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Nov 8, 2019

Darren learns to communicate

Darren reading the newspaper with his friends
Darren reading the newspaper with his friends

My visit to the special education schools is always heartwarming as I get to interact with children and learn from the teachers about progress made during the term. Whenever I ask about individual children and what they have achieved, I am grateful and excited at the same time. Their progress shows that there is hope for these children to not only overcome the obstacles their disabilities present, but to thrive and succeed thus become self-reliant in future. 

I met Darren for the first time on this visit, he clung to me and would not let go until the teacher whisked him away! Darren was first diagnosed with autism at the age of 4 years. His parents took him to a special day unit close to home but sadly this changed at the age of 7 when his parents separated and Darren was left under the care of his father. Darren’s father was unable to juggle work and caring for an autistic child as a single father and became overwhelmed. He decided to contact the Educational Assessment and Resource Centre (EARC) in order to find the best placement for his son. He was referred to Percy Davies Special School which provides boarding facilities for children with disabilities and in mid 2017, Darren joined the school as a boarder. 

Percy Davies Special School has become a safe haven for Darren and other children as the school provides holistic care and the individualist education program from specially qualified teachers who not only teach the necessary skills but love, care and support the children in their different abilities. 

According to teacher Sarah, when Darren joined Percy Davies, he had not developed basic skills; he had no speech and was very aggressive and frustrated as he couldn’t communicate his needs, hence the teachers had to constantly keep an eye on him lest he injured himself or other children. He was also malnourished and was reliant on diapers. It took close to one year of patience, persistence and motivation to teach him soft skills, speech therapy and activities of daily living. The teacher’s work eventually paid off as she proudly shared the major milestones Darren has achieved since he joined Percy Davies.  

Darren has learnt signs to express himself and has found a way to get the teachers’ attention by  dancing! He points out what he wants or takes the teacher’s hand to show her what he needs. He can understand and follow simple instructions and is able to use the washrooms independently now. In the last few months particularly, his health has significantly improved as he eats well with the appetite of a very active boy! More excitingly is that Darren has become social amongst his peers, he loves reading the newspapers and the teachers are encouraging him by ensuring the daily paper is available for him to peruse during his free time. 

In other news, both Percy Davies and Kirunguru have also been preparing their school farms in order to plant fruit seedlings during the short rains. This week mango and orange tree seedlings were planted at Percy Davies.  The fruit will be used for the meals and any excess can be sold to generate income for supplies. This is one of the new projects that Raising Futures Kenya is implementing in special schools to secure the sustainability and future growth of the special schools.

The schools have just closed for the holidays and the parents came for the end of term ceremony before taking their children home. The third term is the shortest in the school academic calendar as the learners spend 8 weeks in school before they break for the Christmas holidays. The ministry of education want to ensure that learners sitting the National Examinations, at both primary and secondary levels, are given ample time to prepare for their final exams. This year children with disabilities also joined the first cohort of the Competence Based Curriculum in mainstream schools. This was a nationwide exercise that selected learners from both Kirunguru and Percy Davies special schools participated in. Children are assessed in three areas namely; Activities of Daily Living, Communication and Integrated Learning Areas. 

On behalf of the children and staff of Percy Davies and Kirunguru special schools, we would like to thank you for your generous giving towards this programme as it is through your kind, on-going support, learners like Darren get not only special care and therapy but also learn differently. It is our desire that all the children are given equal opportunity to reach their full potential through tailored education and training.

Thank you for being a special part of our community.

Girls from Kirunguru on their last day of term
Girls from Kirunguru on their last day of term
Orange and mango tree seedlings ready for planting
Orange and mango tree seedlings ready for planting
Aug 30, 2019

Esther is thriving living with her aunt

Esther
Esther

A visit to families of reintegrated children was quite a new experience for me and our volunteers from the UK who had come to Climb Mount Kenya in support of Raising Futures Kenya this month.  This is because I have seen these children growing up since they were toddlers while living in the institutional care at Karanda Children’s Home and it warms my heart when I saw them again happy and contented living with their families.  

The two families we visited are living not far from each other in one of Nairobi’s slums called Korogocho.  Maggy is a single parent of two children called Emmanuel and Peter.  Maggy was also raised in a children’s home after her mother passed away.  Emmanuel, who is the older child, is now 8 years old though he lived the better part of his childhood at the children’s home because Maggy was just a teenager when she gave birth to him.  Maggy got a second chance to go back to school but unfortunately dropped out again before completing her secondary education when she became pregnant the second time with Peter.  During our visit, we learned that Maggy does casual jobs like washing clothes and selling coffee and cakes in order to cater for the basic needs of her children.  When Emmanuel was reintegrated back to his family from the children’s home, Raising Futures Kenya decided to support Maggy to meet the educational costs for her children by paying school fees, buying uniforms and other related costs for the two children to enable her cater for other necessities.  

We also met with Aunty Esther, as we call her, as she is the guardian to a young girl called Esther.  Aunty Esther lives in a single room with her four boys and she took Esther in, she became their little sister.  Esther was the lastborn in a family of four siblings.  Unfortunately her mother passed away when she had just turned one, she was then left in the care of her elderly grandparents.  Esther became malnourished and sickly as her grandparents could not afford to provide balanced meals for her and her siblings.  It was then that Esther was taken to Kandara Children’s Home and placed at the baby unit to be cared for.  She lived in the institution for 11 years, separated from her siblings at a tender age thus she did not know any of her family members while growing up.  It was during family tracing that one of her paternal aunties learned that Esther has been living at the children’s home and she willingly agreed to take her in.  Although she is now raising all the children as a single parent Aunty Esther does not regret her decision and this is what she told me during our conversation; “I am happy to have Esther as my daughter because I was blessed with only boys and she is a ray of sunshine in my house.  I will continue to work hard to provide for all my children despite the challenges of life.” Esther is in class seven and has significantly improved in her school performance.

