Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera

by St. Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Safety, Shelter & Food 4 Vulnerable Kids in Kibera
Dorcas in 2020
Dorcas in 2020

“A journey that started in my early years had come to another level. I had finally completed my high school studies and taken final exams. Waiting for the results is not the best part of any Form Four leaver because you end up with butterflies in your tummy,” says Dorcas.

Along with her two sisters, Dorcas came to St. Vincent’s Rescue Center when she was 5 years old after having lost her mother. Even as a child, Dorcas loved school and demonstrated an impressive work ethic. Today, Dorcas’ hard work in school has paid off. She scored the amount of points needed to attain entry into one of Kenya’s higher learning institutions, which for most is just a pipe dream. Earlier this year, Dorcas was admitted into The Catholic University of Eastern Africa where she chose to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Chemistry.

Dorcas describes her first day at university as ‘amazing’ in many ways. She was anxious but excited as she embarked on her journey to her new campus, wondering what campus life would be like and bubbling with ideas about her career path. 

“Growing up, we have heard so many stories about campus life. Now this is me in the same spot,” says Dorcas.

Now in her second semester, Dorcas talks about her new experience with pride and appreciation. It is clear her thirst for education is strong. Dorcas says, “I like that our lecturers are able to share their personal numbers with us students and we keep comparing notes on matters pertaining to education."

Dorcas is enjoying her coursework and interacting with professors. She has joined the school’s table tennis club and the Young Christian Society where she has been able to make friends and participate in community service. Dorcas says:

"Campus life is teaching me to be more independent and explore as much as possible. I can comfortably stand firm and confess that this is a dream come true!” 

Dorcas in 2012
Dorcas in 2012
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St. Vincent’s is proud to share the accomplishment of three youth from our rescue centre who graduated from high school last year, and this year, have been enrolled in university. Now accomplished young women, Dorcas, Teresiah and Mercy came to the rescue centre along with their siblings at the young ages 3, 4 and 6, respectively, after the loss of their parents. Two of the young women continue living in the rescue centre today, while one was able to be reunified with family, but has continued to receive educational support from St. Vincent’s.

Throughout their childhood and youth, St. Vincent’s provided shelter, food, health care, and education to these young women. Through life skills training, mentoring and psychosocial support, the young women learned about their sexual reproductive health and rights and were empowered to make decisions to keep themselves healthy. 

We are so proud of each of these young women who have overcome tremendous hurdles and trauma in their lives to make it to where they are today. Dorcas is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Education at The Catholic University of Eastern and Central Africa, while Teresia and Mercy are both studying Hotel and Hospitality Management at Utalii University College. We continue to provide support and guidance to them and are excited to watch them navigate their new adventure.

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Our children learn about love and family
Our children learn about love and family

In Kibera - the largest slum in Nairobi - poverty has a harsh character and ugly face. Fair or not, it is children coming from unstable families who have to look at this poverty straight in the eye every morning. These children come to us in dire need of shelter, food, clothing and protection.

St. Vincent's Rescue Center cares for orphaned and vulnerable children. We often come into first contact with them through Kenya's Department of Children’s Services, learning of their histories of neglect and physical and sexual abuse. Most of the abuses are perpetrated by close relatives, making it difficult for the child to stay in living in their family.

In the case of orphaned children, most relatives do not want to assume parental responsibilities. Children start moving from one relative to another leaving them with no place to call home. They feel unappreciated and unwanted. Often, they are forced to drop out of school so they can be used as house helpers attending to all sorts of house chores, including caring for the other children in the house. We have children in our care who have been denied food, locked in the house by parents/relatives, or left alone at home to fend for themselves at very young ages. In cases where the parents have died, children may be denied their inheritance as relatives make arrangements to take ownership of the assets. 

The above are some of the many issues that the children of St. Vincent's Rescue Center have faced before coming into our care. We work to give our children the attention, love and care they never would have received. Whether their stay is short or longer term, we try to provide a friendly family environment where each of these children feel at home and grow in love. Together with our friends and well wishers, we are able to provide them with nutritious food, shelter and most importantly protection -- a place they can call home and feel safe and a family they can identify themselves with.

We also try to reintegrate them with their families when possible by working with other known relatives to arrange visits and establish bonds with the children. However, this is an extremely challenging task. Children are eager for a warm reception, but instead might be shown cold shoulders.  During their visits, sadly some are expected to come with their own food to eat during their stay. Some are told they should go back. We work with relatives to address these issues, but the ideal situation of reintegration is a process and cannot always be acheived. 

In Kenya we are taught that that it takes the courage and patience of a whole village to raise a child. At St. Vincent's, we feel privileged that we are enabled by our partners to always offer a shoulder for these needy children to lean on. We thank you for your support.

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Maureen meets Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Maureen meets Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Maureen is a poised and passionate young woman that has overcome significant hurdles in her life. She comes from one of the most renowned slums in the world where residents lack basic necessities and rates of violence are soaring; she lost her single mother at age 6; and she has spent her adolescence growing up at St. Vincent's Rescue Centre. Despite all of this – or perhaps as a result of it – she has found a way to persevere both academically and personally. With support from St. Vincent's, Maureen was admitted three years ago to the United States International University in Nairobi, a terrific accomplishment and life changing event considering that a mere 3% of all girls in Kenya make it to tertiary education. 

Maureen has made the most of her education and last year, Maureen's life changed again when she applied and was awarded a full tuition scholarship to study abroad on Semester at Sea. Maureen spent three months aboard a ship with 600+ other students from around the world traveling to 8 countries in Asia and Africa. A true experience of a lifetime. A first for a Kibera resident.  Read Maureen's thank you to her supporters below.

