A few weeks ago, I sat in a mud-walled hut in Mjini slum in Machakos, listening to Rose, the grandmother of one of our high school students talk about the hardships she’s faced in trying to raise her grandchildren. The room was dimly lit by a small paraffin light – they don’t have electricity or running water. Rose shares her small room with her two young grandsons, Ken and Ben. Rain pounded on the tin roof, but wasn’t yet leaking through.
This frail little grandmother makes about $1-$2 per day selling vegetables, which she carries on her back through the streets of Machakos. She barely earns enough to cover rent and food for her family. Five of her six children have passed away, including the daughter who’d given birth to Ken, a student that Jitegemee has sponsored through high school.
It saddened me to hear the struggles that Rose and Ken have been through. But I also felt incredibly inspired by how hard they both were working toward a brighter and more sustainable future.
Ken, a tall, gentle young man, will graduate at the end of 2018 and has an excellent track record of academic success. He wants to study computer engineering at university and pursue a career in this field, which he says will allow him to support his grandmother and his younger brother, Ben. Jitegemee has “saved” him, he said. Now it’s his turn to save them.
I can’t begin to describe how proud I am of our students and all they’ve achieved. And I’m honored to lead our growing team that provides such vital support every day to these young people. A student like Ken might have given up hope for higher education after losing his mother in 2012. But our staff in Machakos helped him every step of the way, counseling him, tutoring him, and advocating for him, and finally purchasing the books, uniforms and other necessities that school requires. Our staff don’t see their work as a job. They see it as a calling. They respond to the needs of students like Ken any time of day, nearly every day of the week.
Over the past year, we’ve worked hard to strengthen all the services we provide. We’ve expanded our feeding program to serve a healthy breakfast in addition to lunch. We’ve provided extra lessons to students who are struggling with their studies, using educational software donated by one of our Kenyan board members. We’ve organized sports and arts days during the school breaks, to ensure our students’ education goes beyond the confines of the classroom. We’ve taken our students on field trips outside the town of Machakos, so they expand their horizons and understand that a whole world lies beyond.
In January, we were so excited to host Fulbright Specialist, Dr. Beverley Bell, a professor at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts. With input from the Kenyan Ministry of Education and our teachers, Dr. Bell is helping us formalize and document our Rehabilitation Curriculum so that it can be formalized and shared with other programs like ours in Kenya.
We are also thrilled to welcome Jennifer Katiwa, a veteran educator who oversaw schools in Dadaab, one of the largest refugee camps in the world, as our new Kenyan Country Director. Jennifer will assume responsibility for much of the day-to-day operations in Machakos, freeing me up to turn my attention to strengthening our systems in the United States and implement a strategic plan for Jitegemee’s long-term future.
We’ve also laid the groundwork for some exciting new initiatives. To give just one example, we’re planning to open a “youth development hub” that will provide our students with job readiness skills, such as financial literacy and an understanding of how to use social media to promote their businesses. Our hub will also be a place for young entrepreneurs in Machakos to access new skills, the Internet and a co-working space.
Right now, we’re in the middle of Kenya’s rainy season. The rains have been heavy and some of the country has battled floods. We know, though, that these rains bring life and a harvest that will sustain the community during the dry season. Likewise, we know that the struggles that we experience every day alongside families like Rose and Ken will one day bear fruit in the lives of our children.
We are deeply grateful for the support so generously given by the Jitegemee family around the world. We could not do this work without you. If you have enough to eat in your own house, and something to spare, please consider donating to help children like Ken fulfill their dreams of education and a dignified, self-sustaining life. We currently support around 200 students in primary school, secondary school, vocational training and college, as well as offer vital services, including health care and income-generating skill building, to their guardians, all on a budget of $260,000. To learn more about our program, or view our 2017 annual report, please visit us at www.jitegemee.org.
Thank you, asante sana!
We are so proud to be celebrating a 100% pass rate from Jitegemee students for the first time ever!
At the end of 2017, we had 1 university graduate, 5 high school graduates, and 9 primary school graduates, along with 41 Vocational Students who all passed the trade exam offered by the Government of Kenya.
Our university graduate, John, graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from the Cooperative University of Kenya. Coming from a very humble background and a family that still struggles to make ends meet, John said at his graduation celebration at Jitegemee, "Today is the first day I am celebrating an event in my entire life. I have never celebrated any event in my life; not even a birthday party.” We are very proud of John and wish him well as he starts his professional career.
What do these high results mean for Jitegemee in 2018? Because our high school graduates got such excellent grades, all five of them qualify for support from Jitegemee for pursuing university studies. This is the first time all our high school graduates will continue to university or college.
Several of our primary school students qualify for support from Jitegemee for high school, while others will pursue vocational studies. And our 41 vocational students are now graduates with government certification in the trade of their choice, which allows them to start practicing their trade immediately.
