In December, the Kakenya Center for Excellence hosted our first Health and Leadership Camp reunion. At the closing ceremony, more than 250 girls, along with their families, teachers, and tribal elders, gathered together to celebrate and affirm their daughter’s achievements and success. The ceremony was marked with skits by the girls, motivational speeches, traditional Maasai dancing, and a large feast.
It was an amazing gathering that demonstrated clearly the wisdom in an old African proverb. “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go with others”
In April 2011 the Kakenya Center Excellence began our Health and Leadership Camp as a way to extend opportunities to both KCE students and girls from throughout the Transmara West district with important information about topics such as female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual and reproductive health, child rights and leadership building.
After four successful camps, we are starting to see the ripple effect that these girls are creating in their own communities. As advocates of change, the girls are determined to teach their sisters, their friends, and their classmates about their bodies and their rights.
When Shura was asked if the camp met her expectations, she replied, “Yes, because we learnt more about FGM and we will go and tell our friends back home.” Another student replied, “I want to train girls that did not go to camp and teach them all I learned.”
Sadly, in rural Kenya many girls continue to drop out of school by age 12 after undergoing FGM and are married off instead of continuing to pursue their dreams for the future. However, mindsets are changing about these destructive cultural practices, and this change is reaching far and wide… And it all starts with girls like Shura.
Thank you for your support of the Health and Leadership Camps. Together we are training girls to become leaders throughout their community, the nation and the world.
Last week our Health and Leadership Training kicked off with more than 100 girls from throughout the district joining 50 students from the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE) for an exciting week of camp. All 157 girls stayed on the KCE campus where we integrated vital trainings and workshops with fun activities such as movie night, relay races, storytelling and dancing.
The first two days of camp centered on health topics such as female genital mutilation (FGM), HIV/AIDS, menstruation and hygiene, and sex and sexuality. The workshops provided a safe space for girls to get accurate answers to some difficult questions and issues.
Days 3-5 were focused on self-defense and safety. Once again, KCE partnered with I'm Worth Defending, a Nairobi organization that focuses on self -defense and preparedness. These trainers really engaged our girls and got them excited about protecting themselves and saying "NO" to assault and FGM. During the camp, a woman in the market asked what was being taught at KCE. "All I hear," she said "is No! No! No!"
Our last day of training was focused on leadership and the importance of education. The girls learned about opportunities in our community and how to be successful in achieving their professional and personal goals.
The week culminated in our first Graduation ceremony, which brought together 230 past participants for a day of reflection and celebration. Our campus was brimming with parents, teachers, and community leaders who all came to cheer on our daughters and applaud them for their accomplishments and success.
At a time of year when many girls are forced to partake in traditional circumcision ceremonies, this graduation highlighted what is possible when our girls are supported, educated, cherished and empowered. It was a very moving rite of passage indeed.
This week the students at the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE) returned to school for the fall term. With smiles on their faces, excitement in their voices, and determination in their hearts, 124 girls started a new term – a term that will keep them on the path toward achieving their dreams.
As the new term kicked off, our teachers and staff are reminded of the girls in our district who do not have the same opportunities to learn and succeed. With that in mind, we have diligently begun planning our next Health and Leadership Camp for the winter holiday. These leadership camps provide the Center with the opportunity to reach a wider circle of at-risk girls throughout our community. With lifesaving workshops on health and wellness, and vital leadership trainings, we are providing girls with the tools to become strong leaders of our country and world.
We are excited to announce that we are planning to host two Health and Leadership Camps during winter break. Our first camp will model the successful camps we have run in the past. As in previous camps, we will pair KCE students with girls from other schools throughout the Transmara district. This partnership enables KCE students to strengthen their leadership skills and creates a strong bond among the girls in our community.
Our second gathering will introduce a new component to this program. We plan to hold a reunion for all girls that have participated in the past four camps. This will bring together more than 300 girls to our campus! We are committed to supporting our girls on an ongoing basis. The reunion will enable us to gain insight into what lessons have worked, what can be improved and how these camps have made a difference in the girls’ lives.
Most importantly, we hope the reunion will empower and inspire the girls. We will hold the session at the time of year when the female genital cutting ceremony traditionally takes place, but our a ceremony will show that these girls are becoming women by empowering them rather than causing them harm. By reuniting hundreds of girls we will show the strength, power and unity that can be achieved by providing girls with tools to protect and love themselves.
None of this, of course, could be achieved without the generous support of our friends. On behalf of all the girls we serve, thank you for your continued support.
“I love my body, I say NO to FGM!” This chant rang out across Kakenya Center for Excellence’s campus during our most recent Health and Leadership Holiday Camp. Girls proudly declared the empowering phrase, reflecting the sense of self confidence and strength they cultivated over the 6-day camp. From April 23-28, we hosted 120 girls in grades 6 and 7, the largest camp we have had so far! As in previous camps, we invited half the participants to come from over 24 schools across the Transmara district. This gives us an opportunity to build mentoring relationships between our KCE students and girls from the rest of the neighboring community, spreading our hopeful messages and important health and leadership information to girls who do not usually have access to our programs.
The week was filled with fun activities, starting with a full day of training by I’m Worth Defending, a group based in Nairobi that teaches girls to defend their bodies, to say “NO!”, and to have greater self esteem and confidence. The girls practiced moves and techniques to protect themselves from physical violence as well as positive self talk to empower them as individuals. Throughout the week, the girls participated in trainings by several other health and human rights professionals, learning about sexual and reproductive health, life skills, healthy relationships, children’s rights, and other topics.
The campers also benefited from group and individual counseling sessions, reinforcing these lessons and providing them with a safe space to voice their feelings, questions, and concerns. This type of open communication allows the girls to seek help for the often serious problems they are facing and for us to gauge the greatest needs of adolescent girls in the community.
Our camps continue to grow in numbers and in impact. We hope to hold another camp in December 2012 that will reunite the participants from all of our previous camps – 300 girls altogether! These camps are one of the most exciting, effective, and fun elements of our program, 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.
With a fast-approaching holiday break from classes at the end of April, we are excited about the next Health and Leadership Holiday Camp that we will host at Kakenya Center for Excellence. The upcoming camp will be held from April 23rd to April 28th. As with previous camps, we will invite girls from schools in the surrounding area to participate in the trainings alongside our KCE students. In the past, we have held the camps for 6th grade girls only, with 30 of our students and 30 students from other schools. This time, we are increasing the number of participants from 60 to 120, inviting 7th grade girls to join, as well.
For the 7th graders, we are developing new training topics and curriculum. These will include stress management & dealing with depression, child rights and sexual abuse/rape, and volunteership. As in previous camps, topics for the 6th graders will include basic leadership skills, health & hygiene, and sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDs. We will bring in trained professionals to work with the girls and run their sessions, including a police officer who will instruct the girls about their rights and what to do if they are physically attacked. We also will have a counselor on site throughout the entire camp who will be available for both group and individual counseling sessions. As always, we look forward to a week filled with lots of learning and laughter.
Our Health and Leadership camps are some of the most enjoyable times of the year for the girls who participate and for all of us at KCE. We are so thankful for your partnership as we plan, implement, and improve upon each holiday camp. As we reach more and more girls through these camps and have opportunities to equip them with crucial skills and information, we know that we could not accomplish this mission without wonderful support throughout the process. We will keep you updated with highlights from the April camp!
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