Jun 23, 2021

The Value of Investing in Young People

SK Arts Shop started by Uweza Art Gallery artists
SK Arts Shop started by Uweza Art Gallery artists

In 2017, Uweza Art Gallery artists Syimon and Kevin started a t-shirt printing company. Combining savings from the sales of their paintings at the gallery and jobs they held, they purchased their first printing machine and started to spread the word among friends. They ran their new business out of their house in the 42 area of Kibera. Soon after, they  expanded their product line to include hand painted t-shirts, shoes, and bottles.

In September 2020, they wanted to further expand and opened their first physical shop in the Olympic area of Kibera. This was a bold move during a global pandemic where businesses across Kenya are struggling with losses and closures. But they knew they needed a space to be able to meet and interact with their customers more easily and to market their work to a wider audience.

Fortunately, their risk has paid off. Today, their business, SK Arts, is thriving and they have been able to offer employment to two more Uweza artists. Their journey serves as a reminder of the long-term value of investing in the creativity and talents of youth and is an inspiration to other young entrepreneurs in Kibera and beyond.

Here are some other recent achievements, made possible by your support: 

  • Our first class of Female Fundis completed their course work and final exams last month. Those who pass their exams will then move on to attachments with professionals in their field to gain practical experience. This initiative provides training opportunites for young women in non-traditionally female trades such as plumbing and electrical repair. 

  • Five Uweza sponsored students completed their KCSE exams and completed high school this year. Despite interruptions to their education caused by the pandemic, they all performed well on their exams. Their scores rank among the top 20% of all exam takers in Kenya. 4 out of the 5 students scored well enough to earn directly entry into a public university.

  • In recent months, crime levels in Kibera have been increasing and male youth are losing their lives as a result. Many attribute this to loss of livelihoods and idleness as a result of the pandemic. Uweza Art Gallery and Uweza Soccer Academy have remained open and provide youth with a safe space to spend their time, positive role models and peer relationships, mentorship, and opportunities to earn income to support themselves and their families. These programs and support are more important now than ever. You can view and purchase artwork from our artists here: https://uwezakenya.org/product-category/artwork-kenya.

  • Mental health and stress among our program participants is an increasing concern and we have been working to find different outlets and techniques to allow our members to deal with stress in a healthy way. Bright Futures have, in recent months, engaged in team building activities, yoga, and art therapy. Our staff have attended training on mental health and trauma and we connect members to professional counselors when needed.

Thank you so much for your generosity and for investing in the youth of Kibera. Our work wouldn't be possible without your support. 

Female Fundis: Plumbing students in class
Female Fundis: Plumbing students in class
This year's high school graduates
This year's high school graduates
Uweza Soccer Academy participating in a match
Uweza Soccer Academy participating in a match
Releasing stress through yoga
Releasing stress through yoga

Links:

Dec 25, 2020

Uweza's 2020 in Review

Barack on graduation day
Barack on graduation day

As is probably the case for many of you, this year has been one of dichotomies, highs and lows, challenges and achievements, struglges and successes. The pandemic has greatly affected and interrupted the lives of our program participants: putting their pursuits and dreams on hold, collapsing the small businesses they have spent years building, causing the jobs that they were relying on to disapper. 

We are grateful, because of your support, to act as a safety net for so many of our program participants. We have provided more than 1,150 food packs or vouchers to ward off hunger, created more than 100 temporary jobs to boost income, and coordinated largescale production and distribution of more than 84,000 reusable masks as well as handwashing stations and soap to protect residents of Kibera and Nairobi.

We are celebrating some big achievements this year:

1. Barack, who first joined our Sponsorship Program in his second year of high school, became the first student in the thirteen history of our program to matriculate from high school to university and graduate from university! He graduated last week with a Bachelors in Journalism. 

2. Despite Uweza Art Gallery having to close for almost six months this year, our art sales are almost enough to cover all of the costs of running the gallery, including rent, this year so that we can continue providing opportunities for artists in 2021 and beyond. 

3.  Janet and Caroline, who completed high school through our Sponsorship Program last year, were successful in their applications to university and enrolled this October.

4. Our first group of loan recipients from the Bright Futures program all officially completed repaying their loans this year! This will make them eligible for larger loans and continued training and mentorship next year. 

5. Students of our tailoring course were unable to graduate this year as planned. However, they were able to put their tailoring skills to use to help crate more than 11,000 reusable cloth masks that were distributed for free in Kibera. They were featured in Vogue magazine for their efforts.

Thank you so much for empowering youth in Kibera by investing in their own inherent skills, capabilities, and talents. Our work wouldn't be possible without you. We know it has been a challenging year for everyone and this makes your contribution even more impactful.

Happy Holidays and stay safe. 

Bright Futures members photographed in Vogue
Bright Futures members photographed in Vogue
Janet and Caroline
Janet and Caroline
Uweza artist Kelvin working on a new piece
Uweza artist Kelvin working on a new piece

Links:

Jun 29, 2020

COVID-19 In Kibera and Our Response

On March 13, shortly after we wrote our last report, the Kenyan government announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country. The next day, we closed our office, art gallery, and all of our normal programs and decided to wait and see how things would go as we decided upon our next steps. Within a few weeks, we had developed and were implementing our COVID-19 response and we have continued many of these same activites to date. Through our response, we have found ways to engage the youth that we work with while also trying to keep them and their families safe and mitigate the spread of the virus. 

Kibera has been one of the hardest hit communities both by the spread of the virus and by economic hardship resulting from a nationwide curfew, closed borders, and a massive loss of jobs and income sources. We have noted an increase in reports of crime, domestic violence, gender-based violence, and early marriage. In check-in calls with Uweza families, we have learned that a large majority have lost their casual jobs or have seen their businesses collapse. Most are getting by on one or two meals a day and are now months behind on their rent, making the fear of eviction one of their biggest concerns.

Here are the some of the activities that we have undertaken and program participants that we have engaged in these activities:

1. Informative Murals

Uweza artists have worked together to create murals in 15 different areas of Kibera with information about coronavirus, how to protect yourself, and how to seek help if you suspect you are infected. 

2. Producing and Distributing Masks

About a week after the first confirmed case and long before any major health agency was recommending it, some of the participants of our sewing course and members of the Bright Futures program worked together with our sewing teacher and fashion designer LooksLike Avido to sew and distribute reusable masks. To date, we have sewn and distributed 11,800 free masks. We are now receiving donations of resuable masks from the Safe Hands Kenya coalition and have distributed an additional 7,500 free masks to Kibera residents this week, bringing our total to 19,300 masks.

3. Food Pack and Food Voucher Distribution / Cash Transfers

Because so many Kibera residents have lost their sources of income, meeting their basic needs has been a problem for the last several months. Through local partnerships and donations from our supporters, we have been able to distribute 910 food packs and/or weekly food vouchers to families so that they can be able to stay safely at home and avoid having to put themselves at risk. Members of our men's and women's soccer teams have pitched in to help put together the food packs. We have also been able to provide 450 mobile cash transfers to youth and women participating in our programs so that they can meet other urgent needs, including rent. 

We know that we have a long way to go until we are able to reach the other side of this crisis and reopen our regular programming.  We will continue to do everything we can to keep the families in our program safe, ensure they are able to meet their basic needs, and provide continued opportunities to earn income and stay engaged for the youth in our programs.

We appreciate all the support that we have received toward these efforts and we hope that this report finds you safe and healthy.

Links:

 
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