Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya

by St. Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization
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Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya
Romario graduates with his Bachelor's degree
Romario graduates with his Bachelor's degree

One of the things that makes St. Vincent's unique is that once a child is admitted into our program, their family becomes part of our family, and we commit ourselves to walking with them over the long haul. 

Out of this commitment has emerged our scholarship program, which currently serves 45 students from primary school to university. We provide multi-year scholarships to children from Kibera, including those who have graduated from our nursery school and their siblings. Our program is different from many others in Kibera: while we encourage students to meet their academic potential, we know that highly vulnerable children face many barriers to success. We select scholarship recipients based on their need and our continued support does not depend on academic performance. We also encourage caretakers to contribute, even if it is a nominal amount, to develop a sense of ownership and pride over their children’s education.

Romario is one of these students. He overcame significant odds to graduate this year with his Bachelor's degree, the first in his family to attend college. Romario wrote this letter sharing his thoughts about the impact of education on his life and the importance of St. Vincent's supports: 

“I would like to express our sincere gratitude for your generous and selfless support towards my university education. Indeed, without your most generous contribution, I don’t know what would have become of me at present. Sincerely, this means the world to me. You have invested in the future of a young man who was almost hopeless and running out of sorts. I still wonder how to best express my appreciation. It is an overwhelming feeling that will never depart.

I came to this organization as a young man, whose hopes for a better future were waning and having been bruised by the acrid atmosphere of life outside school. Coming from a family that struggled for its basic needs, my good grades from high school meant nothing, and only a few people could sympathize with my sorry state. After a meeting with the board members, I was filled with hope and I thought I could dream again. Since then, things have never been the same.

Today, I come out as a graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Biotechnology with a First Class Honours from one of the most prestigious universities in Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. What a moment to be alive! I am proud of this great achievement. I can now look into the future with great enthusiasm, a scientist in the making. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support I have received from St. Vincent’s.

I look forward to pursuing my Masters degree in Biotechnology in the near future, and God willing, abroad! Through this, I would also be able to impact my society positively in a medical and economic sense. Thank you very much St Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization. May God’s grace be sufficient to you all as you aspire to continue serving humanity.”

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St. Vincent student, Grace, at her high school
St. Vincent student, Grace, at her high school

‘From the moment mum told me that I can become who I want in life, I never looked back. I gave it my best shot each passing day both in my academic and sports fields.'

These are the words of Grace, an alumni of St. Vincent’s Nursery School. Grace graduated from our Nursery School in 2006 and continued through our scholarship program. Now 20 years old, Grace has just completed secondary (high) school and is waiting to join university later this year. Coming from a humble background of her loving mother and an elder sister, Grace has lived in the Kibera slums her entire life, an experience she vividly remembers as ‘not an easy walk in the park.’

“Sometimes we used to fear when the clouds would get dark, simply because we knew our house would be messy following heavy pounding of the raindrops that would hit hard our torn, old, rusted iron sheets so that one could easily see rays of the sun. Rainy days often left us standing as guards holding water basins on top of our heads as a shield." 

Despite the challenges of growing up in Kibera, Grace remained focused and aimed to finish her studies with her head held high. Grace’s hard and ‘smart’ work, coupled with the support of her mother and St. Vincent’s, has propelled her to success. Apart from academic assistance, St. Vincent’s also supported Grace to join a tennis program from the time she was in our Nursery School. She participated in many tournaments that exposed her to people and places outside of Kibera. She dreamed of becoming the best tennis player in the world, just like Serena Williams.

During the past year of COVID, Grace persevered, despite the odds stacked against her and other students forced out of school, left to study at home without a teacher. And the stakes were high as Grace prepared for Kenya’s national secondary school exams on her own.

“This is one of my memorable moments, having to stay at home studying and at the same time thinking about the last secondary school national exams. These are exams that define one’s destiny after high school. Studying at home without the assistance of a teacher was not easy for me, luckily mum kept pushing me, that she only wants the best from me.”

Today, Grace’s dreams have changed: “I want to study education, because I have a passion to become a high school teacher and impact positively on children that come from underserved communities like Kibera.” 

While Grace waits to join university, she is back at our Nursery School volunteering her time to gain valuable experience with children that will face a similarly challenging journey to success.

Grace in 2006 in her Nursery School uniform
Grace in 2006 in her Nursery School uniform
Grace holding tennis trophies in front of her home
Grace holding tennis trophies in front of her home
Grace with her mom
Grace with her mom
Grace volunteering at our Nursery School
Grace volunteering at our Nursery School
Grace with her tennis teammates
Grace with her tennis teammates
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Empty classrooms, abruptly deserted mid-March last year, are back to life once again and the chatter of children learning rings throughout our school. January 2021 has started on a high gear as the Kenyan Ministry of Education asked all schools to reopen following a 10 month break due to the global COVID19 pandemic. Although things look a little different in this Covid era, children, parents and teachers alike are excited to be back!

 “Now that the 87 children are back to school, we have ensured safety measures were in place even before the official reopening of schools.” says our head teacher, Ms. Alice Wanjiru.

St. Vincent’s has invested in handwashing stations for each class and mounted posters on the school walls with key, child-friendly COVID19 messaging. Our teachers ensure children’s temperatures are taken upon their arrival each morning and all children and staff are required to wear masks properly and wash hands often with clean water and soap. Additional prevention measures put in place are designed to minimize contact among parents coming into the school premises and enable service delivery to be administered one parent at a time, as needed.

