CNN announced its Top 10 Heroes for 2013 and I am extremely honored and humbled to be one of the ten. I cannot even begin to express what this award means to the girls in my community and the issues that we continue to eradicate in our society. Today CNN has elevated the voices of young girls who are forced to undergo female genital cutting and early marriages. These are girls who are yearning for a better future but are denied an education when they are so young. I know because I was one of them.
I am motivated every day by girls like Lynn and Angeline who were orphaned at a tender age of seven and ten, but who now will achieve their dreams because we have given them an opportunity. But there is still much work to be done. 14 million girls are married each year before they are 18 years old and 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital cutting. With your help, and that of people like you, we can put a end to these practices.
CNN is asking the public to select their "Hero of the Year", so I am asking you today to vote for me and the girls, to share this link on your Facebook and Twitter and to ask your family, friends and colleagues to do the same. While it is an honor to be among the top ten, which comes with $50,000 which we will put towards building more classrooms, being named the top winner would be the catalyst for us to help significantly more girls. The visibility that recognition would give to this issue, and the direct investments we could make with the $250,000 prize would ensure that we have transformed more girls into empowered individuals who will each make a difference in our world.
I want to thank CNN for believing in my dream and that of the many girls around the world. And I want to thank you, our supporters, for your continued support. Together we are changing the lives of girls in Kenya in a positive way.
I am grateful for your continual support and very thankful for your vote.
With warm regards,
Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD.
KCE is committed to enriching our girls' academic experiences with opportunities outside the classroom. For our 8th graders, who will soon leave our campus and move on to secondary schools around the country, these opportunities are especially important. This summer, all 19 of our 8th graders traveled to Nairobi to visit the cultural and historic sites of the Kenyan capital. This was the first time any of them had been to a big city! They visited the National Archives, Parliament, Nairobi's international airport, and Nairobi National Park. They were thrilled by all the new experiences, especially staying at a hotel with a full breakfast provided in the mornings -- nothing like their usual breakfast of millet porridge. They were able to see the diversity of city life, from the VIP section of Parliament to Kibera, Africa's largest urban slum. The trip was truly one of discovery and excitement.
Read what the girls had to say about this experience:
"The journey to the city was so enjoyable and we were all excited about the time we spent at Shalom House where we learned to use flush toilets and showers. The entire journey was very exciting and enjoyable and we will work hard so as to join those secondary schools in Nairobi." -- Shura
"We went to the airport. This was the most interesting part of the journey because we saw planes landing and taking off. I was so happy to see a very big airplane. I told myself that one day I'll be the one operating it." -- Peiyiai
"We saw very old animals in the animal orphanage and what seems funny is that the animals had different names such as Patrick. The animals also had their own houses that seemed better than those of people in some villages." -- Yiamat
"My dream is to be a neurologist and I believe that one day I will fly overseas and save lives of many. I promised myself to work hard since I wanted to be in such a place." -- Lepishoi
The 8th graders are diligently preparing to take their National Exams mid November. This national test, which is a cumulative assessment of all subjects learned in primary school, will determine what secondary schools the girls may apply to in Kenya. Our girls have been reading, writing and reviewing with our teachers extensively. To help our girls prepare, KCE welcomed 5 experts on campus to provide tips on how best to succeed on this important exam.
These 19 young women never cease to amaze us at KCE. Their spirit and enthusiasm create such a positive atmosphere throughout our campus and indeed throughout the community. Their dedication to one another and their commitment to reaching their goals is inspiring to the girls that are following in their footsteps.
Thank you for believing in our girls. Your continued support is creating a new generation of leaders in Kenya.
The past few months have been a busy and productive time at Kakenya Center for Excellence— our girls are filled with energy and enthusiasm and a continued desire to grow! We are excited to share our news with you and update you on the progress of our program and our 155 amazing girls.
At the end of April, our school went completely off the government's electrical grid and switched to solar energy. One Million Lights, a wonderful organization based in California, came to Enoosaen and installed panels on the roof of our dormitory. Now, our entire campus is powered by the electricity generated through this system, including our computer lab. The school and dormitory are now safer, brighter, and more conducive to evening activities. "We use the light to read," says Naomi, a 7th grader. "This helps us when we are learning so that we can get jobs in the future."
In May, we celebrated Games Day at the school, a fun day spent outside being active. Our girls competed with one another in sporting events such as volleyball and soccer and participated in team building games and activities. Like their counterparts around the world, the girls at KCE love to run, play and compete. This month, our volleyball team placed second at the county level volleyball tournament! The girls displayed amazing teamwork and sportsmanship. We are so proud to have these young athletes representing KCE throughout the district.
Our 8th graders continue to study hard to prepare for their national exams in November, which will qualify them for secondary school entry. To give them extra motivation and an idea of where their goals can take them, we have planned a trip to Nairobi for the entire class in July. The girls will visit top secondary schools, historical sites, and government buildings. This will be the first time any of them have been to a big city! We know that this trip will truly be one of discovery for our girls, one that will broaden their vision of the opportunities awaiting them as they continue on their path.
We hope that you know how much of a difference your support makes in the lives of these young girls. Thank you for your continued support and for believing in our mission to empower Maasai girls through education. Enjoy the summer!
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.
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