This past August a close friend of Jitegemee, Rebecca Abou-Chedid, made her first visit to Machakos to visit the program. We often ask visitors to share their impressions with others who have not had a chance to visit themselves, and Rebecca was kind enough to do so. Below is her unedited entry, we hope it give you a little more insight into the work and results of the program.
Greetings Jitegemee Family,
In July 2010, knowing very little about Jitegemee, outside of a general notion of what it was and that it was being led by someone I look up to and respect, I endeavored to help raise funds to build a new education center for kids in a town far far away, with a name that I could barely pronounce. That July, with the help of many of you and some very generous matching donors, we raised over $60,000 through GlobalGiving for the new school, putting us more than a quarter of the way toward our ultimate $200,000 goal. A couple months later, still never having been to visit the actual program, talk with the kids, or meet the staff, I was asked to join the board of the organization. Honored to receive this invitation, I immediately accepted. At that point, the next big item on my life agenda became to make the journey to Machakos to visit the program in person. This past August, almost a year after being asked to join the board, I was able to make the trip.
Before boarding the bus in DC to make it to JFK airport I purchased a small notebook to capture my thoughts as I traveled. The very first line in the notebook, written as I was about to land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport reads, “7 minutes from landing, still no idea what to expect…”
With that frame of mind, I passed through customs and met up with Farah, a familiar face in uncertain surroundings. She escorted me to a car driven by Captain Amos (Amos, by the way, is the best there is – if you ever make the trip to Kenya, I have his contact information), and we were off to Machakos—marking the beginning of the experience of a lifetime.
When I made my first journal entry on August 5th, I had no way of knowing the truly profound impact this trip would have on me. However, by the time I left Kenya on August 13th, I was absolutely humbled by the dedication of the Jitegemee staff, and the spirit, intelligence, and gratitude of the Jitegemee students. On my fourth day in Machakos, I spent time with Valentine, Peter, Grace, and Christine, the first two are students in our formal schooling program, and the latter two are students in our vocational training program. As we walked through the city, visiting their apprenticeships, and exchanging stories and questions about life in our respective worlds I came away impressed with the students’ recognition and appreciation of the opportunity they were being given. At one point, as we walked past two street kids, one with a glue bottle literally stuffed in his nose, one of the girls whispered to me, “That used to be us.”
Our students are excelling in school and in the workplace. They’re focused on taking full advantage of the opportunities given them through Jitegemee, and are working even harder at creating additional opportunities for themselves.
A year into my board experience, I get it now, much more clearly than I ever did before. I see the connection between the money raised here and the impact it has on the lives of children a world away. I get the opportunities that $10 affords, and I feel extremely blessed to be in a position to help make a difference in another’s life. As we enter this holiday season, if you haven’t taken the opportunity to contribute to the great work that is going on at Jitegemee, I would implore you to consider it. We are still fundraising to meet the goal of our 2012 operating budget. It is only through your generosity that we can continue to literally change lives!
Asante Sana (Many Thanks),
Clarence Wardell III
P.S. For more updates throughout the year please visit our website (www.jitegemee.org) follow us on Twitter (@jitegemeeinc), or “like” us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/JitegemeeInc)!
Friends of Jitegemee,
After joing the board of Jitegemee last year my top priority was to make the journey to Machakos, Kenya to visit the program in person. I knew I was supporting a great organization, and had heard about all the wonderful things our kids were doing from others who had visited the program, but there is nothing like first hand experience.
I departed DC in early August for Machakos, and returned ten days later full of pride in the great work our staff is doing, and humbled by the joyfulness, work ethic, intelligence, and spirit of our students. I got a chance to spend a lot of time with our students, and I have over 900 pictures and many stories to share with you all over the next few months. However, I wanted to specifically update you on one of the students who has been associated with Jitegemee the longest.
Last year I sent you an update about our first university graduate, Wambua Kieti. While I was in Kenya I got to spend a lot of time with him, and I was quite impressed. Best of all, the day after I arrived in Machakos Wambua was set to head to Nairobi to interview for a well paying IT job in the city. A few days later when he got the news that he was being offered the job I was excited to have the opportunity to congratulate him in person. His journey has been remarkable.
The mission of Jitegemee is to help turn street kids into productive, self-sustaining members of society. Wambua's accomplishment makes us all proud, and it is a testament to the great work of the staff, which would not be nearly possible without the support of donors like you! Thank you!
It was around this time last year that many of you joined the Jitegemee family. During the time since you joined us on our journey to make the new school a reality, we've passed a lot of milestones. The most recent of these was the signing of our lease by the Kenyan commissioner of lands, paving the way for us to begin building on the new site. This is a huge hurdle to get over, and one that many people worked hard to help us clear. This news comes at a great time, as members of our board prepare to head to Machakos during the first week of August to meet with the building architect and the School Design Planning Committee. We look forward to reporting back on the trip when we return in mid-August.
In the meantime, please enjoy the most recent issue of our newsletter, which contains stories from our first intern, Calum Bowden, and one of our students, Meshack Wambua Nzioka. Once again, thank your for your support and being apart of our family!
For the past few years we have had the opportunity to partner with students and faculty in the Master of International Affairs program at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). During this period we have benefited from the great work of students and faculty in the program, as they have repeatedly traveled to Machakos to conduct interviews and surveys aimed at providing impact assessments of various aspects of our programs. Their work has been a vital resource as we continue to grow our services and refine our approaches to educating and rehabilitating students.
This year the SIPA team performed the first ever outside evaluation of Jitegemee's Formal Schooling Program. The team conducted a comprehensive impact assessment of the program, with an emphasis on health and social outcomes for participating primary school students and their families. The initial findings of the evaluation were very encouraging:
"We found that the Formal Schooling Program leads to both positive overall health and social outcomes. One of the major contributing factors to improving students’ health is the feeding program, which provides free lunch on a daily basis during the week. In addition, regular check-ups from the Jitegemee doctor and access to medication have had a large impact on both students and their families. With regard to social outcomes, we concluded how Jitegemee’s financial support – especially in terms of providing uniforms and shoes - has helped the students to feel like they belong among their peers, allowing them to focus more on their studies and less on social stresses. The financial support has also had a major impact on families, enabling parents to put the money they save toward other household expenses, as well as to better outfit the students’ siblings for school.
We also found additional positive financial, educational, health and interpersonal relationship outcomes based on the four areas of impact that we identified during Phase II, and determined that Jitegemee’s impact on relationships was the area where there was the most room for improvement."
We are sincerely grateful to the SIPA students and faculty for all of their hard work. Their recommendations for improvement will help guide us as we continue to build a better Jitegemee for our students. When you get a chance, please read the attached report in full.
Thank you for your continued support of Jitegemee!
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