The three pronged approach Expanding Opportunities has taken for the pastoralist girl child is moving forward. We currently are sponsoring five girls in boarding primary school. The girls who run away from FGM or Early Forced Marriage have often never attended school. Though they can be 10 or 12, they have never been in school. The needs of these girls are different; they are much older than their classmates. We carefully select schools that are able to integrate these older learners.
Let me briefly update you about two of “our girls”.
Dini was rescued in March of 2011. The community had been told she was "available for marriage" at age 11. A bright and lively girl she is enjoying her adventure in Education. She had never held a pencil, nor knew a word of Kiswahili or English. Now she is able to communicate in three languages and is performing very well in her class. She has a sponsor in Maine.
Juliza is a 9 year old girl who is currently in Class One as she had never attended school until the beginning of 2012. She was engaged to be married and ran away to the school. As the laws of Kenya forbid marriage before the age of 18, she is in school and boarding at Kipsing Academy. A Girl Scout Troop is sponsoring her for one year which will end in April of 2013. Her sponsorship after April will be dependent upon donors giving to our general girl child education prong of the project until she has another sponsor
Soon we will begin construction of a Girl's Rescue Center in Ariemet, Kenya. come along and join us in the effort.
Courtesy of Sandra Squire: Two women from Waldo County who are working in a northern region of Kenya that has been suffering from tribal unrest saw the remains of this man's burned-out home over the weekend. "His wife had been killed a year ago, and he is raising his three children, plus three others who have lost their parents," Sandra Squire of Belfast wrote in an email. "There is nothing left for any of them." Bev Stone isn’t one to let frightening tribal unrest in Africa stop her from getting a job done.
But Stone, a 62-year-old Brooks woman who has run a nonprofit organization in Kenya for a dozen years, would like to get the word out about the violent problems happening in the northern Isiolo region of the country. That is where she and Sandra Squire of Belfast have been staying for some time in an effort to get a Girls Rescue Center off the ground — but instead have been gathering information about the ongoing killings, looting, burnings and other troubles that they say are politically motivated.
“To our families and friends, we don’t feel really in danger,” Stone said last week in an interview over Skype from Isiolo. “But there is silencing of what’s going on. The media is very quiet. And people are dying and children are being uprooted. Women are walking many, many, many miles to find a safe place to be. It’s hard to know what we can do to help these people.”
According to Squire, 66, the problems in northern Kenya began last fall, but escalated to what she described as a “human crisis” in February. A population of Somalis moved into the area en masse because of drought, she said. And although the Somalis and the Turkana tribe had been peacefully coexisting in the remote area, that peace has been shattered.
More than 10,000 Turkana tribe members have been displaced in recent weeks, and more than 70 people have been killed in the violent clashes that may have worsened because it is an election year in Kenya.
The Somalis are armed with guns, the women said, and the Turkanas have spears and machetes.
“Many schools are closed,” Stone said. “Teachers are afraid. They’ve left their posts. They fear for their own life.”
The Mainers said that work has ceased for the moment on the Girls Rescue Center.
“We don’t want to be stockpiling building materials if they’re going to burn it down,” Stone said.
But the women have been talking to locals to find out more about the problems and to help where they can.
Over the weekend, Stone and Squire left the 80,000-person city of Isiolo to travel to the town where the rescue center will be built. They picked up a hitchhiking Turkana man, Mohammed Kuti, and learned that his brother had been killed in the unrest the week before.
“His calm acceptance of such a horror story was somehow more saddening than a more voluble display of emotion would have been,” Squire wrote in an email. “We passed a whole village that should have been filled with people and animals. It was completely abandoned.”
Then they saw several houses that had just been burned to the ground.
“There is nothing left for any of them,” Squire wrote of the villagers’ charred possessions. The Mainers went back to town and purchased essentials including mattresses, tin plates and mugs, blankets and basic food supplies to give to the refugees.
“It seemed pathetically not enough,” she wrote.
Stone’s nonprofit runs several programs in Kenya, including the Joseph Waweru Home School for boys. That school is in an area of the country that has not been affected by the violence, she said. The girls’ center is much needed, because many Kenyan girls are affected by such practices as early forced marriage, female genital mutilation and being taken from school at a young age.
She will continue to raise money for the center and to wait for a safe time to possibly begin construction, before coming back home to Waldo County in about a month.
Until then, Stone and Squire plan to help where they can and continue to witness the ongoing tragedies happening around them.
“To me, it’s the injustice of the unrest,” Stone said. “Of people being murdered in their own houses. No one knows. No one cares. There’s no one talking about this. It just isn’t right — but what else can you say? We feel very frustrated, because what can we do besides tell people what’s going on and hope that something can happen. When one side has guns, and one side has fears, that’s a big difference.”
For information about Expanding Opportunities, visit exop.org.
Dini and Seiboku were rescued in February of 2011. Their sponsors learned about the change in management and the ongoing insecurity in Isiolo. They both desired to have the girls moved to another Children's Home out of the area of unrest. What should have been a simple move, turned out to be a long drawn out legal process. BUT in the end we emerged with the two girls. At age 12 they were taking what was only their second ride in a vehicle! The drive was long but they were excited! It is wonderful to see the sense of wonder and excitement as these girls learn and grow together. They spotted two British women in uniform at one of our "refreshment stops". Learning they were in the British Army was a novelty for them.- Women can do anything. Thank you Global Giving donors. It is only with your assistance that Pastoralist Girl's lives can be changed. They can learn to read, write and compute, they can expand their horizons and CHOOSE if, when and whom to marry. They can grow and appreciate their pastoralist culture and CHOOSE the lifestyle they desire. For Dini and Seiboku, they will begin their new school on Tuesday April 3 and start yet another adventure in their lives.
March 1-16,2012: Join us on a Community Educaiton Journey to rural Samburu in Kenya. We will visit some of the rural pastoralist girls that Expanding Opportunities is supporting. A visit to schools, children's homes and a community education workshop to inform and education about the Child Rights, Female Gential Mutilation and Early Forced Marriage laws in the new Kenya Constitution and the importance of Girl Child education will be conducted. To learn more visit http://www.expandingopportunities.org/journey/FGM_EFM_educaiton.html.
Meanwhile in Kenya, schools are reopening after the long holiday break. Unfortunately it is during this break that FGM is forced on many girls and they are married. The schools report their highest rate of girls not returning to classes. We look forward to the day we have enough funds to build the Ariemet-Kulea Rescue Center so the girls will have a safe place to spend the school holidays.
This month two new girls were rescued and are attending Kipsing Primary School.
Dela is ten years old and in Class One (First grade). The girl had voluntarily come to school, after a week her father came, took her home and brought a boy in exchange for the girl . Teh administration at Kipsing Primary school followed the matter. Finally the family allowed the girl go to school as long as the school would take care of her.
Juliza is nine years old and in Class One (First grade). She walked 10 km to the school. She was promised to a moran, (a Samburu young man who is in the period of life when they are the warriors. During this time they travel with the other Morans. After this time they marry and settle down.) This Moran who had given her beads and was engaged to marry her. She did not want to marry, she wanted to go to school like other girls. So she ran away from home to come to school.
The principal contacted us about these two girls and thanks to generous donors, Dela and Juliza are sponsored through the end of this year.
In March of 2012, Expanding Opportunities will be bringing another Community Educaiton Workshop to rural Samburu. WE have limited space on this journey. If you would like to come along, please visit the website for more informaiton.
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