“One of the biggest reminders is that we need to be on the lookout for social distance among the children to ensure their safety,“ adds Teacher Alice. “Classrooms have markings on the floor where each child needs to sit to minimize any kind of transmission of COVID19 virus.”

While they continue to adjust to the new norms of mask wearing and more frequent hand washing, children were glad to be back from school after such a long break, as evidenced by their smiling faces (even detected under their masks!). Returning to school means the promise of two daily, nutritious meals, engagement from our teachers, and time to play in a safe and loving space with friends.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, Kenya has reported almost 97,000 Covid cases and more than 1,600 deaths since the start of the outbreak in March 2020. Over the weekend the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, extended an overnight curfew until March to help prevent the spread of the virus in the country.

Covid prevention messaging
Covid prevention messaging
New handwashing stations added
New handwashing stations added
Daily temperature checks
Daily temperature checks
Social distancing cues in place
Social distancing cues in place
Happy to be back to 2 daily meals at school
Happy to be back to 2 daily meals at school
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At the start of 2020, one of our goals was to continue expanding education and support efforts for the parents of children we serve. As part of this initiative, in February, we started preparing for a parenting education program that would provide information and skill building opportunities to parents on relevant topics such as early childhood development, positive parenting and discipline, parent-child communication techniques, and raising children with special needs. In March, we adapted and developed program training material, recruited a counselor to support our work, and held an initial training for our teachers who would facilitate the parenting education groups.

Though we had to put our plans on hold for several months amidst the pandemic, we are pleased to report that last month in September, we were able to restart the program. Our first cohort of 72 nursery school parents participated in a two-week, interactive training program, which followed government Covid-19 infection prevention guidelines, such as taking temperatures, wearing masks, and holding meetings outside. In addition to educating parents on the aforementioned topics, we also built in flexibility to the session structure so that parents could raise issues that were important to them in the course of the training. In this way, the parenting sessions evolved into a sort of group counseling space where parents opened up about the experiences and challenges they are facing and which have seemingly been amplified during the pandemic. 

Several mothers discussed intimate partner violence in their home, while other parents talked about specific challenges of raising children living with disabilities. One mother shared how the community's misconception of her lack of control over her child with autism led to her and her family being stigmatized. Other parents talked about how they feel they must use harsh/punitive parenting styles to protect their children given that they live in a high crime environment (in Kibera) where negative influences are many. This honest sharing allowed for frank discussions about the real-life issues affecting parenting styles and how parenting could be improved. Referrals were provided for parents in need of immediate outside services, including domestic violence.

Parents were excited about their participation in the program. One parent reported that following the training, she was eager to share what she learned with her neighbor and had even helped her neighbor to create family rules to help improve use within the household. Most parents shared that they had no shoulder to lean on and appreciated the training because it offered a space to discuss issues affecting them. The training also helped us, as an organization, to better understand some of the sensitive issues facing the families that we serve, which we will be able to translate into more effective and tailored support to our families in the future.

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St. Vincent's Food Distribution in Kibera
St. Vincent's Food Distribution in Kibera

Last week, we reported to you on the early threats of COVID-19 on our Kibera community in Kenya. Since then, while the number of Kenyans infected with the virus has remained relatively low at 122, the toll of the pandemic on residents of Kibera has been immense, as anticipated. With the majority of Kibera’s residents earning a living as day laborers, whose work has come to a grinding halt during this time, many families have been left without adequate means to survive.

March 16th marked the first day of closure of St. Vincent’s Nursery School. Without the two daily nutritious meals that we provide, we knew that many of the children we serve would be deprived of critical nutrition until our school can re-open. During the first week of our school closure, many parents shared with us their frustration and struggles around being able to provide food for their families. Too many parents reported that because of lost work, their families were living off of one meal per day in light of the pandemic. 

We knew we needed to take action. We mobilized support from our kind-hearted donor network (THANK YOU!) for an emergency food distribution, which was coordinated by our Board and Program Administrator on Friday March 27th. Over 110 families received food baskets packed by our teachers, each containing 4 kilos of maize, 4 kilos of rice, 4 kilos of beans, 4 kilos of millet flour, 2 liters of cooking oil, 2 kg of sugar and bar soap for handwashing. Recipients included approximately 80 families of our nursery school children, as well as families of children in our scholarship program and our own teachers. The food supply will last families for approximately three weeks, depending on family size. The distribution was conducted with the utmost care, with efforts made to stagger parents entering our facility to avoid crowds and a handwashing station set up outside our school gate so that each parent could wash their hands prior to receiving the food basket. During the distribution, our staff promoted messaging around hand washing as well.

Smiles of joy beamed across the faces of parents as they received their package. ‘I am going to cook a nice meal today for my family,’ one mother shared with another parent as she received help to carry the food wrapped on her head.

We know the need for additional food supplies will continue in the weeks and months ahead and we are continuing to work to see how we can best support our families, while also keeping our staff safe during this time. It is an uncertain time for everyone, but the food distribution made possible with your support came at a critical time for our children and families. We thank you for your continued involvement in our efforts to serve the most vulnerable families in Kibera.

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Organization Information

St. Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization

Location: P.O. BOX 56486-00200, Nairobi - Kenya
Website:
Project Leader:
Christina Stellini
Nairobi, Kenya
$159,778 raised of $200,000 goal
 
2,658 donations
$40,222 to go
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