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Jan 5, 2020

The 12 Days of Christmas

In honor of your support of the Children & Youth Empowerment Centre in Kenya, we’ve composed a special version of The 12 Days of Christmas.  We think even those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas will enjoy! 

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

In 2019, the CYEC opened a polytechnic to provide 21st century skills for youth from the Centre and similar programs. Current programs include catering, tailoring, computing, masonry and life-skills and leadership, with an agriculture program in development. 

"On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

Over the past three summers, Kansas State students in the Staley School of Leadership Studies program guided the prefects through workshops to enable them to be effective leaders. Prefects mentor younger children and play a key leadership role in the functioning of the Centre. KSU students also led the first set of classes in leadership at the new polytechnic.

“On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three acres of vegetables, two prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

Penn State ag students worked with youth in 2016 and 2018 to improve soil health in the shamba (garden) through mulching, composting and crop rotation.  Youth help grow veggies for the Centre year-round, earning income for themselves and providing healthy food for the children.

“On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four outreach programs, three acres of veggies, two prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

The CYEC is a resource for local low-income families, providing fun days focused on literacy for young children. By supporting local education, they can help more children succeed, beyond those in the Centre, and help ensure fewer children end up on the streets.

“On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five collaborators exploring food security, four outreach programs, three acres of veggies, two prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

In 2019, students from Penn State and Kansas State collaborated with local community health workers to carry out an assessment of food security in Nyeri county. The study sought to identify the prevalence and depth of food insecurity and to identify factors that lead to food insecurity, potentially contributing to the population of vulnerable children. Future outreach will target those at risk.

"On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six students a-studying, five collaborators exploring food security, four outreach programs, three acres of veggies, two prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

Public education in Kenya is free through 8th grade, but secondary schools charge tuition. Local and international ZFI sponsors provide scholarships for CYEC youth as they further their education. Our kids regularly rank at the top of their class!

“On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven children breakfasting, six students a-studying, five collaborators exploring food security, four outreach programs, three acres of veggies, two prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

ZFI donors ensure CYEC children have a healthy breakfast before school at least 3 days a week.  We also provide medical and educational supplies and clothing.

“On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 8 youth a-milking, 7 children breakfasting, 6 students a-studying, 5 collaborators exploring food security, 4 outreach programs, 3 acres of veggies, 2 prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

Over several years, Penn State students worked on improving the diet of the cows, planting napier grass, making silage and developing a strategy to ensure forage availability even in years of drought. The Centre’s two dairy cows provide milk for the children with surplus to sell to neighbors, supporting both nutrition and income!

“On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me 9 innovations in waste-management, 8 youth a-milking, 7 children breakfasting, 6 students a-studying, 5 collaborators exploring food security, 4 outreach programs, 3 acres of veggies, 2 prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

Youth at the CYEC are community leaders in waste management. They asked Penn State students to work with them to develop and build a prototype landfill, ensuring consideration of air and water quality in both the design and management of the site. Their experience helped them put in a bid for a larger project.

“On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me 10 volunteers mentoring, 9 innovations in waste-management, 8 youth a-milking, 7 children breakfasting, 6 students a-studying, 5 collaborators exploring food security, 4 outreach programs, 3 acres of veggies, 2 prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

Friends of the CYEC in Kenya have formed the Zawadi Society, a group of local volunteers who mentor and tutor children at the Centre. It’s so important for the kids to have a special someone who cares about them!

“On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me 11 children playing, 10 volunteers mentoring, 9 innovations in waste-management, 8 youth a-milking, 7 children breakfasting, 6 students a-studying, 5 collaborators exploring food security, 4 outreach programs, 3 acres of veggies, 2 prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

After school activities include sports, reading, arts, music, and an environmental club to help CYEC children and youth develop their self-awareness and have fun!

“On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me 12 youth succeeding, 11 children playing, 10 volunteers mentoring, 9 innovations in waste-management, 8 youth a-milking, 7 children breakfasting, 6 students a-studying, 5 collaborators exploring food security, 4 outreach programs, 3 acres of veggies, 2 prefects leading and a new polytechnic to equip and empower.”

The CYEC strives to develop the potential of these children & youth so they can lead happy, productive lives. Your support helps us meet this goal! Thanks for your support in 2019. Help us start the New Year right with support today!

Dec 16, 2019

The New Polytechnic is Open!

Bernard Odour, at the poly opening
Bernard Odour, at the poly opening

Background

The Children and Youth Empowerment Centre opened the Rathithi Polytechnic as a specialized facility to serve the young people based at the CYEC and related programs, who have graduated from high school.

The exceptionally high rates of unemployment (and underemployment) for young people in Kenya, which is even higher for the demographic that CYEC serves, means that there is need for special effort to ensure our young people are prepared for their futures. A well-thought-out skills development program, which the polytechnic is putting in place, is a key component of such a program.

