Equip rural Kenyan girls to GET UP out of poverty

by Global Interfaith Partnership
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Helida
Helida

In June, I had the joyful chance to visit one of our Umoja scholars and a GET UP member, Helida, at the University of Nairobi where she’s getting a Liberal Arts degree. Helida has the biggest smile, which never went away, even as she discussed some of the great challenges she’s faced as a girl. With Helida’s permission, I recorded some of our conversation, and want to share it with you all. She truly is a girl who has shown she will GET UP, not give up. 

“I’m proud of my mother. From the time I’ve known her, from then till now, she’s brought me up this far. When I was young, my mother had gone through a lot to bring us up. My two sisters are married. One, she didn’t complete class 8, but she was married in 2002. Then the other one got pregnant when she was in class 8, she completed class 8, then she joined form 1, form 2, then she got married. We have passed through a lot as a family. 

But when I joined high school, when Umoja started to help me, I was that focused. In my mind, I’ve always wanted to join a university. To be the first one, in my family to join university direct.

In secondary, some people liked talking about me, so I had this rumor, someone said I won’t go ahead with my studying, I will get pregnant, things like that. Then I came to finish my high school, and I was the best again. So I realized if could keep hearing what people say, it gets stuck in you and you do it. So you keep off what people say and you do what you want. That’s when I was the best in form 4, and I realized I can be the best everywhere, anything, I’m the best. I’m a champion. From the time I was born I’ve been a champion. So that keeps me motivated and that’s when I’ve been so happy with myself.

My smile? It’s the motivation that I have for myself. Because you can’t just keep on frowning. When you smile, you see you have a bright future ahead. So the smile keeps you motivated, you can be something great, bright. You make something brighter. So that’s why I smile.”

Helida was the first person in her family to join university, now a student at one of the top schools in all of Africa with a big a future ahead of her. With financial support from Umoja and moral support from GET UP, whom she describes as her closest friends, Helida’s motivation to GET UP, not give up, is being realized. She is a champion, and we are so excited for her future.

Girls at Bar Union Primary School
Girls at Bar Union Primary School

A reflection from Sarah Neff, one of the 2016 Umoja Project Field Interns, on a day with the Girls Empowerment Team:

We were privileged to attend a GET UP Junior meeting at Bar Union Primary School.

When we arrived, we were ushered into a sunlit classroom teaming with young girls. Their energy was infectious as they giggled and talked, waiting for the session to begin. The girls had come from all over the area, chosen to come to school on a Saturday to be with each other and to learn from the GET UP mentors.

These mentors, Grace and Monica, led the girls in a song to begin the session. Then, they took turns with different parts of the lesson. The focus of the day was on emotions—what emotions are, and how to cope with them as a young girl in Kenya. They talked about words like anxiety and shame. They described the way a girl would walk when she was experiencing success: “Success makes you walk this way,” said Monica, shaking her hips as she walked the aisle.

 What was extraordinary about the lesson was the way these mentors related to the everyday lives of these girls, giving them the language and tools they need to face challenges confidently. They said that it’s ok to cry, that crying is a natural way for us to release the pressure inside us when sad things happen. They gave examples from real life—like when a parent dies, or a boy pressures you into a relationship. They taught that it’s important for the girls to have confidence and self-esteem so that they could stick to their convictions and dreams.

The girls listened attentively, raising their hand to volunteer scenarios from their experience. The lesson was simple, joyful, and the girls were dismissed after a snack and another song.

Later, we sat with the mentors to ask a few questions. Monica and Grace spoke about the many challenges these girls face—how the girl-child of Kenya is often the last to receive support for school and the first to drop out due to other pressures. They said that when they first started interacting with the girls, the girls had been too shy to speak—but now, they were beginning to speak up about their stories. Grace said that there is a noticeable impact in their performance in school. Not only are less girls dropping out (the number due to pregnancy, she said, was drastically reduced), but many girls are becoming the top achievers in their class.

The guest speaker of the day, Jen, told us that education changes the way an entire village will see a girl. “Girls must be educated,” she said, “I tell them, ‘read for your lives.’” Education is the most important factor for girls’ success, explained Jen, because ignorance allows the girls to be taken advantage of. 

As we departed Bar Union, it was with a new hope for the girls we had met that day. The teaching they are receiving at GET UP is making them more confident in themselves and their rights; it is handing them the tools they need to face their daily challenges. We are excited to continue to hear how these girls continue to grow—how they succeed, and how they change their communities for the better. Girl by girl, lives are being changed here in Kenya!

