Build a Rescue Center for At-Risk Girls in Kenya

by Kenya Keys
Egu students sleeping on their desks
Egu students sleeping on their desks

Wow! Thanks to you, our Usalama Center project reached it’s funding goal as of December 31, 2013. We couldn’t be more excited! Our research team has determined that using space in an existing structure will be a better use of funds, so we won’t be building a stand-alone Usalama Center. That means all the money raised will be used to provide direct services for at-risk girls in the region. 

As our previous reports have illustrated, these services will include conferences for girls, sanitary kits, mentoring by the SOS (Save Our Sisters) group, educational programs for parents, and many additional resources and services. All of these services will be geared to meeting established project objectives: training in assertiveness, life skills, and study habits; family counseling to support girls' education; support and tutoring for girls who are pregnant; and business training so girls can become self-sufficient. The Usalama Center team will work with the Kenyan-based Board of Directors to make service decisions in accordance with our objectives. They will also look for ways to make the Usalama Center self-sustaining. 

We are excited to tell you about our new project on GlobalGiving: Fuel Education for Eager Kenyan Students. The Fueling Education project was really started by the students of Egu Primary School. Because they have no electricity at home, many students choose to stay at the school to study by the light of the one generator-powered lightbulb in the area. After studying for hours, and sharing a simple meal, the students push their desks together and sleep at the school. They stay there all week, traveling home for the weekend and then going through the same routine the next week. 

Many of the students who want to participate have not been able to join their peers because they are unable to contribute grain for the shared meal. The Fueling Education project is simply a way for donors to guarantee that this program, initiated by Kenyan primary students, is available to everyone. Funds raised through this program provide grain for students who cannot bring their own. It also ensures that the generator-powered light is always functioning. Check out the project page to see more pictures of the students who participate in Fueling Education.

Rescuing girls improves life for everyone
Rescuing girls improves life for everyone


Happy Girls
Happy Girls

As you've probably noticed, our project reports usually feature a story of a girl or woman in Kenya. The story generally illustrates the challenges she has overcome and what she is doing to make a better life for herself and for those around her. We love their stories!

This report tells a slightly different story. This story is about you. If you are reading this project report, you have touched the lives of many girls in Kenya this year. Through your donation, you opened the door for girls in our service area to stay in school, to have safe and clean living and learning environments, to get books in their hands, to maintain their dignity, and, ultimately, to change their lives.

The Usalama Center is still in the planning stages, but the Kenya Keys team is not waiting to provide "rescue" services for the girls in rural Kenya. Your donation helped Kenya Keys provide the following services to girls in 2013:

  • Secondary school sponsorships for 51 girls
  • Post-secondary school sponsorships for 15 girls
  • A ground-breaking girls conference (Binti Zinduka) with 240 girls in attendance, which featured the film Girl Rising
  • Ongoing mentoring for 250 girls, provided by the 17 girls who belong to the SOS (Save Our Sisters) girls advocacy group
  • 360 sanitary kits to be distributed by the SOS girls as they visit area schools
  • Hundreds of new books to stock the shelves of 9 Kenya Keys-run libraries 

And that's just a snapshot of what you've done in Kenya - we could never measure all the benefits of what your donations enable. You've also helped us host six Girl Rising events in Oregon, Utah, and California. These events have educated hundreds of people about the challenges girls face and the incalculable benefits of educating girls. Through these events, we also raised thousands of dollars for girls in Kenya.

There's no doubt about it - 2013 was a good year for girls in Kenya, because of you. It really isn't possible to fully express our gratitude to you for what you have given. As you'll see in the video (click the link below), finding a way to express their thanks is hard for Kenyans too. We hope you enjoy this short thank you - you deserve it! Asante sana!


