Kakenya's Dream

The Kakenya Center for Excellence seeks to empower and motivate young girls through education to become agents of change and to break the cycle of destructive cultural practices in Maasai Kenya such as female genital cutting and early forced marriage. We believe in impacting one girl at a time, one community at a time, until all girls in Africa have the opportunities they need to thrive as individuals. These future women leaders will improve their communities, their nation, and the world.
Feb 24, 2016

Camps and Counselors with a Purpose

Our most recent Health and Leadership Camp in the Transmara District in Kenya filled 214 girls with anticipation and excitement as they arrived on campus for a week of both traditional camp activities and important learning experiences about their rights as girls.

In many ways, our Health and Leadership Camps, held in April and December, are similar to summer camps throughout the world. Hosted on our campus, our week-long holiday camps provide girls with a chance to come together to explore new ideas, make new friends and discover themselves at a critical time in their development. In Enoosaen, our camp is quite unique, providing girls not only with a fun holiday but with vital information about their sexual health, FGM, child marriage and its consequences, their legal rights and leadership skills.

During our December session, 25 alumnae from our KCE boarding school served as counselors at camp. These young women, now in grades 9-11 have a profound influence on the younger campers. Their self-assurance, knowledge and confidence are shining examples to younger campers of what can be achieved through working hard and continuing their education. I am forever grateful that our graduates return to take on these leadership roles at camp – inspiring the next generation of girls!

Each day, campers met informally in small groups to reflect on the day and discuss important issues. A highlight for campers was to listen to our high school counselors share stories about the expectations and realities of high school. The informal setting for these dialogues allowed campers to ask some tough questions of our counselors and to connect to older peers that inspire them to dream and reach for their goals.

Our workshops during camp are straightforward and honest about challenges girls face. Through hands on activities the girls learn life skills that can help them progress safely and confidently through high school and into adulthood.  

Of course, camp is not all lectures and lessons! Story telling, the talent show, “quiz night” and movie night provide a chance for the girls to relax and have fun. This year a group of volunteer coaches from Tag Rugby Trust coached the girls during our athletic time. The girls loved learning this new sport!

At the end of the week, we held our annual graduation ceremony for girls that have attended both our April and December camps. This milestone event is always a highlight of the year at KCE, bringing together community stakeholders such as parents, teachers, elders, and local officials to celebrate the achievement of our girls.

The music, award ceremony, prayer service and luncheon attracted both local and national media coverage!

Our camps fill a critical need in Kenya. December can be a dangerous time for young girls in Kenya, as it is the time of year when female genital mutilation ceremonies occur throughout the region. Our graduation ceremony provides the community with an alternative rite of passage that celebrates the dreams and success of these young women while sending a message that FGM will no longer be tolerated and revered as the only option for girls. This year the girls chose a “theme” for the graduation ceremony “I know my rights, a girl is an equal child”.

We first started the Health and Leadership Training program in 2011 to address the needs of thousands of girls in our district who need this vital training to learn about their rights and inspire their hope for the future. Our Health & Leadership Camps now reach 3,000 adolescents each year through our weekend trainings and week-long camps.   The growth of this program is a true testament to the need for accurate and reliable information on sexual health and legal rights for our youth. It is also a testament to the constant support we receive from supporters like you. Thank you!

Jan 21, 2016

KCE Welcomes Faith and New 4th graders to school!

Happy New Year!

Last week our campus was abuzz with excitement as our school and our students welcomed 40 “little sisters” to the fourth grade class at the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE)  in Enoosaen, Kenya. Amongst the new students was a 10 year-old girl named Faith whose story remains in my heart. 

I met Faith during our enrollment day in December. Our campus was filled with scores of fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles and grandmothers hoping to enroll their children at KCE for the 2016 school year.  Girls and their families - more than 230 girls came to apply that day - were busy with the exams, paperwork and interviews necessary for acceptance to our program.

Faith, however, was all alone.  No mother, father, aunt, uncle or grandmother had accompanied her that day.

Although Faith had successfully navigated much of the day, she began to cry as her interview approached when each girl and her family would talk about why she should enroll as an incoming 4th grader.  As I listened to Faith, I was inspired by her grit and determination to seek an education for herself.  

Faith’s parents had denied her permission to interview at KCE. Her father was very sick in the hospital, and her mother was working at a neighboring farm to provide food for the family.  Determined to interview at KCE and get into school, Faith took an egg from her mother and sold it to purchase the pencil needed to take the KCE entrance exam.

Faith said: “I want to join this school, Kakenya. Please.”  I comforted Faith, and assured her that she would attend KCE in January. Faith is exactly the reason I started this school – to help the girls in the most desperate situations go to school and dream bigger.

The next day, as I was walking to school, Faith came running towards me with a big smile on her face. She hugged me and stayed there a while – she did not want to let go!  Faith had brought her mother to meet me.  As we walked, her mother spoke.  “Kakenya”, she said, “I do not have anything to send this girl to your school. I know Faith will need a mattress, a blanket, a uniform, food, books and much more.  I cannot provide that.” I assured her that KCE would provide everything Faith needs to be successful.  “All I need is for you to bring Faith to school on opening day,” I replied.

Last week, Faith and her mother arrived at school empty handed, but with hearts filled with promise and hope. Everything Faith needed was waiting here for her.  

While Faith’s personal journey to join KCE is unique, her dream for an education is not.  I continue to meet girls who are determined to seek an education at all costs.  I am grateful that we are here to support, challenge and provide for these girls as they dream big!

Your financial support makes our school and our comprehensive approach possible. Thank you to all of you who have invested in Faith’s dream and the hopes of all our girls.

Gratefully,

 

Kakenya

Nov 24, 2015

Health & Leadership at Olereko Primary School

On October 23-24, we held our last health and leadership training of the year for 275 boys and girls. Our Health and Leadership training for 4th-7th grade students was hosted by the Olereko Primary School and attended by students from Mapashi Primary school, Enolkipelia Primary School and Erishata Learning Centre. Our training teams included the I am Worth Defending Team from Nairobi and the Centre for Adolescent Studies and Wezesha Foundation from Kilgoris. 

Our weekend training included two days of hands-on learning. We were thrilled that both male and female teachers were not only present for the trainings, but fully engaged throughout the weekend as well.  In the weeks following the training, the support and knowledge from the participating teachers will strengthen and reinforce our message for youth.

 As we do in every session, we asked the teens directly about the issues they felt were most pressing in their lives and what topics they would like covered during our weekend training. Overwhelmingly, the girls asked us to focus on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), HIV/AIDS, self-esteem, leadership and peer pressure.  The boys requested information on leadership, sexuality and peer pressure. Additional topics include team building, self defense and children’s rights.

 Our trainers facilitated an open and frank dialogue where teens felt respected and understood, which remains a strong tenet of our program. I’m pleased to share a few quotes from our girls:

  • “Our teachers were Ann and Caro. I particularly enjoyed that I learned how to prevent contracting HIV/AIDS, and how to take care of myself as a girl.”  – Mapashi
  • “I feel we should have such a seminar every month!” – Olereko 
  • "Our teachers taught us to be obedient to our parents and teachers and remain focused to attain our goals." – Enolkipelia

We are now diligently working on more thorough evaluation measurements to ensure effective programming that resonates powerfully with teens in 2016.

 

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