Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence

by Quilts for Empowerment
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Protect Kenyan girls from Gender-Based Violence
Our girls study during school breaks
Our girls study during school breaks

Nancy Kay, our In-Coming Executive Director, and I just returned from Kenya, where we witnessed soaring inflation and a fuel crisis. Prices were escalating in just a few days. We also spent many days in the new compound with our 12 thriving girls. All were home on a school break, so the compound was filled with their unbounded energy. We were very impressed with how well they all get along, sharing a few jump ropes and a soccer ball and creating games with stones and local material. Laughter was the predominant sound.

But, playing came after a morning of study supervised by an experienced school teacher, who was making sure every girl would return to school with all their school work done. They crowded together in the small sitting room on their side of the duplex to study.

Kenya has shortened their school terms, making it hard to keep up; but our girls are all on track.

A unique feature of our program is the trauma-informed counseling that every girl receives. Each girl receives one-on-one counseling from an experienced clinical psychologist, Dr. Opondo, who has to be creative finding a private space to conduct her counseling.

In addition, her assistant, Teacher Ann, as she is fondly called, supervises group therapy, which can include crafts, singing, reading and games. She told us that being with our girls is the best part of her day. In this photo, she is thrilled with the supplies we brought for her to use with the girls.

Easter Sunday, Teacher Ann organized a field day. First, she helped us dye Easter eggs, which the girls promptly ate, and then we hid plastic eggs. Next, she arranged for a series of team competition events with Nancy and I heading up the two teams. The games went on all day with lots of cheering and good will. We were exhausted at the end.

I spent a lot of time with the Principal Investigators of the study conducted last year documenting the extent of gender-based violence (GBV) in our community. As we reported in January, the findings revealed pervasive GBV. Over 44% of the 327 Class 8 girls interviewed reported having experienced or knowing someone who experienced physical violence. The consequences of the reported physical, sexual, and emotional violence included teen pregnancy, school dropout, exchanging sex for money (often used for school fees), abortion, suicidal thoughts and depression. Perpetrators were people known to the girls with adult relatives and school boys the most common perpetrators of defilement (rape). The most vulnerable girls were age 14, born out of wedlock, and living with a guardian. However, mitigation is weak and most girls did not know whether the violence was against their rights. The need for a comprehensive program to prevent and mitigate the effects of GBV is urgent.

The next step is to conduct a feasibility study to describe the willingness of key stakeholders, including girls, to support our proposed after school program and to understand the opportunities and challenges of offering the program. Then, after approval from the Ministry of Education, we will launch a pilot of the program. 

We met with the Kenya Quilts for Empowerment Community Based Organization Board and reviewed our building options for the 3-story Community Resource Center. With inflation, the cost of building out the ground floor and including the skeletons of two top floors had more than doubled. The Board recommended just building out the ground floor and putting a cement pad roof on it and adding the additional two floors as funding allows. 

The completed Ground Floor will have a large meeting/dining space, therapy room, dispensary, kitchen, laundry, storage, conference room and toilets. In addition to donating to GlobalGiving, you can help by attending our Auction.

QFE Auction May 23-June 1

Please consider helping us build the Ground Floor by participating in an on-line auction featuring our women’s beautiful hand-made quilted products. It starts on May 23, which is the UN’s International Day to End Fistula.  We are still adding products, but check out our offerings at Folk Art to End Fistula 2022 Auction. Please share this link with your friends and family.

 

  

Counselor finds a spot to talk with our girls
Counselor finds a spot to talk with our girls
Teacher Ann excited to receive gifts for the girls
Teacher Ann excited to receive gifts for the girls
Ground floor we hope to build
Ground floor we hope to build
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Our girls wishing everyone a very happy New Year
Our girls wishing everyone a very happy New Year

We are delighted to report that all of our girls have remained healthy and Covid-free during 2021. Each girl has also made strong educational progress, including staying at the top of their class or even being promoted to a higher level. Susan, the tallest girl in the last row, is diligently studying for her National Exams in March to determine her High School placement.

In our last report, we showed one of the girls with a few small corn plants. Those plants have flourished as seen in the background of the photo below and are about ready to be harvested. Their growth has stimulated the planting of a larger shamba (garden) in the compound that will help feed our growing girls. The three missing girls in this photo were all away in Boarding Schools.

Our Fall Auction and Benefit were successful. Videos of Nicholas Kristof’s greeting, a Tour of our New Compound, and a description of our trauma-informed counseling program by Dr. Opondo are all available on our website: www.quiltsforempowerment.org

With the proceeds from the Auction and Benefit, combined with donations from GlobalGiving, we are moving closer to making a decision about how and when to proceed with our Building Plans for Phase II – Construction of our three-story Community Resource Center. We are very close to having funds to start with the main floor and skeleton of the top two floors; which will become a training hub and community resource to decrease Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

The need for our project to protect local girls from GBV has become even painfully clearer. We have just completed data collection on a large study to describe the types and extent of GBV in our area. Individual interviews with girls in school and girls who have dropped out of school as well as focus groups of community members have revealed pervasive GBV. It has also highlighted a total lack of community resources and chaos in the public schools. The findings were so disturbing that the research team had to go through a debriefing and as the Principal Investigator reported, “The things that the children and women go through are heart breaking. Am still feeling shaken by what I heard.”

Data analysis has begun and will be used to submit our plan to the Ministry of Education to initiate a pilot afterschool program. We will incorporate the study’s recommendations from students, teachers, families and community members in the design of the program. The need is urgent and we thank you for helping us meet it by expanding our physical capacity to become a Community Resource Center. 

The girls (and corn) have grown!
The girls (and corn) have grown!

