My name is Lisa Helm. This past summer, upon graduating with my Master's in Social Work from Loyola University, I had the amazing opportunity to join St. Vincent's in Kibera, Kenya as their Social Work Fellow. During my fellowship, I worked closely with St. Vincent's staff, including the Rescue Center House Mother, Grace, to plan and roll out a Life Skills Training Program for the children. The program incorporated reproductive health education sessions, together with financial literacy instruction. The program was a great success and I am so pleased to be able to share with you a bit about my work this summer.
Reproductive Health Education
The nine-day reproductive health education course, entitled ‘Taking Care of Your Heart,’ was conducted for Rescue Center girls and focused on the two roles of the heart: the physical and emotional. Girls learned about basic aspects of human biology, pregnancy, and puberty, and engaged in discussions around good communication skills, relationship strategies, dating, and ways to say ‘no.’ This education program provided critical information to our adolescent girls, particularly in the context of Kibera, where domestic and gender based violence rates in the community are extremely high. Meanwhile, the Rescue Center boys received a compressed, two-day course.
A weekly Financial Literacy program was introduced to all Rescue Center children over the course of three months. Sessions began with an introduction to basic financial concepts, including saving, budgets, and responsible spending. Throughout the program, children were engaged in hands-on activities through which they had the opportunity to practice their budgeting and savings skills, including through field trips to local sites and markets. The course was geared to provide the Rescue Center youth with skills that they will need to be successful in their adult lives.
St. Vincent's Rescue Center provides a safe and loving home to 18 children in Kibera, Kenya. The organization is at a critical juncture --- as many of its children are reaching adolescence, St. Vincent's has the challenging task of providing them with the information, skills and resources to help them lead healthy and productive lives and to help them develop into successful and motivated adults. This is a challenge for all families in Kibera -- as there are many hurdles that stand in the way to children's successful transition to adulthood --- and it is also a challenge in a group home setting like that of the Rescue Center. It is for these reasons, that I am particularly pleased with the support and active participation of the St. Vincent's staff in launching the Life Skills Training Program, both of which were key factors in the program's success. I am thrilled to have been a part of this initiative and so thankful for my time with the amazing children at the Rescue Center!
The children residing at the Rescue Center have all experienced some form of trauma; whether it is abuse at the hands of a family member, the death of a caregiver, abandonment, the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS, or a combination of these. Each child arrives at the Rescue Center in need of not only shelter and food, but support for their emotional development. It is in this light that St. Vincent’s looks to introduce an innovative program component by integrating age-appropriate psychosocial services into the existing programs. Integrating psychosocial support services will address children’s emotional, social, mental and spiritual needs, thereby increasing resiliency and coping mechanisms and contributing to decreased incidents of depression, grief, fear, and anxiety among this highly vulnerable population.
While psychosocial support is a vital element for children who have experienced trauma and grief, it is an often overlooked component of NGO programs. Therefore, St. Vincent’s is at the forefront of providing comprehensive care to orphan and vulnerable children through the introduction of psychosocial components. St. Vincent’s is supporting the growth of the whole child, and not just addressing their material needs.
St. Vincent’s has taken the first step by establishing a fellowship program with The Forgotten International. In this first year of implementation, the Social Work fellow is working at St. Vincent’s for three months to establish the foundation and framework for future psychosocial support services. The young lady is currently working with the children at the Rescue Center to introduce basic life skills, long term goals and planning, and teaching how to establish meaningful relationships with peers and adults. The fellow has also worked closely with staff to identify ways in which psychosocial support can be easily integrated into existing programs. In the near future, St. Vincent’s aims to hire a part-time counselor to provide in- depth, culturally appropriate psychosocial support through group and individual counseling. It is an exciting time as St. Vincent’s continues its’ holistic approach of caring for children and their families.
St. Vincent’s is pleased to share with you this report on its work in 2011. Thanks to your support, the organization has been able to accomplish the following in the past year:
Summary of 2011 Achievements:
Established in 2000, St. Vincent’s Nursery School provides a safe place for children to go during the day where they receive education from a trained and dedicated teaching staff and two daily meals. This service enables parents/caretakers to seek work, while children are accompanied in a safe environment. St. Vincent's subsidizes school fees depending on families' ability to pay which allows the most needy and vulnerable children to benefit from our program.
