Opportunity’s John Kamperschroer, VP of Resource Development, visited Kenya in August of 2010 to experience how Opportunity impacts education in Kenya. He shares reflections from his travels.
"As we traveled along the bumpy roads of Kenya, dust and exhaust coated our lungs while receiving–as one driver put it–an “African massage.” We were on our way to visit three Kenyan schools: part of the experience for our Kenya Family Week travel group, which included my 17-year-old son Logan. We wanted to learn how Opportunity loans impact Kenyan education, to interact with the kids, and to meet the hard-working administrators and teachers.
The first school we visited was the Wisdom Junior Educational Center, operated by Jacinta Njoki, who started the school in 2001 with a $375 loan and now has 150 kids and six teachers. We crowded into the the toddlers’ hot, stuffy nursery, where Jacinta shared that, although things are not always easy, 'We are happy here.'
After entertaining the kids with coloring books, stickers, bracelets and beach balls that we had brought, Jacinta took us to a small, dark shack where seven members of the United Mothers group were making jewelry to sell. The proceeds from the jewelry goes to support five orphans and pay for a portion of the lunches that Jacinta’s school provides hungry kids every day. What an expression of love!
The next day we visited Trinity Academy in the village of Kimongo in rural Kenya. Conditions in the village are difficult. Most of the kids who rushed to greet us were not wearing shoes, had tattered clothes, and some were dirty from head to foot. Most of their classrooms were tiny and windowless with no light source other than a doorway illuminating the few books they had. And yet the kids had huge smiles when we played with them. School administrator Onesmus Kivuva shared his hopes for creating a better learning environment for the children. In fact, he had used his Opportunity loan to build a metal building to replace the current mud hut classrooms. Next he plans to improve water and sanitation at the school.
The following day, while still processing the financial poverty we’d witnessed in Kimongo, we arrived at the Fountain Junior School to the sounds of children laughing, chanting rhymes and jumping rope. Faith Njuguna is the impressive school administrator who, after losing her job, started a nursery 10 years ago with a loan from her father. Today, Faith has 200 students from babies through class 7 and wants to add class 8 next year. Faith’s determination is obviously contagious as these talented future leaders of Kenya expressed to us, through singing and acting, their desire for a better life. And yet, Faith confessed that 25% of the children are behind on their monthly school fees due to family issues.
For three days, our eyes were opened and our hearts were moved by our school visits in Kenya. From the love of Jacinta and her United Mothers collective, to the hopes of Onesmus for the future of Trinity Academy, to the contagious optimism of Faith and her students, who increased our faith in the potential of the people of Kenya–we are inspired and awestruck by the people we have met."