The coming of spring this year is a very exciting time for Jitegemee and family as we welcome many changes to the program and look forward to the opportunities they bring. The construction of the new campus is set to begin and strategic visioning sessions are underway to help grow and guide the program through the next five years. Things are getting exciting.
For my part, I am extremely excited about the construction of the new campus. My name is Mark Palmer and I'm an architect based in Washington, DC. Four years ago, I traveled to Machakos with a group of volunteers from Architecture for Humanity to host a school design workshop with Jitegemee. The goal of this workshop was to engage the students, teachers, parents, and community members in the design of the new school. As architects, we knew how to design a school, but only they knew Jitegemee - their needs, wants, goals, and aspirations.
After four years of design, planning, and fundraising, the new Jitegemee School campus is being prepared for construction - and I'm excited. The construction drawings have been approved and stamped. The land has been cleared. A contractor has been selected. Within a few short months, the foundations will be dug and poured. Shortly after that, the walls of the new Jitegemee School campus will begin to rise, and with them, a new era will begin.
As the walls take shape, a sustainable campus will begin to grow on site. A new library and technology center will host both students and community members helping to spread knowledge and digital opportunities. Expanded classrooms with better daylighting and ventilation will allow students to gather in both large groups and in smaller, more private learning zones. A new toilet will recycle waste and produce biogas to power more efficient stoves in the kitchen saving energy, eliminating the need for costly and dirty charcoal, and reducing waste. Rainwater collection tanks on each roof will collect rainwater and store it for use during the dry season to help keep the garden and tree farm healthy and productive. Solar hot water heaters will heat water free of energy and provide hot water for hand-washing, dish washing, and other sanitary purposes - all from the power of the sun.
Four years ago, a group of students, teachers, parents, and community members began the long process of shaping their future through building. In a few short months, those efforts will begin to take shape, and that dream will be realized. In a few short months, the new Jitegemee School campus will stand as proof of what can be accomplished by trust, collaboration, dedication, and will open many new doors to the future.
It’s that time of year again - time to look back on what we did and what we have yet to do. As we count our blessings, Jitegemee has many reasons to be proud and grateful.
We are thankful for inspiration provided by young people who remind us every day why we volunteer or write those checks. We are grateful for Lucy, who enrolled in Jitegemee’s vocational program after spending several months working in the streets, washing clothes and carrying luggage. Lucy thrived in our vocational program. During her apprenticeship, she mastered the art of dressmaking and developed a reputation for coming up with her own unique designs. But that wasn’t good enough for Lucy. She used her small salary to put herself through school at night to get the Kenyan equivalent of her GED. That degree propelled her even further. Today, she is the supervisor of a dressmaking factory in Nairobi, the breadwinner of a large extended family.
Lucy isn’t alone. Every time I return to Machakos, I run into somebody whose life has been changed by this simple but incredible program. The first night I arrived this past August, a young woman in a spotless brown uniform shyly greeted me as I checked into my hotel. I didn’t recognize her, until she identified herself.
“I am a Jitegemee student,” she said.
It was Diana, who studied catering as her vocational trade and now works in the hotel.
Then there is George, a charismatic student with lackluster math scores whose performance as the Devil in a play will always make me think of him as a natural actor. George is now training to enter the hospitality industry, where I have no doubt that his actor’s charm will take him far. But what makes me really proud of George is how he is giving back to the community, through the Red Cross and the local Rotary Club, and how he has become comfortable and accepted among the Machakos well-to-do, after graduating from a prestigious high school and joining the local rugby team.
None of these transformations could have taken place without Director Mike Kimeu and his team, Alex, Laurah and Elizabeth, who have worked countless hours preparing vulnerable teenagers for adulthood. This past year, they have also dedicated themselves to getting ready for the construction of our new building.
Mike tracked down dozens of municipal officials – including some who were on leave - to get the required approvals to start building. His work was all the more tedious because Jitegemee’s policy is to never pay a bribe. Yet he succeeded.
Alex organized laborers to remove the stumps from our property for a fraction of the cost we would have paid to do it by machine. And Elizabeth and Laurah have participated in virtually every step of the planning pro-cess, from meeting with the architect to inspecting buildings that have been put up by the various contractors we are considering. This fall, we received five bids from builders and we expect to choose one soon.
As our plans for the new building march forward, we are in the process of planning how our program it-self will change once the building has been completed.
For this reason, we are incredibly grateful to Tulaine Montgomery, a veteran strategic planner who used her own vacation time to travel to Kenya with me to help with our first-ever five-year strategic plan. We thank the Oswald Foundation for their generosity in covering the costs of her travel and expenses.
Above all, we are grateful for the support of friends who have allowed us to continue doing this important work. Donors – big and small – have made the difference for us. We want to give special thanks to Andrew and Bonnie Weiss, the Kaplan family and the International Foundation, who have supported the dream of this building for years.
And we want to thank each and every one of you who has offered your time, your encouragement, your words of advice, and of course your money to support these extraordinary kids in Kenya.
As you count your blessings this year, count ours too. Our blessings are yours.
P.S. A generous anonymous donor has agreed to match 100% of new monthly donations on GlobalGiving from December 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012. If you've given to Jitegemee in the past, consider making a long term commitment to our vision and our kids with with a small monthly recurring donation today! For example, if you set up a new $15 monthly recurring donation, GlobalGiving will donate an additional $15 to Jitegemee! Oh, and if we are one of five charities with the most donors we'll win an additional $500! You can follow our progress on the Recurring Donations Leaderboard here.
Our Executive Director, Farah, just returned from her annual trip to Machakos. She had a lot of fun with the kids as they took their annual trip this year to Snake Park and the National Mueseum in Kenya. Additionally, thanks to our newest board member, Mary, the kids were able to experience a Career Day filled with wonderful guest speakers. We're always honored to have supporters take time out of their schedule to come talk about career paths with our students. It's at the core of who we are as an organization. Enabling kids to realize their full potential through whatever avenue they pursue in order to support and sustain themselves. The Career Day this year exceeded the size of anything that we had previously held, and was a huge success. The students and staff appreciated the relevant advice, and the kids continued to talk about all that they learned that day even after the speakers had left! Thank you Mary, and thank you to all the great speakers!
Dear friends of Jitegemee,
It has been a long process, but this spring, we finally were issued our title deed to our land. We are currently in the process of seeking competitive bids for contractors and we intend to break ground on the building this summer. Here is a recap of how far we have come, as well as the blue prints for the master plan, which we intend to build in phases.
We sincerely thank your for your continued support, and we look forward to celebrating the completion of this important addition to the Jitegemee program, and the city of Machakos!
Sincerely,Farah StockmanFounder and Executive Director
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.
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