In January 2011, St. Vincent’s enrolled 25 new children into our Nursery School’s Baby Class, bringing the total number of children at the school to 78. Early childhood development programs, such as St. Vincent’s, are among the most critical interventions for protecting vulnerable children: they increase the capacity of families to care for children and are a proven cost-effective measure for investing in children’s long term development. Despite these positive attributes, today fewer than 1% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to early stimulation or pre-school programs.
St. Vincent’s Nursery School children come exclusively from vulnerable families and the majority of newly admitted children are malnourished and present with stunted growth and thus, are particularly susceptible to disease and infection. By the end of the year, through the nutrition services provided by St. Vincent’s, most of these children have grown and developed and are now in fine health. In addition, the care and attention provided by Nursery School staff is essential for personal growth and development, which enables children to develop healthy self-esteem and ultimately to facilitate healthy interactions with peers from different backgrounds.
In 2011, St. Vincent's supported a total of 17 children through its Rescue Center. Eleven children lived full time at the center where they receive shelter, care & support, and attend local schools in/around Kibera. Children at the Rescue Center are also provided opportunities to interact and associate with their relatives in preparation to fully integrate back to their community in the future. In addition to the children living full time at the Rescue Center, another six children were supported remotely, whereby St. Vincent's covers children's boarding school and transport fees and provides shelter/care & support for children during school breaks.
Community Outreach Services:
St. Vincent’s takes a whole family approach to its service provision; utilizing our nursery school as an entry point into households and then working with families to identify and address the basic needs of the entire household. This includes helping caregivers to start businesses, assisting families with children’s school fees once they leave the nursery school, providing food to HIV-affected families, helping families to secure shelter and covering medical fees of children and families. St. Vincent’s weekly meetings, which are open to the community, provide a forum for identifying families with additional support needs. St. Vincent’s draws upon its existing networks with other service providers and allocates additional resources to ensure those families are connected to additional services. Through this approach, St. Vincent's program creates a safety net for families in the community so that they are able to continue caring for the children.
Health & Nutrition Services: In 2011, St. Vincent’s supported at least 23 children and 5 parents/guardians to receive medical treatment and an additional 9 food insecure families with nutrition support through food rations. For children and parents in need of medical care, St. Vincent’s accompanied them to the clinic or hospital if needed, purchased medication directly, discussed medical regimes with clinics or pharmacies, and helped track adherence to medication regimes. Parents/guardians who were sick and bedridden received both medical and nutrition support, thus expediting their recovery period and enabling them to support their families independently, as before.
Education Support: St. Vincent’s maintains relationships/contact with the children and families it serves even after children leave the nursery school, following children to primary school and beyond to ensure that they continue to grow and flourish once they have left our care. In some cases, St. Vincent’s provides support for children to be able to attend primary and secondary schools, when families are unable to cover these costs. In 2011, St. Vincent’s covered the school fees and related costs for 10 nursery school alumni to attend primary and secondary school.
Give the Gift of Giving This Holiday Season and Help St. Vincent Raise $$
Need a creative gift for someone who has everything? Global Giving is making contributions to a select number of its projects for the sale of Global Giving gift cards -- a unique holiday gift! Every time 500 gift cards are purchased from the Global Giving website, Global Giving will give $500 to one of its projects -- and as a SUPERSTAR partner organization, St. Vincent's made the cut! If 7,500 cards are sold by December 31st, we will receive a $500 grant. You can track how close we are here: http://www.globalgiving.org/gifts/ . As of November 28th, over 1,300 cards have been sold!
A Thank You to Our 'One Night' Supporters
On October 20th, St. Vincent's held its first Boston fundraising event, One Night for Their Future, at Middlesex Lounge.With over 30 supporting business and approximately 75 guests, we successfully raised over $11,000 for our operations! The event included a silent auction, raffle and live Skype chat with Director, Lucy Kayiwa. These funds will keep our doors open to the children and families we serve for several months! Many thanks for all those that helped to organize the event and of course, all those that contributed!
You can help St. Vincent's win $1,000 just by casting your vote for our photo in the Global Giving 2011 Photo Contest!
It's easy -- all you have to do is "like" our photo on Facebook and the photo with the most votes wins the $1,000!
The contest is open until August 17th.
Voting requires two easy steps:
1) Visit the Global Giving Facebook page and click on the "like" box at http://www.facebook.com/GlobalGiving
2) Then, you must click "like" on our actual photo which is located here: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150282595663749&set=a.10150282595033749.352304.5878048748&type=1&theater
Thank you for helping us win the competition! $1,000 goes a long way for our nursery school and rescue center in Kibera. For $1,000, we can cover the costs of two daily meals (at our nursery school) for 83 children.
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