Jan 14, 2021

Happy to be back to school after 10 months

Empty classrooms, abruptly deserted mid-March last year, are back to life once again and the chatter of children learning rings throughout our school. January 2021 has started on a high gear as the Kenyan Ministry of Education asked all schools to reopen following a 10 month break due to the global COVID19 pandemic. Although things look a little different in this Covid era, children, parents and teachers alike are excited to be back!

 “Now that the 87 children are back to school, we have ensured safety measures were in place even before the official reopening of schools.” says our head teacher, Ms. Alice Wanjiru.

St. Vincent’s has invested in handwashing stations for each class and mounted posters on the school walls with key, child-friendly COVID19 messaging. Our teachers ensure children’s temperatures are taken upon their arrival each morning and all children and staff are required to wear masks properly and wash hands often with clean water and soap. Additional prevention measures put in place are designed to minimize contact among parents coming into the school premises and enable service delivery to be administered one parent at a time, as needed.

“One of the biggest reminders is that we need to be on the lookout for social distance among the children to ensure their safety,“ adds Teacher Alice. “Classrooms have markings on the floor where each child needs to sit to minimize any kind of transmission of COVID19 virus.”

While they continue to adjust to the new norms of mask wearing and more frequent hand washing, children were glad to be back from school after such a long break, as evidenced by their smiling faces (even detected under their masks!). Returning to school means the promise of two daily, nutritious meals, engagement from our teachers, and time to play in a safe and loving space with friends.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, Kenya has reported almost 97,000 Covid cases and more than 1,600 deaths since the start of the outbreak in March 2020. Over the weekend the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, extended an overnight curfew until March to help prevent the spread of the virus in the country.

Covid prevention messaging
Covid prevention messaging
New handwashing stations added
New handwashing stations added
Daily temperature checks
Daily temperature checks
Social distancing cues in place
Social distancing cues in place
Happy to be back to 2 daily meals at school
Happy to be back to 2 daily meals at school
Nov 3, 2020

Uncovering the Challenges of Parenting in Kibera

At the start of 2020, one of our goals was to continue expanding education and support efforts for the parents of children we serve. As part of this initiative, in February, we started preparing for a parenting education program that would provide information and skill building opportunities to parents on relevant topics such as early childhood development, positive parenting and discipline, parent-child communication techniques, and raising children with special needs. In March, we adapted and developed program training material, recruited a counselor to support our work, and held an initial training for our teachers who would facilitate the parenting education groups.

Though we had to put our plans on hold for several months amidst the pandemic, we are pleased to report that last month in September, we were able to restart the program. Our first cohort of 72 nursery school parents participated in a two-week, interactive training program, which followed government Covid-19 infection prevention guidelines, such as taking temperatures, wearing masks, and holding meetings outside. In addition to educating parents on the aforementioned topics, we also built in flexibility to the session structure so that parents could raise issues that were important to them in the course of the training. In this way, the parenting sessions evolved into a sort of group counseling space where parents opened up about the experiences and challenges they are facing and which have seemingly been amplified during the pandemic. 

Several mothers discussed intimate partner violence in their home, while other parents talked about specific challenges of raising children living with disabilities. One mother shared how the community's misconception of her lack of control over her child with autism led to her and her family being stigmatized. Other parents talked about how they feel they must use harsh/punitive parenting styles to protect their children given that they live in a high crime environment (in Kibera) where negative influences are many. This honest sharing allowed for frank discussions about the real-life issues affecting parenting styles and how parenting could be improved. Referrals were provided for parents in need of immediate outside services, including domestic violence.

Parents were excited about their participation in the program. One parent reported that following the training, she was eager to share what she learned with her neighbor and had even helped her neighbor to create family rules to help improve use within the household. Most parents shared that they had no shoulder to lean on and appreciated the training because it offered a space to discuss issues affecting them. The training also helped us, as an organization, to better understand some of the sensitive issues facing the families that we serve, which we will be able to translate into more effective and tailored support to our families in the future.

Apr 7, 2020

Food Baskets Distributed to 110 Families

St. Vincent's Food Distribution in Kibera
St. Vincent's Food Distribution in Kibera

Last week, we reported to you on the early threats of COVID-19 on our Kibera community in Kenya. Since then, while the number of Kenyans infected with the virus has remained relatively low at 122, the toll of the pandemic on residents of Kibera has been immense, as anticipated. With the majority of Kibera’s residents earning a living as day laborers, whose work has come to a grinding halt during this time, many families have been left without adequate means to survive.

March 16th marked the first day of closure of St. Vincent’s Nursery School. Without the two daily nutritious meals that we provide, we knew that many of the children we serve would be deprived of critical nutrition until our school can re-open. During the first week of our school closure, many parents shared with us their frustration and struggles around being able to provide food for their families. Too many parents reported that because of lost work, their families were living off of one meal per day in light of the pandemic. 

We knew we needed to take action. We mobilized support from our kind-hearted donor network (THANK YOU!) for an emergency food distribution, which was coordinated by our Board and Program Administrator on Friday March 27th. Over 110 families received food baskets packed by our teachers, each containing 4 kilos of maize, 4 kilos of rice, 4 kilos of beans, 4 kilos of millet flour, 2 liters of cooking oil, 2 kg of sugar and bar soap for handwashing. Recipients included approximately 80 families of our nursery school children, as well as families of children in our scholarship program and our own teachers. The food supply will last families for approximately three weeks, depending on family size. The distribution was conducted with the utmost care, with efforts made to stagger parents entering our facility to avoid crowds and a handwashing station set up outside our school gate so that each parent could wash their hands prior to receiving the food basket. During the distribution, our staff promoted messaging around hand washing as well.

Smiles of joy beamed across the faces of parents as they received their package. ‘I am going to cook a nice meal today for my family,’ one mother shared with another parent as she received help to carry the food wrapped on her head.

We know the need for additional food supplies will continue in the weeks and months ahead and we are continuing to work to see how we can best support our families, while also keeping our staff safe during this time. It is an uncertain time for everyone, but the food distribution made possible with your support came at a critical time for our children and families. We thank you for your continued involvement in our efforts to serve the most vulnerable families in Kibera.

 
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