In January, a new academic year began at Kakenya Center for Excellence. We were thrilled to welcome an incoming class of 33 fourth grade students to the school, bringing us to full enrollment with 155 girls in grades 4-8. This year will be an exciting one for KCE -- our first class of 8th graders will graduate in December and go on to high school in 2014. They are working hard to prepare for the national exams that take place at the end of the year and determine which high schools the girls will be eligible to attend. They are performing among the best in the district, and we are so proud of how far they have come!
February was a flurry of activity. Kakenya Center for Excellence had a special visit from the CNN Heroes crew, who came to see our school in Enoosaen, meet the girls, and talk with community members, parents, and teachers about the impact of the school in the village. During CNN’s visit to KCE, we were able to provide all 155 of our girls with their new uniforms for the year. The students also received new textbooks for each school subject. Parents were able to attend this distribution as well, after coming to the campus for a parent meeting with Kakenya to be updated on their daughters’ progress. It was a joyful time as the girls proudly donned their uniform shirts, dresses, sweaters, socks, and leather shoes. For some of our 4th graders, this was the first time they had ever received brand new clothing.
… And in March, following the CNN crew’s visit to our school, our own Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya was recognized as a CNN Hero! We are so pleased that her work has been honored in this way. As more and more people learn about the struggles that many girls face to pursue an education, we are gaining momentum in our mission to end harmful cultural practices and provide all girls with educational opportunities. We are so grateful for individuals like you who believe in our work and join with us to keep our girls smiling, dreaming, and growing into future leaders.
We started the year by welcoming 30 amazing young girls to our family, bringing our total enrollment to 124 girls. These girls' lives will forever be transformed because of your kindnesses and support. Twenty years ago, I was just like the girls at our school, and I can tell you personally that when the door of promise swings open it brings with it strength, hope, and fearlessness with the knowledge that anything is possible!
Naanyu, a fourth grader at KCE, is one of these girls. After losing her mother when she was only four years old to domestic violence, her father abandoned her and her five siblings, leaving them destitute and homeless, with no one to care for them and no hope for an education. Naanyu's uncles and grandmother took the children in, struggling to provide for their needs. Last December, Naanyu's grandmother brought her to KCE on enrollment day to seek support for her education. Because of the kindness of so many, we were able to open our arms and accept Naanyu as a student. KCE absorbed all her educational expenses, including school supplies, meals, health care, uniform, and toiletries. Today, Naanyu is an eager student, excelling in her classes. She loves mathematics and science and works hard at her studies. She says, "At KCE, I am learning about my rights and health. I want to be a doctor so that I can care for the sick and vulnerable and orphans like me. I know that if I can continue at KCE, my life will not be the same." As we look forward to the coming year and get ready for our incoming class of 30 girls, we do so with great excitement and enthusiasm in the knowledge that, though we have much to accomplish, we do so from a foundation built strong by your generosity and by the innate potential of all young girls to make a difference in the world. Your gift helps us deliver on our mission by ensuring that our girls are equipped to learn -- with school uniforms, desks, beds, learning materials, and the nurturing attention that will help transform them into smiling and hopeful young women who are well prepared to shape a better world. From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you for all you have helped us accomplish for the girls at our school and the community of Enoosaen. On behalf of these girls and of all of those we touch through the Kakenya Center for Excellence, I extend my deepest gratitude. I hope that you will continue to help transform the future for these girls into one of hope and possibility. Warmest wishes for the holiday season and a joyous new year.
It is hard to believe, but we have begun the last term of the year at the Kakenya Center for Excellence. The girls are happy to be back together, and are ready and eager to learn! The teachers and staff are thrilled to have the classrooms filled once again with energetic, smiling faces.Many of our students have overcome great obstacles to pursue an education at the Kakenya Center for Excellence and truly appreciate and understand the real gift of KCE in their lives. “Anna’s” story below provides a glimpse into how the Kakenya Center for Excellence is empowering our students and strengthening our community. It is a reminder how communities can change, one girl at a time.
Anna, now a 7th grader at KCE, was born in the village of Sikawa, an hour long journey from the KCE campus in Enoosaen. She is the second youngest of five children --- four girls
and a boy. Anna’s parents divorced bitterly when she was very young. For many years, Anna and her siblings endured hostility and cruelty from their father. Both of Anna’s older sisters were forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), a Maasai tradition that marks a girl’s passage to womanhood and early marriage. Encouraged by her mother and siblings, Anna applied and was accepted to the Kakenya Center for Excellence. With Anna’s tuition, uniform, and school materials fully funded by KCE, Anna has begun a new chapter in her life. Anna will be spared from undergoing FGM because her mother wants her daughter to pursue a new path through education.
