Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya

by WISER International
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Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Lucy
Lucy

To our generous GlobalGiving Donors,

This month, we’re excited to share a story with you: a story about a girl who, like many WISER girls, is ready to battle the odds on the way to a bright future. Her name is Lucy and she’s quickly becoming a vocal leader in her second year at WISER.

Lucy saw an opportunity when she came to the WISER Girls Secondary School almost two years ago. Her mother was working tirelessly to raise six children alone and Lucy would be the first of those children to have the chance to finish high school. She knew that other girls in her village were facing challenges that she hoped to avoid by joining WISER: “At times, you find someone that has dropped out of school because of school fees, because of getting pregnant, and then she just stays at home.”

But WISER is an opportunity for Lucy to avoid that story and to craft her own. And, like all WISER girls, Lucy was ready to seize this chance. “I was so proud and very happy to come to WISER,” says Lucy, “I think I can do well here.”

Lucy has done well. In fact, she already has high aspirations for her future and hopes to one day be a neurosurgeon. When asked why, Lucy points to her love of sports. She wants to play sports throughout her schooling and thinks that, through sports, she can better understand her body, which would make her a better doctor.

“In medicine, we study our own human body,” Lucy says, “and once you know how your own body is, you can help other people to live a better life.”

We love Lucy’s confidence and when asked about where this confidence comes from, she says she believes it’s from one of the programs that you all, as donors, make possible – WISER’s on-campus counselling and psychosocial support.

 “I’m receiving guidance and counselling, and that makes me feel like I can stand up and talk to somebody like this. I feel empowered.”

Lucy feels like she can take on anything – that she’s ready to stand. We know that she’s going to do amazing things. She will be a role model for her siblings and a powerful supporter for her family. She will graduate from WISER and go on to university. And she will do these things because of your support. Your gifts help us work with girls like Lucy to build success stories every day.

Just like Lucy is happy to stand for herself, we’re happy that you stand with us.

Lucy in her room at WISER
Lucy in her room at WISER
Lucy playing sports
Lucy playing sports
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WISER girls at work in one of our science labs
WISER girls at work in one of our science labs

Nimone, one of WISER’s most recent alumni, is tired of hearing that girls can’t succeed in the fields of science and engineering.

Her whole life, Nimone has been told that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are subjects for boys. Now, she’s drawing the line.

Nimone is currently working as a teaching intern at a school where she is the only female teacher. She is also the lead teacher for physics at the school, and she has this message for her peers at WISER that want to pursue a career in STEM:

“Don’t listen to people that tell you that science is hard, that science is just for men, that science isn’t for you…Don’t stop working. You deserve to study your passion!”

Nimone is one of many STEM-based success stories to emerge in 2017, and an incredible example of the culture of excellence surrounding STEM on WISER’s campus.

Only one month ago, WISER girls competed in the Migori County Science and Engineering Fair against 360 eligible schools. Despite the tough competition, an incredible eight projects were chosen from WISER to proceed to Kenya Regional-level competition. WISER was ranked as the #1 Girls School in Migori and the #3 school overall, making a powerful statement about the ability of young women in STEM.

Dorcas Oyugi, WISER’s principal, links some of this mind-boggling success in STEM competitions to the resources that WISER has recently provided for its girls.

“The new science lab has given space to expose our girls to real applications of science. We have full dissemination of knowledge from our practicals for every science subject. The new computer lab means that over the next year, the girls will know everything from basic computing and data collection to photo editing and data analysis.”

These successes are more than just results to celebrate – they are signs of a shift in what people believe girls can do. Girls can win engineering competitions. Girls can lead Physics departments. Girls can excel in computing and data collection.

We know these things because we see them happening every day on our campus and in our community.

This summer, students from Duke University will give WISER’s STEM opportunities yet another exciting boost. Over the course of two months, Duke volunteers will offer a robotics workshop that includes an introduction to basic computer programming as well as hands-on exercises for WISER’s engineering and innovation club.

WISER is committed to continuing to grow its STEM opportunities for girls in Muhuru Bay. We believe that every girl, as Nimone says it, “deserves to study her passion.” And STEM success for WISER means building opportunities that would make Nimone proud.

Thank you for being a part of building those opportunities for Nimone, her classmates, and the girls that will learn at WISER for generations to come.

Principal Dorcas celebrates WISER's STEM Fair win
Principal Dorcas celebrates WISER's STEM Fair win
WISER alum Nimone
WISER alum Nimone

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Reading the news before class in the new library
Reading the news before class in the new library

In August, we told our wonderful supporters that the WISER Girls were writing Op-Eds about the upcoming campus expansion. Fifteen students wove their hopes and dreams for the new campus into beautifully-written prose. 

And now that the expansion is finished, we've asked WISER's principal, Dorcas Oyugi, to relay her thoughts on the new campus.

Said Dorcas, “How can I put that much excitement in words?"

It seems that the new campus is a bit overwhelming for everyone at WISER and we wouldn't ask for it to be any other way.

The WISER campus now houses two science labs, a massive assembly hall, an all-new library, sixteen homes for WISER staff, and the best computer lab in the region. It's an amazing sight to see as what was once a dirt plot less than ten years ago is now home to a girls secondary school that rivals many Kenyan universities.

"The girls are so enthusiastic about their new spaces. The library, the science labs; they have our girls celebrating, but this is exciting for everyone," said Dorcas. "I've heard guests say that we are outmatching the giants - the top performing schools in Kenya - in what we have for our girls. It's unbelievable that these resources are available in a place that is this remote."

One such resource that has the students particularly excited is the computer lab, monitored by new WISER teacher Edwin Okongo. He believes that the computer lab is not just a sign of the expansion's success, but an opportunity to break a long-standing gender gap in computer science representation.

