To mark International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, we’d like to bring you our latest update from Seed of Hope where we are helping young destitute girls become strong independent women.
Recruitment at Seed of Hope is drawing to a close for this year with new girls being enrolled at all four centres. Encouragingly, there was a very low drop-out rate over the Christmas holidays and our second year students are now in full swing as they prepare for their trade exams.
On a recent visit to our Kariti centre in Central Province, our chairman from the UK, Bob Dowty, was given a guided tour by two second year students. These confident young women spoke with pride of their centre and as they introduced him to their new colleagues in first year they gave them words of encouragement to greet the visitor and welcome him. We were shown round their shamba (farmland) where they have been growing grass for the cows along with maize, kales and other vegetables. The students explained that as part of their lifeskills lessons they are the ones to help with the farming and also the ones to cook lunch every day. There was a moment of pride when one of the girls turned to us and said “we cannot go hungry with this shamba here”. For us, this seemed to be a great example of self sufficiency and independence leading to pride.
At our Nairobi centre, we have watched as some of last year’s graduates have found employment or started on the first steps to opening their own business. It is hard to believe that these well groomed, confident young women were the same girls who showed up two years ago and couldn’t look at the camera when we tried to take photographs for our sponsorship program. They now have the self-belief that they can be businesswomen and look after themselves and their families. This is a great testimony to the work of Seed of Hope.
On the 27th of February, Vision Africa held a celebration to show appreciation for the work of its founders, Rev. and Mrs. Packard. Every project was invited to produce a piece of art to thank the founders for assisting them in some way. The Seed of Hope entries caught everyone’s eyes – a beaded picture of a giraffe on leather, knitted scarves with the words “thank you” on them, a traditional bag and an embroidered hanging were greatly admired by Mrs. Packard who commended the girls for the skills and creativity they had shown.
On that day, graduates of Seed of Hope were invited to join the celebration. A large number of young women showed up, many of them in outfits they had designed and created themselves. Looking around, you would never be able to tell what these women had been through in their time before Seed of Hope. They looked like happy, confident, determined women who really are living a life of dignity, hope and opportunity – great role models for our current students and a credit to the work of Seed of Hope.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported Seed of Hope and hope that you can see that you are part of something that is really making a difference to young women in Kenya.
Stunning designs, displays of craftwork, proud teachers and happy students – November saw graduations at all four Seed of Hope centres in Kisii, Kitui, Muranga and Nairobi. Approximately 115 girls graduated this year on completion of their two year course. To mark the event, each graduate was presented with four certificates – MicroBusiness Skills, Life Skills, Vocational Skills and overall achievement.
At each centre, the students put together a display of their work to show parents and guests. At the Kitui centre, first year students were on hand to take people on guided tours of the compound before the graduation ceremony. These tours showed the work that was being done on the shamba (farming of crops), income generating activities such as beekeeping and chicken breeding as well as an introduction to each of the subjects studied as part of the two year course. At this centre, the first year students had also used their lifeskills lessons to bake a cake for the graduates. This was shared out amongst the graduates, students and guests.
Also included in the program at each centre were testimonies from girls explaining how Seed of Hope has changed their lives. One of the most moving speeches was by a Nairobi graduate who told the audience how she had passed her primary school exams “with flying colours” but her parents were unable to afford secondary school fees. She then went on to say how she felt upset, useless and ashamed as she watched her classmates go to secondary school while she was left at home. There was a silence as this girl stood before a tent full of people and told them that in her darkest moment she even wanted to die. In her words, “an angel” (family friend) came to her mother and told her about Seed of Hope. After being interviewed and enrolled, she then started the program which she feels gave her the opportunity to turn her life around. As she spoke with a confidence which she says is a skill gained in her time at Seed of Hope, there was no doubt that this is one graduate who is going to work hard to succeed in life.
Each year, second year students are required to create their own graduation outfits. This year, this formed part of the final project and was a competition between the four centres. The top designers from each centre all came together at the Nairobi graduation. This was a great opportunity for the graduates to see the work of their fellow students from other parts of the country.
Leading the way in terms of fashion design was the Nairobi centre. As in recent years, a fashion show was held and each second year student had produced an outfit to be modelled by a first year student. This year, the first years requested the opportunity to play a bigger role and designed outfits for a bride and bridegroom which featured in the show. The headteacher from the Muranga centre told us that her graduates who attended the Nairobi event had been inspired and wanted to go back and tell their fellow students to raise the bar next year in terms of design.
One of the key messages at each graduation ceremony was appreciation for the support shown by Vision Africa donors and sponsors. Emily, a graduate from Kitui centre said that she would like to thank the sponsors because “the knowledge we have and the things we have are because of you”. We would like to echo this message and pass on our gratitude on behalf of all students and graduates of Seed of Hope and we hope that with your help we will be able to continue our program in the coming years.
Thanks to all who donated towards our project in the Open Challenge. We're delighted to have secured a permanent place on GlobalGiving's site and look forward to posting more projects in the future.
September sees the start of the third term for our Seed of Hope centres. This is the shortest of the three terms and the most pressured one for both first and second years. For first years there is their first experience of government exams and for second years the preparations for graduation and leaving the centre to start up their own business.
In December, our first year students will sit their Grade 3 Dressmaking exam. Regulated by the Department of Industrial Training this is a national exam which, if passed, gives the girls a certificate which is recognised by employers in the industry. Students sit these exams at external centres. The exams are mainly practical but also involve some theory questions.
Our second year students sat their Grade 2 Dressmaking exam in August and are awaiting their results. In the meantime, there is lots of work to be done in their final term at Seed of Hope. There have been some changes to the curriculum which has seen the addition of a design competition for second years across all four centres. This project involves each student designing 2 outfits and producing them. Students have free choice over the designs but must incorporate some of the skills they have learned in craft lessons –beadwork, fabric painting, tie and dye. They must also produce accessories such as jewellery to compliment each outfit. The winning designers will be awarded towards the end of the term.
In November, our rural centres will start to establish “Roots” businesses for second year students. “Roots” sees the girls divided into groups of about 5 girls who go through the process of starting up a business under the supervision of their teachers. For each business, Seed of Hope will provide for a sewing machine, 3 months’ rent and a trading licence. To encourage ownership of the business, the girls and their families will be expected to provide a table, mirror, stools, scissors and the materials required to produce their first outfits.
The end of November is when our centres host their graduation ceremonies. These events are celebrations where family and friends are invited to congratulate the girls on their achievements. Each girl wears an outfit she has designed and produced and some centres also put on fashion shows with first year students modelling the second years work.
Graduates from the rural centres continue with their Roots business as they save up to each start their own business. Nairobi students spend December and January working on attachment at local businesses before moving on to start their Roots business in February.
As you can see, the next few months promise to be busy. In addition to all of this work, plans are underway to establish income generating activities at each of our Seed of Hope centres. All centres are hoping to start making school uniforms to sell in their local communities to bring in some funds. Our centre in Kariti has made good progress so far with a farming project involving pigs and a cow and trees grown for timber. They also use their land to produce vegetables which the girls consume. Kitui Seed of Hope has started rearing chickens and growing fruits such as pawpaw (papaya) and passion fruits which can reduce the food budget as they provide girls with their daily fruit. In addition to this, they hope to set up a bakery and are exploring the possibilities of beekeeping. Our centre in Nyamache, near Kisii, has been growing maize and beans for sale and bananas and vegetables for consumption. This centre also has plans to set up a bakery and is planting trees which can be grown for timber. As for Nairobi....watch this space as there’s an exciting new project about to be revealed!!
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