Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya

by Kakenya's Dream
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Support girls' education and end FGM in Kenya
Our completed library
Our completed library

In February, we began building a Library on our Kakenya Center for Excellence II (KCE II) campus. The need for this Library arose to supplement the school curriculum and to create a culture of reading and intellectual exploration for our girls. Construction was completed in August and now, we have been acquiring furniture, books, and other materials to create welcoming gathering and learning spaces in the Library.

To foster an atmosphere of curiosity and expose our girls to a variety of perspectives, our Library, which will be available to all surrounding schools in the community, will be equipped with learning resources that have a special focus on literature by African authors. To date, we have already acquired over 650 storybooks with literature by African authors and storytellers.

Once the Library is fully stocked, we look forward to instating a Read-A-Thon for our students. The Read-A-Thon will encourage students to read for leisure and provide a fun opportunity to challenge students to read at least two books each week.

Besides expanding our range of educational services through the Library campus expansion, we encourage our students to participate in extracurricular activities that expand their understanding of the world and develop leadership skills. In early October, two KCE II students, Vivian and Violet, won prizes at the annual Young Scientists Kenya (YSK) National Science & Technology Exhibition. The Exhibition, which is an initiative of the Ministry of Education and the Government of Ireland, showcases innovative STEM projects developed by high school students all over Kenya. Out of a total of 64 projects presented by 120 students at the Exhibition, they placed second in the nation in the Chemical, Physical, and Mathematical Sciences category with their project, “The Sabash Formula”. Our girls’ achievement is made all the more remarkable given the traditionally male-dominated field of STEM and the lack of encouragement for girls to pursue these topics. Through the example of Vivian and Violet, we hope to instill a sense of curiosity for a variety of experiences in all our students that leads to more diverse career paths and economic opportunities.

As 2021 comes to an end, we look forward to providing updates of our comprehensive approach to girls’ education and the Library’s positive impact on our girls for 2022 and beyond!

Violet (left) and Vivian (right) celebrate the win
Violet (left) and Vivian (right) celebrate the win
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Our library under construction
Our library under construction

Despite the difficulties of the past year, we remain determined to expand the range of services that we offer. Over the past few years, we identified significant gaps in the availability of books and adequate healthcare, and resolved to expand the range of services that we provide beyond the government-mandated curriculum. This past February, we began construction of a Library on our Kakenya Center for Excellence II (KCE II) campus to foster a lifelong love of learning and the pursuit of knowledge. Reading is key to building children’s vocabulary, expanding their imagination, sparking curiosity, and improving critical thinking. We expect the library to be completed next month.

The ongoing COVID pandemic has underscored the importance of health education. Over the course of the past year, the lack of basic healthcare services in the communities where we work has become more apparent than ever. Not being able to see a trustworthy practitioner or receive general health services hinders youths’ ability to access education, in turn, adversely affecting enrollment, attendance rates, and retention. This year, we are beginning construction on a youth-friendly Health Clinic, also located on our KCE II campus, so that our students and other members of our communities can receive objective information as well as reproductive and general health services and care. We anticipate that the center will be accessible to our community in 2022.

We look forward to providing updates on the positive impacts that our new library and health center have on our communities in the years ahead!

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Studying in the classroom
Studying in the classroom

After 10 long months, Kakenya’s Dream fully reopened its two campuses on January 4! Our girls were excited to see their teachers, matrons, staff, and friends, and to continue their education in a safe and nurturing environment.

Our teachers, staff, and students are acutely aware that COVID-19 remains a threat, and have taken strict precautions to avoid the spread of the virus by forming a learning “bubble” on campus. Prior to our students’ return, our faculty and staff received COVID-19 training so that they could uphold strict health standards and protect our girls’ wellbeing. We also supplied each student, teacher, and staff member with double-layered cloth masks upon their return. For a month, we performed daily temperature checks on our students and enforced strict mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing protocols. With no symptoms of COVID-19 present on our campuses, our students are now able to continue learning without masks within the safety of the campus “bubble.”

Linet, one of our Class 7 students, says that being back on campus has brought her a great sense of happiness: “I’m happy sharing the dormitories with my classmates, especially my bedmate. She makes me laugh before I go to bed...even competing with other people in sports, you feel like you’re happy everywhere you go.”

Despite the joy on campus, our girls faced emotional stress at home related to abuse, the pressure to get married, and other cultural barriers. Our initial priority was our girls’ nutritional and physical health, but we are now focusing on their mental health and wellbeing. Our experienced school counselor is supporting our students by helping them overcome any trauma they faced at home and ensuring that any new mental health needs are addressed promptly. Once our girls’ physical, nutritional, and mental health needs are met, they will be able to concentrate on their studies and more effectively make up for lost time.

