The Rescue Center and Site of the Academy
Several years ago, Expanding Opportunities was seeking the best way to assist the girl child. We sought the input of successful Kenyan women. FGM, female genital mutilation, early forced marriage and girl child education topped the list. Along with community members, it was decided that a rescue center was needed to ensure a safe place for girls to be while they were educated. Research, meetings, agreements and a location in a supportive community, and our new project to assist Pastoralist Girls was begun. We conducted a successful community education day, rescued girls and continued to add sponsored pastoralist girls but the funding journey for the rescue center was long, tiresome and unfruitful for quite a while. After a few years we were awarded a grant to build the center! The Community Based Organization signed the agreement and the work began. Many things had changed and people had moved forward in other directions. It wasn’t long before we discovered that the CBO would be unable to hold their part of the agreement so the construction plans were rapidly scaled down. A bit fearful to admit the changes in the agreement, they continued to hope we would change. The agreement stated they were to operate the Center after construction. They hoped we would operate the center. In the end the Center was built, not to completion but to a stage it could be occupied. Expanding Opportunities placed a woman in the center and one rescued girl and left it for the CBO to operate. They were unable to operate the center so the project, though still funding rescued girls, was not making proper use of the Center.
Expanding Opportunities learned a great deal from this stalled project. We continued to work in the community and kept lines of communication open. Slowly all the members of the CBO understood what had happened and understood that we were still committed to the community and the girl child.
When a church asked that we build a school in memory of a parishioner, we explored three rural areas. The community where the Rescue Center is located pressed to be selected. Because of our ongoing relationship and their eagerness to have us, their community was selected.
We have both learned a great deal:
1. Agreements need to be clearly discussed with ALL individuals in a group to assure total understanding in as many language groups as represented.
2. Keep the lines of communication open always. State and restate what you can and cannot do clearly and often.
3. Misunderstandings are bound to come. Working across and through different languages, cultures, needs and dreams makes a rocky path. Keep your organizations’ mission in the forefront.
3. Don’t Give Up. Change, mold, reform but don’t give up!
We dissolved the MOU for the rescue center, obtained legal possession of the land and Expanding Opportunities is building the school on the site of the rescue center and will incorporate Girl Child Rescue into the school program.
As they say in Kenya – “We must persevere.”