We are particularly proud of one of our high school graduates, Ezekial. Coming from a relatively humble background, Ezekiel’s high school journey wasn’t easy. He lost his mother early in 2015. Being the oldest of three siblings, he became the sole caregiver to their ailing mother. Their mother’s death deeply distressed the boy; resulting in ongoing problems with stomach ulcers. He was admitted to hospital for several months in 2015, which resulted in him repeating that grade in 2016. Under medication, a strict nutritional schedule, along with lots of psychosocial support from Jitegemee, Ezekiel finally graduated from high school at the end of 2017. He hopes to go on and study engineering, and with excellent grades in Physica and Mathematics, Jitegemee will support him to achieve this dream.
We thank you, and ask you to please continue your generous support for Jitegemee. Your support allows our students to reach for the stars!
We are racing towards the end of the school year here in Kenya! And with the end of the year, comes a celebration of how well our students are doing at Jitegemee Children's Program.
The Jitegemee Health Program is a significant part of the support we provide to our students, in addition to education and training. As we all know, a healthy child is more likely to stay in school, and therefore we believe it is critical to ensure our children are healthy. While our Program Doctor treats our students throughout the year, we also host an Annual Health Day for all our students and their parents.
Hundreds of Jitegemee children and parents participated in the 2017 Jitegemee Annual Health Days in August. In addition to the medical check-up, we were so proud of some of our students who played a part in the days as health trainers! 18 Jitegemee peer educators - students from our school sponsorshop or vocational programs - were trained on how to educate their peers about issues related to sexual and reproductive health. At our Annual Health Days, the peer educators talked with all our students about the dangers of peer pressure, sexuality, and how to prevent contraction of sexually transmitted diseases. It was a major breakthrough to have our students educating their peers and parents on such sensitive matters.
156 of our children and 132 parents received a full physical check-up, and those who needed it also received medication and follow-up treatment for common ailments, such as malaria, worms, or skin problems associated with poor hygiene. Our health team also trained our students and parents on how to prevent common diseases like malaria, typhoid and cholera. This was particularly pertinent as there were minor outbreaks of cholera in Nairobi and Machakos earlier in 2017.
We are so pleased that 66 of our students opted to get tested for HIV/AIDS, along with 38 of our parents. This is a big step to take, especially for many of our students who have never been tested.
Thank You, dear friends, for your ongoing support for Jitegemee! As a result of your generous contributions throughout the year, we are able to ensure our students not only receive an education, but also stay healthy. We hope you will support our upcoming end-of-year online fundraisers here on Global Giving.
Asante sana, thank you!
We are busy as always at Jitegemee! We thank all our GlobalGiving donors for your generous support during the past few months. Your participation in the GlobalGiving Matching Days, your monthly donations, and your support for our work allows us to provide education, training, and other much-needed services to vulnerable children in Machakos, Kenya.
Sports and Talent Day
We held our first ever Sports and Talent Day for the 46 vocational students currently enrolled in our rehabilitation program. We were blown away to see first-hand how much musical, artistic and sporting talent our students have. Our dance winners, John and Kyalo, got down to some urban beats and the whole crowd out of their seats! Pius, our artwork winner, produced some stunning pictures, the best of which was of the Jitegemee education center itself. But without a doubt, the most fun was had during the sporting contest, which saw Joshua Muema, our new Social Worker, competing against the students in the 100m dash!
As you are aware, our students come from extremely poor and vulnerable backgrounds; many of them they leave our education center at the end of each day to face bleak situations at home. However, on our Sports and Talent Day, every child went home with a smile on their face, and a skip in their feet. These are the days we live for at Jitegemee, when we know our students' lives are brighter and they go to bed happier as a result of our work.
Success for Kennedy
Kennedy, one of our vocational students, is making excellent progress in his catering studies! Kennedy has a fairly severe physical disability, but has found his niche as a cook. He was recently accepted for an internship at the Kyaka Hotel, one of the few luxury hotels in Machakos. To show his gratitude, as well as demonstrate his skills as a baker, Kennedy popped by the Jitegemee offices a few weeks ago for us to sample his cake. Yummy!! And so rewarding to see this young man find his path in life, and work hard to refine his newly-discovered talent.
New Opportunities for our Parents Group
We're also delighted to see the progress being made by the parents enrolled in our parents empowerment program. Every week a group of around twenty parents meet to work on small income-generating projects so as to improve their financial status. Over the past few months, they've trained in beadworking and learnt how to make the most colorful necklaces, bags, and placemats. They've not only mastered these skills quickly, they've already started selling their products in Machakos and beyond. Do check out their wonderful works in the photos below.
2017 began with a burst of activity:
Two graffiti artists from Machakos helped our students beautify and decorate old and new spaces at our center. A few weeks ago, all our primary school students traveled to Tsavo National Park to learn about volcanic rocks and the environment. They had a long, educational day - playing learning games, seeing wild animals, and so much more!
We believe Jitegemee is transforming the lives of our students and graduates and helping them become not only self-sustaining, but able to help others. One of our graduates, Felicitas, is a great example of this. Please read her story in the attached document.
Last but not least, THANK YOU to all of you who have donated to Jitegemee. Your support goes so far in changing the lives of our young people in Machakos, Kenya. Thank you!
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