On March 17, 2020, I cancelled my planned trip to Kenya that was leaving on March 20th, when the world shut down because of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Little did I know that nearly two years would pass before I could be back on the ground with the team. In the meantime we zoomed, emailed, and WhatsApped, but it wasn't the same as being with our talented team.
Last week I returned from two glorious weeks in Kenya. I wanted to take a moment to share some reflections.
Our team has grown with 12 staff members and 5 interns. James, Patrick, Cyrus, Esther, Monicah, Margaret, Primma, Rebecca, Faith, Brian, Brian, David, Jackie, Sharn, Rael, Vicki and Danson are energetic, passionate, and dedicated to improving education for children at our 62 partner schools. I saw staff members leading celebrations for World Read Aloud Day and championing reading at every level. I watched LitMoms learning to sew and creating crowns to celebrate World Read Aloud Day. I learned that several of our interns were children at our partner schools and had Kenya Connect PenPals which inspired them to pursue Community Development Work. Their enthusiasm, can-do attitude, and laughter inspired me in a profound way and I feel blessed I was able to be with them again.
I met with 60 Head Teachers and Principals from our Partner Schools. These dedicated men and women talked about the importance of our programs and how they are seeing a difference in student engagement and achievement as a result of our programs. They especially appreciated our School Library Day program and our work to build a culture of reading in the community. The Wings Poa Reusable Sanitary Pad program and Teacher Professional Development were also at the top of their list as priorities.
I saw teachers committed to learning new teaching strategies to make their classrooms more student-centered despite having few resources and crowded classrooms. They are grateful to be part of Professional Learning Communities that are also grappling with incorporating digital learning in their classrooms.
I witnessed the launch of our new Girl/Boy Empowerment Program which is part of our strategy to reduce teen pregnancy (see above MDM article). As we arrived at one of the partner pilot schools, I saw children eagerly waiting in their classroom for the Kenya Connect mentors to arrive. As I watched our talented mentors interact with the children, I was filled with joy seeing how the children responded to the activities.
One afternoon I walked into our Computer Lab and saw students learning SCRATCH, a basic coding program, and giggling as they programmed objects or animals to move. Another day I walked into the lab and saw Patrick, our Director of Technology and Education, working with one of our interns on creating a lego forklift using a robotics program.
I learned about possible income generation projects which will help sustain Kenya Connect programs while providing income to local community members.
And I saw the new building..... The Library Learning Center. Thanks to many of you, we have a gorgeous and functional building which will be opening later in March. It is spectacular and will bring us to the next level of programming and operations. There is so much to share, but the email would become too long.
As I have reflected on this trip I keep thinking about how remarkable Kenya Connect is and how we are changing the face of education in our rural community. Co-Founded and Executive Director, James Musyoka, has hired an extraordinary team that makes MAGIC happen each day in Wamunyu. James' tireless work and vision, and the work of the Kenya Connect Superstars is stellar. I am also keenly aware that our programs are made possible because of FRIENDS AND DONORS like you who provide the financial backbone for all our work. We could not host our many programs without your financial support. I know that each of us at TEAM KENYA CONNECT are deeply grateful and want to thank you for your generosity. It was truly a gift to be with the Kenya Connect Superstars! I can't wait to go back!
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