The good news is that Raising Futures Kenya is in the process of implementing the economic empowerment programme that will benefit all vulnerable children who have been reintegrated with their families.  The organization is committed to ensuring these families have access to sustainable and dignified livelihoods by enabling them to start their own small businesses so they can become financially independent enabling them to pay for the educational costs for the children.  Maggy and Aunty Esther are among the first group of families that will benefit from the programme.  It is exciting to know that they will soon be able to earn a sustainable income and be able to provide all the necessities for the children in the families and most importantly raise their standards of living.  Raising Futures Kenya’s core belief is that by growing up with the love, care and safety of a family, children who once lived under institutional care will be able to achieve their full potential, to lead healthy, fulfilled, socially and economically engaged lives.

We wish to thank you so much for your generous donations to 'Help 60 Vulnerable Children Stay in Their Families'.  We feel privileged that you selected our project to support out of so many wonderful causes.  We are thrilled that you've become a part of our loyal community of supporters and we look forward to continue sharing exciting news about our project. 

Thank you!

Sherry Waweru
Senior Programmes Officer

Aunty Esther at home with the children
Aunty Esther at home with the children
Maggy and her children Emmanuel and Peter
Maggy and her children Emmanuel and Peter
Aug 27, 2019

Esther: "I want to support other girls who have lost hope"

Esther
Esther

Seed of Hope provides more than skills training to our young people across the counties we are working in Kenya.  The majority of the young people have said that Seed of Hope has enabled them to grow; spiritually, mentally, emotionally and also in different skills.  The graduates also tell us how Seed of Hope has built their confidence, self-esteem and character, which has transformed their lives positively. 

Currently we have girls who have taken up leadership roles thanks to various programmes implemented like the mentorship, Amuka, peer education, and focused group discussions that help to bring out the inner strength and confidence from our girls just like in the case of Esther, a fashion and design student.  Esther joined the Seed of Hope Nairobi centre in the second term of 2018 after trying out casual jobs in order to support her father.  When she enrolled, she would come into class very early and sit alone at the corner where nobody will recognize her presence.  She was softly spoken and shy but managed to stand out among other girls with her mode of dressing, makeup and hair styles. 

It was when Seed of Hope moved to its new premises that I got the opportunity to know more about Esther since she was among the few girls who remained behind as the other students went for their industrial attachment.  As I interacted and got to know our students better, I learnt that Esther is the last born in a family of two.  They were raised by their father after the death of their mum when she was 15 years.  Her father remarried so that his daughters could get motherly care, advice and support but this did not last as they separated when Esther was about to complete secondary education.  This affected her thus she did not perform well at the end of secondary school exams.  For the one year she stayed home, Esther was lonely with no hope of going to college as her father, who works as a security guard, had struggled to pay for her secondary education and it was obvious that he would not afford the college fee.  This forced her to go out and look for any job in order to meet her personal needs, as well as support her father in paying the bills.  According to Esther, this was the best decision she made because it was during her daily duties as a house help that she met one of Seed of Hope graduates who informed her about the programme and the courses being offered.  Esther shared this news with her father who decided to inquire further by vising the Seed of Hope centre.  He feared the fee payment but at the same time he did not want to disappoint his daughter.  After getting positive feedback from the Seed of Hope project administrator about the free courses, Esther’s father did not hesitate and asked his daughter to enrol immediately. 

At Seed of Hope, Esther has greatly transformed from the shy girl at the corner of her class to this bold, confident and responsible girl.  She was anonymously elected by other students as the Head Girl since she has led students to participate in different activities within the school and also with our partners.  She is also in charge of the dressmaking, fashion design class and the teacher has entrusted her with the role of assisting other students as she has worked hard to perfect her skills.  

In the last few weeks, Esther has been attached to one of our Seed of Hope graduates called Rosebella.  When I asked her teacher why she chose Esther, she said; “I have trained so many of our girls at Seed of Hope and I could tell the potential each one has.  Esther has shown interest and commitment in her course by working hard to improve her skills.  I want her to learn more from professionals like Rosebella who have been in this business for a long time so she too can build her own empire in future.”  When I asked Esther about her ambition in life, she said; “After graduating, I would like to start my own fashion business that will be recognized regionally but also internationally. I also want to support other young girls like me who have lost hope and face challenges in their lives.”  We wish Esther all the best even as she prepares to graduate at the end of the year.

In other news, the Seed of Hope centres took a short recess beginning of August but they will be resuming in the first week of September.  Apart from the Amuka programme, our students were given the opportunity to voice their concerns, share ideas and suggestion on how we can improve the programme through the focused group discussions.  They also participated in visioning meetings for the Nairobi new build project as we plan for the future growth of the Seed of Hope programme.  We believe that by engaging our students, their concerns, views and suggestions will significantly bring change, growth and development as they are the reason that Seed of Hope programme exists.

On behalf of our girls, teachers and management we would like sincerely thank you for the generous contribution towards this programme as we would not have made it this far without your support.  I believe that you will walk with us in this journey of transformation as we give hundreds of girls hope and opportunity to become change makers in their own lives, their families and the community they live in.  In as much as the impact is measurable, there are still many young girls who are unreachable and are in need our support to become self-sustained hence raise their standards of living.  

Thank you again for your kind support!

Sherry Waweru
Senior Programmes Officer

Focused group discussion
Focused group discussion
 
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