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In the few months since we moved into our completed Phase I Home, we have celebrated having a safe and comfortable place for our girls to live and thrive. At first our program director Norah found it challenging to get the girls back into their normal routine when having a place to finally play outside was just too tempting. Instead of immediately taking off their socks and washing them when they returned home from school, the girls found multiple other ways to spend their time, including getting dirty.

Now, once their chores are done, which includes washing their shoes and socks every day, the girls love playing outside. Favorite activities are jumping rope and playing multiple games with a soccer ball. This simply was not possible in the old apartment. After playing, the girls begin taking showers and doing their homework before dinner. The familiar structured routine has returned.

One of the children has planted a small shamba (garden) with maize and greens. Having one’s own garden is a deeply rooted tradition in Kenya. However, our property is too small to have a garden big enough to provide food.

In late July all Kenya school classes were opened for the first time since March 2020. The government had staggered the reopening of classes during Covid. All our girls are finally back in the classroom. This allowed our youngest girl, Ann, to graduate from nursery school to Grade I with all the pomp and celebration such an event should have.

The benefit for all the girls was the graduation cake and treats.

Buoyed by the overwhelming success of Phase I, we are diligently fundraising for Phase II – the construction of our three-story Community Resource Center. The need to increase our capacity to house, educate, and provide counseling to young survivors of gender-based violence is daunting. We constantly have to deny this care to vulnerable girls in the community.

Our Boards of Directors in the US and Kenya have approved a plan to begin a phased construction of the Center as soon as funds are available, hopefully by early 2022. This plan would complete the ground floor and the skeletons of the two remaining top floors, a common approach in Kenya. The second floor will eventually house and expand our girls’ program and the third floor will house our program director and family. The completed ground floor will have a commercial kitchen, dining room, meeting spaces, dispensary, therapy room, library, laundry, and toilets. This will allow us to host our afterschool program and community meetings; give our girls more room to study; have a private, designated place for counseling; and expand our program for fistula survivors.

Ideally, we would have enough funds to complete the top two floors at the same time the ground floor is completed. It would definitely be cheaper and less disruptive. But, the advantage of having a completed ground floor is more important, and we will start there if necessary.

We are having two fundraising events for the building this month. An online auction October 9 – 16 and a one-hour virtual fundraising benefit on October 16th. Information about both can be found at: https://www.quiltsforempowerment.org/fall-benefit. The benefit, which is 2- 3 PM PST in the US features a video welcome from two-time Pulitzer Prize author and advocate for fistula, Nicholas Kristof.                                        

Thank you so much for your continued support of the girls and women in our programs as they improve their lives.   We appreciate your generosity through GlobalGiving and look forward to sharing more updates on our resilient QFE participants.

A natural part of childhood is playing in the dirt
A natural part of childhood is playing in the dirt
One of our girls planted a small shamba (garden)
One of our girls planted a small shamba (garden)
Happy graduation, Ann!
Happy graduation, Ann!
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First phase complete!
First phase complete!

Last year, Quilts for Empowerment dreamed of a permanent place to house our girls’ program.  We wanted to reach even more girls with a safe place to live, therapeutic care, and ongoing support after a terrible time in their lives.  The girls in our program have lived through unimaginable abuse, hardship, and violence and we want them all to have a safe place to dream big dreams.

We started raising money for the Girls’ Home Project and, over the next few months, this dream transformed into a plan for a community resource center with even bigger goals in mind: to expand QFE’s successful work with young survivors of gender-based violence by increasing the number of girls we can safely house and by adding an afterschool program in local schools to prevent gender-based violence.  It will also give the people of Luanda a community meeting place and serve as our new headquarters for QFE’s program teaching women who experienced obstetric fistula to sew, start a business, and improve their livelihoods. 

Your financial support, through our partnership with GlobalGiving, has allowed us to begin planning for the final major phase of construction on this enormous project: the construction of the three-story main building.  

This is how far we have come already:  As of today, we have completed the first phase of construction. The girls in our residential program recently moved into the two houses on land donated to QFE and out of their cramped apartments.  A small event and blessing by a local priest were held to celebrate this important milestone.

Here are some highlights from this first phase which has improved the local economy by employing local workers:

  • Leveling the land and clearing the site
  • Constructing a security wall
  • Building a gate and guardhouse
  • Digging a borehole and hitting water
  • Building a water tank platform, installing tanks, and a water pump
  • Constructing the foundation of the two small houses. They will house the girls while construction continues and eventually be the workspace for the women’s sewing program.
  • Bringing electricity to the site
  • Masonry and framing
  • Wall, windows, doors
  • Showers, bathroom, and kitchen
  • Painting inside, painting outside, painting the wall
  • Clearing the site so the girls have space to play 

As we continue to fundraise for the final phase of the Girls’ Home Project / community resource center, Quilts for Empowerment’s Board of Directors, volunteer fundraisers, staff in Kenya and the U.S., and most of all, women and girls in our programs, thank you for your donation and support!

Check out this short video that shows our program participants and the construction of the community resource center: QFE's Community Resource Center

Please also share this with your contacts and invite them to consider donating to this worthy, ongoing project.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at quilts4empower@gmail.com.

With great appreciation,

Mary Ann McCammon & the Quilts for Empowerment team

QFE girls playing in the open yard
QFE girls playing in the open yard
Local priest has blessed the house
Local priest has blessed the house
QFE Girls' Program participants
QFE Girls' Program participants
Moving furniture & bedding for the girls
Moving furniture & bedding for the girls
QFE Women's Program participants at celebration
QFE Women's Program participants at celebration

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Organization Information

Quilts for Empowerment

Location: Sherwood, OR - USA
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Project Leader:
Mary Ann McCammon
Sherwood, OR United States
$14,194 raised of $20,000 goal
 
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