Clearing Stumps from the New Land
It’s that time of year again - time to look back on what we did and what we have yet to do. As we count our blessings, Jitegemee has many reasons to be proud and grateful.
We are thankful for inspiration provided by young people who remind us every day why we volunteer or write those checks. We are grateful for Lucy, who enrolled in Jitegemee’s vocational program after spending several months working in the streets, washing clothes and carrying luggage. Lucy thrived in our vocational program. During her apprenticeship, she mastered the art of dressmaking and developed a reputation for coming up with her own unique designs. But that wasn’t good enough for Lucy. She used her small salary to put herself through school at night to get the Kenyan equivalent of her GED. That degree propelled her even further. Today, she is the supervisor of a dressmaking factory in Nairobi, the breadwinner of a large extended family.
Lucy isn’t alone. Every time I return to Machakos, I run into somebody whose life has been changed by this simple but incredible program. The first night I arrived this past August, a young woman in a spotless brown uniform shyly greeted me as I checked into my hotel. I didn’t recognize her, until she identified herself.
“I am a Jitegemee student,” she said.
It was Diana, who studied catering as her vocational trade and now works in the hotel.
Then there is George, a charismatic student with lackluster math scores whose performance as the Devil in a play will always make me think of him as a natural actor. George is now training to enter the hospitality industry, where I have no doubt that his actor’s charm will take him far. But what makes me really proud of George is how he is giving back to the community, through the Red Cross and the local Rotary Club, and how he has become comfortable and accepted among the Machakos well-to-do, after graduating from a prestigious high school and joining the local rugby team.
None of these transformations could have taken place without Director Mike Kimeu and his team, Alex, Laurah and Elizabeth, who have worked countless hours preparing vulnerable teenagers for adulthood. This past year, they have also dedicated themselves to getting ready for the construction of our new building.
Mike tracked down dozens of municipal officials – including some who were on leave - to get the required approvals to start building. His work was all the more tedious because Jitegemee’s policy is to never pay a bribe. Yet he succeeded.
Alex organized laborers to remove the stumps from our property for a fraction of the cost we would have paid to do it by machine. And Elizabeth and Laurah have participated in virtually every step of the planning pro-cess, from meeting with the architect to inspecting buildings that have been put up by the various contractors we are considering. This fall, we received five bids from builders and we expect to choose one soon.
As our plans for the new building march forward, we are in the process of planning how our program it-self will change once the building has been completed.
For this reason, we are incredibly grateful to Tulaine Montgomery, a veteran strategic planner who used her own vacation time to travel to Kenya with me to help with our first-ever five-year strategic plan. We thank the Oswald Foundation for their generosity in covering the costs of her travel and expenses.
Above all, we are grateful for the support of friends who have allowed us to continue doing this important work. Donors – big and small – have made the difference for us. We want to give special thanks to Andrew and Bonnie Weiss, the Kaplan family and the International Foundation, who have supported the dream of this building for years.
And we want to thank each and every one of you who has offered your time, your encouragement, your words of advice, and of course your money to support these extraordinary kids in Kenya.
As you count your blessings this year, count ours too. Our blessings are yours.
P.S. A generous anonymous donor has agreed to match 100% of new monthly donations on GlobalGiving from December 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012. If you've given to Jitegemee in the past, consider making a long term commitment to our vision and our kids with with a small monthly recurring donation today! For example, if you set up a new $15 monthly recurring donation, GlobalGiving will donate an additional $15 to Jitegemee! Oh, and if we are one of five charities with the most donors we'll win an additional $500! You can follow our progress on the Recurring Donations Leaderboard here.
Jitegemee Students at Nairobi National Museum
Jitegemee Director Speaking to Students