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, but we are excited to see what our students will achieve now that they are back in the optimal environment to thrive and achieve their potential.

We look forward to providing you with more updates on our girls as the year progresses!

Playing outside
Playing outside

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Our new mentors undergo training
Our new mentors undergo training

Through its Network of Excellence, Kakenya’s Dream administers a mentorship program to provide our students with a safe space to build their self-esteem, develop their voices, and overcome negative peer pressure. Before COVID-19, we partnered with an external organization to find recent college graduates to serve as mentors by working with students at our campuses, holding sessions on personal and professional development, and communicating with their mentees throughout the year. 

This year, we adjusted our mentorship model so that over 200 of our current scholars will be paired with 46 KCE alumnae who are currently enrolled in college. Having once been in the shoes of our current students, our new mentors will be better able to identify with the challenges their mentees face. We are currently training alumnae to become front line experts, leaders, and positive role models for our younger girls, and, in the process, continue to challenge the outdated social and cultural norms in their communities. Following the training, mentors and mentees will meet every week to assist with schoolwork and provide support around communication, health, leadership, and job preparation.

Ann, who I remember from when she first enrolled at KCE I,  is one of our new mentors. Her time at KCE has motivated her to give back to her community and inspire future generations:

“The mentorship program at Kakenya’s Dream is important because I am learning how to guide my peers and those who are younger than I. Previously, we were mentored by people who we did not even know, but now we can mentor younger girls in our program since we can relate more with them. I will be able to empower my mentees to avoid the harmful cultural practices in our community...I will be able to tell them the importance of education in their lives and the dangers of getting married at an early age.”

We can’t wait to see how women like Ann will impact current KCE students. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping us inspire a future generation of changemakers in rural Kenya.

Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year,

Kakenya

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Receiving a solar radio in the Angaza care package
Receiving a solar radio in the Angaza care package

Our planned activities for the year have, of course, taken an unexpected turn with the reality of the global health pandemic. With the spread of COVID-19 and school closures around the world, many aspects of Kakenya’s Dream’s operations - including our Health and Leadership Training - have been delayed, suspended, or otherwise modified. Kenya's schools have been closed since March and the government recently announced that they will remain closed through the rest of the year. Our girls do not have access to any kind of learning materials in their homes without Kakenya’s Dream support and, if left unaddressed, this would cause them to fall behind their peers in more resourced locations who are able to continue learning through radio programs, Whatsapp, and other media. We also know that in addition to missing academics, girls are lacking medical care, counseling, and reproductive health attention and information that we provide. Unfortunately, the longer our girls are away from school, the greater their risks and challenges are when they finally do return. 

Our team has quickly pivoted our planned activities to immediately address these concerns and have been busy implementing new measures to protect and support our girls through this time. In May, we launched the Angaza Project, meaning “shine” in Swahili. Through the Angaza Project, our team is providing care packages to our students and their families that include the basic necessities they lack at home, such as soap, feminine hygiene products, and food staples. We also purchased solar-powered radios to allow the girls to access the lessons being delivered through national and local radio stations by the Ministry of Education, as well as solar lights, story books, textbooks, and other learning materials. We will be regularly distributing supplies as long as the crisis continues and hope that this support will mitigate some of the challenges our girls are facing while at home.

Additionally, COVID has only exacerbated the already alarmingly high rates of teen pregnancy in our region. Even before the pandemic, our communities have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the country, currently at 40% - over twice the national average of 18%. Our team recognizes we need a stronger prevention strategy to combat early pregnancy and provide training on healthy interpersonal relationships. Beginning this fall/early winter, we plan to launch a community advocacy radio program to educate teenagers and young adults about how to be in control of their bodies, avoid unintended pregnancies, and learn about responsible family planning. We look forward to sharing more information in the next upcoming report - in the meantime, please sign up for our newsletter and connect with us via social media to get the latest updates!

Thank you for your continued belief in our work and your unwavering support of our girls. We are in this together.

An eighth grader with her Angaza care package
An eighth grader with her Angaza care package

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Organization Information

Kakenya's Dream

Location: Arlington, VA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @KakenyasDream
Project Leader:
Kakenya Ntaiya
Founder
Arlington, Virginia United States
$16,725 raised of $20,000 goal
 
298 donations
$3,275 to go
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