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.”
In Kenya, the academic course load for secondary school students is so demanding it is difficult to find time for programs like GET UP in the girls’ schedules. Typically school classes meet for 10-12 hours each day, six days a week, and some of the schools require students to attend study sessions on Sunday afternoons! In addition, girls have many responsibilities at home collecting water, cooking, laundry, shopping, etc.
For these reasons, GET UP “Senior” meetings are held during the three school term breaks in April, August, and December. On Saturday, April 27, 68 high school girls gathered for their first GET UP meeting of the year, a day focused on their academic, health, legal, and spiritual needs. GET UP meetings are a time for the girls to have frank conversation with local teachers, nurses, attorneys, and pastors about their struggles at school and home. April’s day-long seminar focused on sexual health and girls’ rights.
For Lydia, 18, GET UP meetings embody the parents she has missed since her mother and father died many years ago. Lydia lives in a “child-headed” household: she and her sisters and brother live without adults and manage the household while also attending school. Lydia acknowledges that without parents to guide and support her it has been very difficult to stay focused on her goals and to do well in school. However, in spite of all of the challenges, Lydia remains determined to finish high school and attend college. GET UP is determined to help her!
Your support provides girls like Lydia with the motivation and support they need at a crucial time in their lives. On their behalf, we thank you for reaching out to help!
In Kenya, the new school year begins in January. After a six week break from regular schedules, GET UP programs for middle school girls get underway again this Saturday, February 9. Eight women, community leaders in their local areas, have been trained to lead this year’s programs which emphasize dealing with peer pressure, health education, and girls’ legal rights.
The challenges our girls face sometimes seem overwhelming. Poverty, disease, and cultural norms all create enormous obstacles to a girl being able to stay in school, perform to her best ability, and fully utilize her talents and skills.
We are inspired by girls like Ivon, whose parents died five years ago. Ivon now lives with her four brothers and sisters. The oldest sister serves as guardian for the others, and stays at home raising corn and beans to feed the family so that the other children can remain in school. Ivon takes advantage of this opportunity, performing at the top of her class. She loves math and science, and says she wants to work in the medical field when she grows up.
We believe Ivon has the possibility of a bright future ahead! Through GET UP meetings, Ivon receives guidance and support from trained women professionals and local community leaders. GET UP mentors and programs help Ivon to overcome the peer and cultural pressures which could influence her to make harmful life decisions.
Your support continues to be a vital part of our efforts with Ivon and the many other girls just like her. Thank you for being a partner with us, as we help Ivon to GET UP, not give up!
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