"In any area with poverty, you're going to see access problems. It kills the morale, the desire to understand technical sciences," says Edwin. "Society, on top of this, favors male students in access to computers, and even in the university statistics, most of those studying information technology are male."

"Giving this chance to the WISER Girls is a chance to expose a new generation of female students to computing technology that was denied to them."

WISER has always been about providing empowering opportunities for girls. This expansion, and the programs that accompany it, are just the latest step in our journey toward providing all of the resources a girl could need to be educated, healthy, and in control of her own life.

None of these opportunities that we've created along the way would be possible without your support. We can't thank you enough.

Because of WISER's supporters, even our youngest students have the opportunity to dream big. Joan is a first-year student at WISER, and just joined the campus a month ago.

Her aspirations are big, and that's right where all of us want them to be.

"Right now, I'm just starting," said Joan, "but learning computer operations is exciting. I'd like to be more connected. Maybe I will soon write and send letters to friends, and then continue to grow from there. Teacher Edwin says we will do photo editing, and I'd like to be doing that soon."

WISER Girls at work in the new Computer Lab
WISER Girls at work in the new Computer Lab
Computer Skills class time
Computer Skills class time
New WISER Assembly Hall
New WISER Assembly Hall
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Lucy enters her exam with a smile
Lucy enters her exam with a smile

“This is a high-stress time. But we are on course and keen.” – WISER principal, Dorcas Oyugi.

To say that emotions are high on WISER’s campus right now would be an understatement.

This week, WISER Girls in the final term of their fourth year will begin the national exam period that concludes their life-long journey to graduate secondary school.

Should a student pass the exam, they may be the first in their family to qualify for college admission. Preparations for this high-stakes test begin years in advance. Practice sessions for the marathon-like exam start as early as 6 months prior.

Anyone would feel nervous or fearful walking into a testing room with these stakes.

But look at Lucy.

Does that look like the face of a girl that is fearful for her future? Is this a girl that is afraid that she will not graduate?

No. This is a WISER Girl.

Emotions are high on-campus, but the highest of these emotions are hope, excitement, and optimism. Lucy has a lot riding on this exam, but if nothing else, WISER has prepared her to succeed. So yes, there is fear, but this moment is about proving her ability and knowing that all of us at WISER believe in her.

When we say that you, as donors, make empowering girls possible, we mean that you enable moments like this.

Your gifts and your support enable Lucy to have the mentors and safety she needs to wear a huge smile heading into her national exams. Your gifts ensure that Lucy is not worried about school fees, uniforms, or books while she studies. Your gifts mean that Lucy is not hungry when she sits down to take the exam nor is she sick.

Lucy’s smile is the picture of an empowered, confident, healthy female learner. Lucy’s smile is possible through you.

During this time, we want to ask that you keep the WISER Girls in your thoughts as they tackle this academic challenge. We also want to thank you for your belief in girls and your gifts that support their success and safety.

To borrow Principal Dorcas’ words, you help keep us on-course, and we’re extremely grateful for that.

Students prepare to begin their exam
Students prepare to begin their exam
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Valary puts the final touches on her Op-Ed
Valary puts the final touches on her Op-Ed

Valary sits and looks around at the Deputy Vice Principal’s office. Normally, a trip to the principal’s office might signal trouble. But today, Valary has been invited to use the space to put the final touches on her Op-Ed outlining her opinions on the WISER school expansion.

Suddenly, with a knowing look, Valary grabs her pen and writes her closing point:

“WISER has improved the lives of many Muhuru girls, and I am proud to be among the Muhuru girls given this opportunity. The new WISER expansion will create opportunities like this not only for more girls, but for my sisters, my cousins, and maybe even my own future daughters. Maybe they will have the chance to be WISER Girls.”

Powerful words from a future journalist.

The WISER campus is a busy place right now! We are happily in the middle of our largest-ever expansion and new buildings are popping up all over campus. A new dining hall, dormitory renovations, science lab, and computer lab will all provide the space necessary for the 120 additional students WISER will add to its regular enrollment over the next four years.

But in the midst of the hammering and sheet metal a much quieter practice is going on this month.

Third-year student Valary and eleven of her classmates have just completed a 10-session Op-Ed workshop to learn new writing skills and express their opinions about the events unfolding around them.

This month’s most popular topic? The upcoming expansion.

“Nothing could be more exciting than this expansion project,” writes second-year student Sheila,“This is not only an increase in student population, but a great opportunity to interact with new people.”

Through the Op-Ed workshop, WISER Girls are learning how to articulate their feelings on current events ranging from the 2017 Kenya national elections and nationwide education policy to the local fishing economy and of course, WISER’s growth.

Four of the girls in the workshop are first-year students, and are experiencing for the first time a platform through which they are asked to confidently express an opinion, however controversial it may be. They’ve risen to the challenge beautifully.

“WISER’s expansion changes the history of our community,” writes first-year student Snaider. “The current WISER Girls have a new opportunity to interact and exchange ideas with more girls than ever… this is an idea that helps all girls- the girls from Muhuru Bay and the girls from across Kenya too.”

While a number of amazing stories and arguments have emerged from the Op-Ed workshop, we’re most excited to see one thing: confidence.

These WISER Girls are proudly and emphatically writing on the issues that matter most to them and doing so without the fear of being discouraged or dissuaded.

We’re proud to offer the environment in which the confidence of young women can grow. But more than this, we’re thankful to all of you – the global family of WISER supporters – for making this environment possible.

As said before, our campus is a busy place right now, and we love it that way. So thank you, for helping build our programs and expand our campus and for empowering the WISER Girls that live, work, and write there.

Two WISER Girls review each other's writing
Two WISER Girls review each other's writing
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WISER International

Location: Durham, NC - USA
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Emily Dake
Durham, NC United States
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