The polytechnic formally launched in November 2019 and currently serves a total of 52 learners, both full-time and part-time. Current formal programs include catering, tailoring, computing, masonry and life-skills and leadership. The agriculture program is yet to gain formal status.

Empowerment theme

In keeping with CYEC’s goal of empowering young people to seize control of their personal and collective destinies, the polytechnic program has three main objectives: 

  • To equip learners with relevant and sound know-how;
  • To provide ready access to learning and production facilities;
  • To foster life skills development among learners.

The three objectives tally with the three requirements of general empowerment: increased practical know-how; accumulated material resources and enhanced self-understanding.

Know-how 

Provision of practical knowledge is a central component any significant empowerment effort. For ordinary skills training institutions, such know-how is focused on helping individuals to find employment in the open market. For the CYEC’s polytechnic program however, there is a keen appreciation of the need to use its skills development program for the empowerment of the broader community. This is because an empowered community is a key component of any long-term solution to the challenges that have made the CYEC program necessary.

Even while preparing its learners for marketable competencies therefore, the polytechnic is focused on developing training programs that are likely to have a major positive impact on community empowerment. These programs include conservation agriculture, waste management, renewable energy solutions and non-timber-based building technologies.

Learning and production facilities

The socio-economic backgrounds of the learners at the polytechnic are such that program sustainability is an issue of critical importance. It is necessary, for instance, that learners are able to have meals as part of what is offered at the polytechnic. For purposes of efficiency, this means that learning facilities are best utilized for production as well. For example, those in the agriculture program are expected to produce food for the polytechnic’s kitchen while those learning catering are expected to cook for all. The same is true for the other programs. The polytechnic’s facilities, with time, are expected to start generating income.  

Life skills development

For the polytechnic to serve as an effective means of community empowerment, it will be necessary for it to have an active outreach service, which is best done by students. To be able to do this the students need to be self-aware and have leadership competencies. This is why life-skills and leadership training are an integral part of the polytechnic’s training program. The aim of this initiative is to enable learners to see themselves not as victims of circumstances beyond their control but as agents of positive change for their communities. The learners are equipped with the skills to design and implement programs for positive change in their communities. 

Support requirements

The polytechnic requires plenty of support in order to build its programs to a level that can realize meaningful sustainability, including from paying students. Such support includes the development of general infrastructure such as classrooms, workshops and dormitories as well as program support such as staff salaries and utility bills. Of special significance for the development and sustainability effort however is the agriculture program.

Program leadership

Of special note for the polytechnic initiative is the fact that its leadership is based on beneficiaries of the CYEC program. The institution’s manager belongs to the first cohort of children to be rescued from the streets of Nairobi at the inception of the national program. He is now a university graduate and is working with several other former street dwelling children who are now instructors at the institution, with more set to join in when and as they graduate from their respective colleges and universities.

Art display at the poly opening
Art display at the poly opening
Community members enjoying the poly opening
Community members enjoying the poly opening
Sep 23, 2019

Wildcats in Nyeri

Leadership Workshop at the Polytechnic
Leadership Workshop at the Polytechnic

Students from K-State’s Staley School of Leadership Studies again spent two months at the Centre this past summer. They undertook a variety of projects to support Centre programs. The K-State team facilitated a six-week leadership development course for students at the new Rathithi Polytechnic. Course topics included communication, self-awareness, conflict/resolution and a project that required students to identify and create an action plan to make progress on a local community need.

Each student also took the lead on different projects. Kat continued Penn State's food insecurity surveys by analyzing the data collected on food security and dietary diversity in households in three communities where the Centre is engaged.  As expected, the surveys show that one of the main reasons children go to the streets in these areas is because they lack food in their homes. The CYEC intends to use this study to develop community interventions and to communicate needs to the local government.

Tori, with the help of Marisa and Gladwell, focused on creating a marketing and communications plan for the CYEC/ZFI in order to ultimately generate more awareness and resources for the Centre. This new communications plan includes branding guidelines, social media campaigns, a promotional brochure, website updates, student testimonies and more! 

The Centre has cultivated strong relationships with local civic, educational and religious groups over the years. Many of these groups, as well as individuals, have provided in-kind support for the Centre's programs. To facilitate this, Alex is creating a website that shows what the Centre's current needs are to enable donors to prioritize giving. This site will also accept mpesa, a widely used mobile money system in Kenya. 

Brad developed, distributed and analyzed a CYEC student survey in order to better understand their experience at the Centre. The survey focused on the students' educational and professional aspirations, their perceptions of the Centre and ideas for how the Centre could improve. Results of this survey were shared with CYEC staff.

The students had an amazing experience at the Centre and thanks the staff, volunteers and young people for making them welcome and helping them learn!

KSU Team 2019
KSU Team 2019
 
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