Since beginning at KCE, Anna has blossomed. “I learn about self-esteem, confidence, and about FGM… I learn about FGM and the effects … I feel empowered.” When asked about her relationship with her father, Anna starts to cry. She is saddened by the rift in her family and the suffering of her older sisters. She cries, too, when asked about how the Kakenya Center of Excellence has impacted her life --- but these are tears of joy. Anna is keenly aware that her mother is not able to pay for her education, and she is deeply appreciative of this opportunity. Anna now dreams of becoming a policewoman and supporting her community. “Education can help me learn more things and to help many people in my country.”
The transformation that has occurred in Anna’s life would not be possible without the support we receive from our generous friends. On behalf of Anna, and all the girls we serve, thank you!
We are now in the middle of the second academic term at Kakenya Center for Excellence. This is the time when music and drama competitions take place, and our girls are performing in music festivals with students from other schools. There are several different categories for the competitions, including poetry, folk dance, choral chanting, and singing games. Each school is expected to present at least one category. As with athletics, the initial competitions are at a local level. The schools that perform best move on to district-level festivals, followed by regional and then county. The best two performances from each category qualify to go on to the next level.
The girls from Kakenya Center love to sing, dance, and perform. In their first competition, the KCE girls recited a poem by Maya Angelou entitled “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.” They did very well and qualified for the district-wide competition in Kilgoris. Many parents and people from around the community came to watch the performances, which included traditional Maasai dances and dances from other tribes, including Kalenjin, Kipsigis, and Luo.
Our 6th grade students have also recently been working on a special art project with our Advocacy Project Peace Fellow. The theme is Identity: Documenting Maasai Culture through Art, and the girls have completed a number of small art pieces that together will comprise the final project. So far, they have each written a short autobiography about specific memories, obstacles they have faced in their lives, their dreams, their thoughts on FGM/early-marriage, and when they learned specific Maasai traditions.
Each girl’s story is deeply moving and shows how much their education at KCE has impacted their lives. One girl, Damaris, wrote about how she was being pressured by her parents to undergo FGM, but through health and leadership camps at KCE and the friends she had at school, she had learned how to say “no”. In the end, her parents respected her educated response. She wrote, “I told my mother that F.G.M. is not good. She told me I would be circumcised. I told her that girls “say no to F.G.M.” - they taught us in camp.” The girls are drawing their stories into boxes and shapes and will be painting self-portraits, as well.
These kinds of activities enrich our program and our girls’ academic lives, and we are so grateful for the supporters who partner with us to allow them to continue. Thank you for believing in our mission to empower young Maasai girls to follow their dreams and to see the potential within themselves. Together, we are changing the lives of future leaders in Africa.
Kakenya Center for Excellence has been filled with activity throughout the current academic term. We now have 124 students enrolled in grades 4 through 7, and the girls continue to grow into confident young women, excelling academically, socially, and physically. Over the past few months, the exciting events at Kakenya Center have included spelling bees, athletic competitions, and computer classes.
Spelling Bees: Each class of girls at KCE participated in grade-level spelling bees over the past week, one grade level per day. On the same four days that KCE held spelling bees, the local public primary school also organized competitions, with support from Kakenya Center. At both schools, all participants received pencils and the top three were given larger prizes: a backpack, a notebook, and a storybook. The top ten finishers from each grade level at KCE will compete with their counterparts at Enoosaen Primary School this week. The first place prize will be an Oxford dictionary! The girls love these competitions and spend weeks preparing by studying lists of words.
Volleyball Champions: Spring is the season for athletic competitions in Transmara District. Kakenya Center’s volleyball team has had lots of success this year, winning the Transmara West District Championship last week. They competed against over 100 other girls to achieve this impressive accomplishment. Next, they will go to the County Championship to represent the entire district against girls from the surrounding area. We are so proud of them and thrilled at their confidence in their physical abilities.
Computer Classes: Unlike other primary schools in the area, KCE is fortunate to have a computer lab on our campus. This allows our girls to learn important IT skills that will be crucial for them to succeed in secondary school and beyond. Though we run into many challenges with keeping the computers healthy and properly functioning, the girls have been able to learn to type, practicing how to use both hands, compose letters, and write stories. It has also allowed the girls to become familiar with the internet and the kinds of resources it provides.
We are now looking forward to our next health and leadership holiday camp, which will take place from April 23-28 during the academic break. The camps give us an opportunity to invite girls who attend other schools in the area to come to our campus and join our own students for a week of training, laughter, and new friends. Topics for the camp will include self-esteem, health and hygiene, sexually transmitted infections, children’s rights, and volunteership. The girls are excited for another fun-filled holiday camp.
The highlights above provide only a few snapshots of what your support allows us to do. We are so grateful for the individuals who believe in our mission of empowering young girls to reach their full potential and to pursue their dreams. Thank you so much for partnering with us to change the lives of Maasai girls in Kenya!
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