the remarkable young women who has been participating in GET UP programs for the last two years. Read a bit about her story:
Carolyne's father died when she was very young. "I don't even remember how my Dad looked. I was only five then and I knew very little." Her mother survived, but struggled to provide for Carolyne and her three siblings Collins, Monicah, and Ausler. To help her mother out, Carolyne's Aunt Rose took young Carolyne in, and in her new primary school Carolyne became part of the Umoja Project's extended family. With support from Umoja, Carolyne performed very well in school and is now in her final year of high school.
However, back at home her brother Collins was not doing well. Although he too had worked hard and done well in school, he had fallen ill with a serious condition which doctors have not been able to diagnose. Collins is so debilitated by the mysterious illness he is confined to home and has had to drop out of school. Carolyne says, "I stay with my Aunt, and I am privileged to have come this far in my schooling of all my siblings. But my brother's sorry state wears me out. I attend GET UP events that I may attain a high score to present it as a gift to my brother Collins. He cannot pursue studies because of his condition. I want to do it for him."
On a recent school break, Carolyne and the other GET UP girls in their final year of high school attended tutoring and mentoring sessions to help them prepare for the national exam they will take in November. The girls want to do well on the exam, so they are eligible for further studies at the university level. Carolyne completed the GET UP sessions with renewed determination to perform well for her brother.
"I want to be a doctor in the future," she says with a sparkle in her eyes. She laughs, as a teacher reminds her of how far she has come and how much farther she is capable of going.
Your support for young women like Carolyne is having a transformative effect on their lives! We are deeply grateful for your commitment for GET UP's programs and the girls it serves.
When we first met Bella in 2008 she was a young girl in her final year of primary school (8th grade). Her father had died a number of years before, and Bella's mother struggled to support Bella and her younger brother and sister. Bella moved in with an aunt and in her new school first learned about the support available to help girls like her to succeed in school. Initially she recieved sanitary towels that enabled her to attend school regularly; when she began secondary school, Bella recieved tuition assistance and school supplies, and participated in mentoring and health education programs through the Girl Empowerment Team of the Umoja Project (GET UP).
Now Bella has completed secondary school and actively volunteers for the GET UP program. She spends her weekends visiting different primary schools to talk with younger girls who face the same struggles she faced as a young girl. Always a good student, during the week Bella works part-time for a primary school.
Bella's determination to pursue her goals, as well as her desire to "pay back" what she was given, inspires the younger girls coming up behind her. "I want to make good use of the opportunity given to me," Bella says. GET UP is grateful for her leadership and her example!
One very exciting development of the GET UP program is that our young women who have recently completed high school now are providing inspiration, encouragement and support for the younger girls still in school. Young women like Florence Atieno, who just completed secondary school last year, have become role models for the girls just a few years younger. Florence attends every GET UP meeting and tells the younger students her personal story of overcoming difficulties to stay in school and to reach her goals.
Like the younger girls to whom she speaks, Florence has faced hardship. Her parents died when she was in primary school, and her extended family struggles to afford even basic necessities for Florence and the other children. Florence has faced the pressures on girls to quit school in order to work and support the family; Florence knows the safety issues that afflict young girls; she has experienced the weariness that comes from juggling so many responsibilites at school and at home.
Florence's story of perseverence provides the younger girls with a vision for what is possible if they too stay focused and work hard. Florence is an inspiration and a hope for young girls who still face so many obstacles to success.
Your continuing support for GET UP provides for students like Florence to become a success story. According to Florence, mentoring the younger students is one of the ways she can repay you for your support. On behalf of Florence and so many others, we thank you for your support, and ask that you will continue to help our girls to GET UP, not give up!
Recently Mawego Girls Secondary School hosted American visitors who had come to meet the girls and learn about GET UP programs. As a student body, the Mawego students declared their intention to “GET UP” with the following words:
“I'm a child of God.
I'm blessed beyond a curse.
I'm above and not beneath.
I'm the head and not the tail.
I'm a success and not a failure.
I'm the glory of God.”
GET UP is fortunate to have Mawego Girls Secondary School (MGSS) as a partner! The principal, Grace Onyango, provides ongoing leadership for GET UP secondary-level programs, and works tirelessly to inspire girls to reach their highest potential academically and personally. Two Mawego Girls School teachers, Christine Auma and Monicah Amuti, serve on the GET UP Advisory Board.
MGSS is the first of GET UP’s partner secondary schools to incorporate GET UP programs into the school action plan. Each girl is assigned a teacher who serves as mentor. The school’s Guidance and Counseling Department holds weekly meetings with the girls, addressing a range of health, legal, academic and spiritual concerns. Particular attention is given to the students immediately before a school holiday when many girls struggle to follow through on personal goals without regular school routines and support.
Principal Grace Onyango writes the following words of appreciation to all GET UP supporters: “It is our prayer that you find it in your heart to continue supporting our students. We strongly believe that through the GET UP and Mawego partnership, we will nurture the young girls in all aspects of their lives. Thank you for your continued support and kind heart. We are humbled. God bless you abundantly.”
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