Shonali and Aliza with founder Claire Mathijsen.
Shonali Banerjee and Aliza Appelbaum are In-The-Field Representatives for GlobalGiving. They are visiting projects in Morocco, Spain and France. Here is their most recent "postcard" from France:
On Tuesday August 14, 2012, Aliza and I had the great pleasure of meeting with Claire Mathijsen, founder of Rafiki Ya Maisha. After living in Kenya with her family during the 1980s, Claire understood the need for more schools in rural Kenya. Though she and her family are now based in Paris, Claire created Rafiki Ya Maisha ("Friends for life" in Swahili), to help fund the creation of schools and educational workshops where rural Kenyan children can learn practical life skills in adition to pursuing their education.
We sat down with Claire to discuss her successes, but also the challenges of maintaining a project like this from abroad. Claire and her family have invested a great deal in the organization, within the realm of Rafiki Ya Maisha and private donations, visits to the schools and local community in Kenya and recruiting volunteers for the project.
Claire was thrilled to announce that the organization had secured a 5-acre plot of land to build a new school, whereas previously they'd only had one acre. She also confided that she and on-site project manager Elizabeth are in contact with several influential leaders within the Kenyan educational system, all of whom are on board with the Rafiki Ya Maisha projects.
From what Aliza and I heard from Claire, we are confident that she and Rafiki Ya Maisha have all of the right wheels in motion. We could see her obvious frustrations with the slow rate of progress when dealing with Kenyan bureaucracy, but that she and Elizabeth remain confident and upbeat while progressing forward with the school. Although we (sadly!) coulnd't be in Kenya to visit the project itself, Claire paints a wonderful picture of the rural Kenyan site, the students benefitting from the school and how a community that previously had little to no educational infrastructure now has created numerous schools and educated hundreds of students in just a few short years. We were very impressed with Rafiki Ya Maisha and look forward to hearing many more success stories from Claire in the near future.