Girl at Bar Union Primary School
Girl at Bar Union Primary School
Mercy
Mercy

Hear Mercy's story, told to us directly from Kenya by Ashley and Sarah, our Field Interns:

Just this week, we had the opportunity to visit the home of Mercy, a seventh grader at Kawino Primary School. Mercy is a total orphan, and one of six children who live with their grandmother. When we visited, we were warmly received with tea and avocados from the tree outside the family home. Mercy’s grandmother sells avocados to help provide for her grandchildren, and she expressed her gratitude for the maize and beans provided to the family from the Umoja Project.

Mercy is a good student, and when we asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, she said she wants to work for the Umoja Project—she wants to go all the way through school and then help others do the same. When we asked her to describe herself in a word, Mercy said, “honest.” She helps at home to care for her younger siblings.

Mercy is one of 19 girls from Kawino who regularly attend GET UP sessions at a nearby school. These girls meet on Saturday mornings to be mentored and taught by local female leaders. They receive snacks, sing songs, and most importantly learn about their rights as girls to be safe and pursue their dreams. The Link Teacher at Kawino Primary spoke about the impact of the GET UP program on the school, saying that now girls were becoming top performers in their classes, and the rate of drop out from pregnancy has been drastically reduced from an average of 6-7 a year to only the occasional drop out. When we met with the GET UP girls at Kawino, we talked together about how girls can succeed and be independent, just like boys. The girls spoke about the strengths and gifts they saw in themselves. 

We are excited to see Mercy step into her 8th grade year! Her hope is to receive high enough marks to continue on to secondary school, and eventually to be able to help her family and community. The support she receives from Umoja—daily lunch at school, a uniform, and food for her family at home—is helping her to chase down these dreams.

Mercy and her family
Mercy and her family
GET UP girls at Kawino Primary School
GET UP girls at Kawino Primary School
Lorite in secondary school
Lorite in secondary school

We first got to know Lorite when she wrote the following letter in 2010:

I am Lorite. I am in Standard Seven in Bar-Anding’o Primary School. I want to appreciate [Global Interfaith Partnership] because of its benefits to us. It has provided us with blankets, lunch, school uniforms, and sanitary towels for girls.

I really appreciate the project because of its benefits to us. If you come to our school, you’ll realize that there is a great change since it was introduced.

I leave requesting you to continue helping us. May you continue doing good deeds to us. We are yours and you are ours. So if you can please don’t stop to help us. If you stop, we will nowhere to be seen.

Yours faithfully,  Lorite

Since completing primary school and attending Mawego Girls School, Lorite has participated in our GET UP programs.  These programs have helped Lorite to stay focused on her goal of attending university someday. 

We've just gotten the results from the national exam Lorite had to take last November when she finished high school and Lorite achieved her dream!  She has been awarded direct entry to the university with government support, an achievement that would never have been possible without your support. 

We are so proud of Lorite and other girls like her who are supported through GET UP.  On their behalf, we thank you for your commitment to their success!

Lorite in Class 7
Lorite in Class 7

Links:

Hildah
Hildah

Nothing touches me more than receiving letters from our students.  Please take a moment to read Hildah's letter of thanks for your support for the GET UP program. Truthfully, without your support it is unlikely Hildah would be going to university, fulfilling her dreams and creating a better life for herself and her family.  Many thanks for all you do to make a difference in the lives of so many young students like Helida!

Hello

I am Hildah, a student and a beneficiary of GET UP. I am grateful to you for having helped me through my high school studies till now that I am about to join a university for further studies.

I am happy for you having arranged for the GET UP. It has helped in bringing us girls together. It makes us share our problems and as usual problems shared are half-way solved. Many girls get to know how to deal with challenges in the adolescent stage and cope with them.

We also get encouraged by the people who have made it in life. GET UP also makes the ladies believe in themselves and know that nothing in life is impossible. I love all the teachings in GETUP, as all are encouraging.

Continue with the heart of helping the ladies through GET UP and all girls will improve in their studies due to the new things they learn. In everything that I will always do, I will live to remember you for the concern shown to help me.

Yours faithfully,

Hildah

Girls enjoying recent GET UP retreat
Girls enjoying recent GET UP retreat

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Global Interfaith Partnership

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.globalinterfaithpartnership.com
Project Leader:
Ellen Daniels-Howell
Indianapolis, Indiana United States
$29,821 raised of $35,000 goal
 
1,119 donations
$5,179 to go
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