It is practically unheard of for children's service organizations in Kenya to provide support for university/college education. St. Vincent's is different. For both our rescue center and scholarship youth, we work hard to help them gain access to university or vocational training opportunities. It is a significant investment (that impacts our budget) but that also has very big payoffs. Maureen is one example of that payoff. Maureen has utilized St. Vincent's support as a launchpad and we are so excited to see all the places she'll go!

Thank you for supporting us to support young people in Kibera to pave their way out of poverty. 

Hear Maureen's journey to get on Semester at Sea in this feature story.

 

----- A MESSAGE FROM MAUREEN ------

 

I would like to thank all those who supported me in making this dream to go on Semester at Sea a reality. I was able to successfully complete my Spring 2017 Voyage and have just arrived back to Kibera. I would like to thank all those who supported me in any way whether through contributions, sharing and prayers. 

My experience on Semester at Sea was even more special than I could have imagined. I had the chance to see some beautiful and amazing places. But perhaps the most meaningful part is that I have learned to live with different people and realize the best in them. Now I want to make a difference in this world no matter how small it may seem. I will make sure I am always a stepping-stone to all those in pursuit of there dreams no matter where they come from. 

During the voyage, I learned a big lesson from a young boy named Alpha in 2nd grade in Immanuel Orphanage in India. As we were in class the teacher asked if anyone had two pencils to help another boy who had none. Alpha immediately put up his hand and stopped using his small pencil, What he did next took me by surprise. Alpha broke his pencil in half, went to look for a sharpener for it and gave the other half to the boy who had nothing. 

Being on the ship alone was an experience on its own, the community and friendships I built are bound to last. The day I boarded the bus to Ensenada, my heart was filled with excitement and so many expectations for Semester at Sea. Everyone around me was visibly anxious to get on the ship. I had just taken a 20hr flight from Nairobi to San Francisco and another from San Francisco to San Diego. During this time I met so many marvelous people and spent time with them. The journey to Semester at Sea was already unleashing unimaginable and fantastic opportunities for me unknowingly! Since the day we boarded the ship my journey has been way above and beyond my expectations. The entire shipboard community "staculty" (staff + faculty), students and life long learners and dependents are all an important part of this voyage. Being on the ship alone is perhaps one of the most fascinating parts of this voyage. I have been able to meet lots of special people from diverse backgrounds. The staculty have been of great assistance. Semester at Sea has already begun posing great challenges for me in the future. Now I want to leave a positive impact on everything I come across. Discovering the reality of how we are all interconnected has been an eye-opener for me. My favorite aspect when on the ship is being able to speak to life long learners. Back in my home campus this group of people do not exist, making it only unique to Semester at Sea. On the ship I also have an extended family, which I really love. We consisted of people from three different continents with entirely diverse backgrounds but on the ship we were one family, both staculty, students and lifelong learners. 
Being on the ship has also helped me to entirely eliminate the single story, which is mainly the biased and one-sided understanding towards a certain type of people. One vice, which I believe that semester at sea tries to correct, is ethnocentrism. The feeling that one's own way of doing things is the only possibly correct way. Travelling has helped me understand otherwise. Not forgetting the classes on the ship which were also so amazing as every day I looked forward to learning something new and sharing my experiences! 

Thank you to all who gave me the chance to experience this and many more lifelong memories in my travels. Semester at Sea is truly a transformative experience. 

With love, 
Maureen

 

 

Maureen and friends at the ship fashion show!
Maureen and friends at the ship fashion show!
Maureen visits the Cape of Good Hope
Maureen visits the Cape of Good Hope
Neptune Day when the ship crosses the equator
Neptune Day when the ship crosses the equator
Ship life
Ship life
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Kenyans waiting to vote on election day
Kenyans waiting to vote on election day

Today is August 8th: election day in Kenya. Over the past few months, the country has been abuzz as Kenyans prepare to go to the polls to elect the next President, as well as Members of Parliament. Despite a mostly peaceful 2012 election, the month-long post-election ethnic violence that erupted in 2007 across Kenya, and particularly in Kibera and other slums around Nairobi, is never a far off thought as 1,100 were killed and 650,000 displaced across the country.   

With our nursery school and rescue center both situated in Kibera and with indications of another potentially violent post-election period (like the killing of a high ranking election official in July), St. Vincent’s has been working over the last months to prepare for the election and ensure that all of our children and families are safe during this time. With schools closed across the country, children from our Rescue Center have been temporarily placed with extended families or housed outside of Kibera by a church group that supports St. Vincent’s. They will return once it is deemed safe for them to do so. Meanwhile, our Nursery School closed operations at the end of July, giving time for families to leave Kibera (most returning “up country” to their family homes) in advance of the election. The school will re-open in September, according to the Ministry of Education calendar, and pending the security of Kibera following today’s election. 

In addition to making preparations for our children, St. Vincent’s took the opportunity to discuss the elections during a school “open day” (or parent’s day) last week with our community. Here, our Director, Lucy Kayiwa, engaged parents/caregivers in a discussion about the election to give them the opportunity to share their feelings and fears, as well as to reiterate the importance of avoiding violence and keeping their children protected during this potentially insecure time. 

We are hopeful for a peaceful election process here in Kibera and across the country.

The wait to vote
The wait to vote
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Organization Information

St. Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization

Location: P.O. BOX 56486-00200, Nairobi - Kenya
Website:
Project Leader:
Lucy Kayiwa
Director
L.R. No. P.O. BOX, Nairobi Kenya

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