Miriam Mwamose
Miriam Mwamose

Meet Miriam Mwamose. Miriam’s story, like so many stories in Kenya, is filled with unexpected twists, many heartbreaking challenges, and frequent miracles. As a junior in secondary school, Miriam already knew she wanted to change the world. A vocal human rights advocate, she leapt at the invitation to start a girls advocacy group. Miriam was the founder of Save Our Sisters (SOS). SOS is made up of female secondary school students who want to mentor younger girls to help them stay in school. Miriam led the group until the time that she graduated from secondary school.

The Usalama Center will be a hub for SOS group activities and mentoring. While we complete the research and planning phases of the Usalama Center, we have already started providing some of the services needed by girls in the region. One of those services that has been in the works for some time is a ground-breaking conference provided by girls and for girls.

Binti Zinduka means “Girl Rising” in Swahili. It’s the name of a girls conference planned for girls in our service area. It was planned jointly by Kenya Keys and the SOS group. Everyone was so eager to participate in this conference, the first of its kind in rural Kenya.

As the conference plans started taking shape, Rinda remembered Miriam Mwamose and asked Joseph Mwengea, our in-country director, about where she was now. That was when we realized that somehow Miriam got lost after graduation. No one in Kenya Keys knew what became of her. Through the process of planning the Binti Zinduka conference, we found Miriam. Although she had qualified for higher education, she could not afford the tuition and so she had been living in her village, simply doing what she could to keep learning and advocate for others.

The Binti Zinduka conference was successful by every measure. Nearly 300 girls traveled from great distances to attend. The presentations were informative and inspiring. The workshops taught valuable skills and allowed girls to gain strength from each other. Artistic presentations communicated the power and beauty of girls rising to meet the challenges that surround them and their communities. 

In keeping with Miriam’s desire to be a role model and advocate for others, her own experience in the conference will serve as a powerful example to girls like her. Through her participation, Kenya Keys was able to find a sponsor who will support Miriam’s goal to continue her education. When girls wonder if it’s worth it to stay in school, or if their involvement in good causes is truly valuable, they need look no further than Miriam to find their answer. We look forward to watching Miriam continue her education and her significant, positive influence on others. 

We greatly value your contributions to the Usalama Center. Stories like Miriam’s will become even more common as ongoing donations allow us to continue to provide opportunities for learning and growth.

SOS Girls Advocacy Group
SOS Girls Advocacy Group


The Usalama Team
The Usalama Team

Patience Nadzua (standing in the front of the Usalama Team photo) is small in only one way: her physical stature. In every other way, she is larger than life. Although suffering from crippling physical infirmities, she doesn’t let anything stop her. She is a vibrant activist for girls in her community. She operates a sewing school in her mud hut, using treadle sewing machines because she has no electricity. Now she is part of the Usalama Center research team and has been traveling with the team to visit other rescue centers in the area.

The team has been very fortunate to have the help of Edidah Tumwebaze. She is an inspirational writer and educator, living in Mombasa. The nonprofit organization she heads—Rising Hope Foundation—also operates a rescue center for girls. Edidah has become a valuable mentor and has given generously of her time and expertise. With her help, the Usalama Center team has developed a set of benchmarks used to evaluate each rescue center visited by the team. These benchmarks include things like:

  • What programs are available for girls?
  • What skills are required for staff members?
  • How does the center manage the process of safely releasing girls from the center?
  • What role do local authorities play in the center?
  • What are the major challenges faced by those who are running the center?

By knowing what to look for, gaining a better understanding of how rescue centers work, and consulting with knowledgable experts in the field, the Usalama Center team is better equipped to work with leaders in the community to identify the needs of local girls and their families as well as to explore how the Usalama Center can best meet those needs within the parameters of available resources. 

You can join Patience and the rest of the team in advocating for at-risk girls by spreading the word and donating to the Usalama Center.

Edidah Tumwebaze
Edidah Tumwebaze

We are thrilled by the widespread support we received during the Open Challenge. During the month of April, we raised $22,472 and won nearly $5,000 in bonus grants and matching funds. Each contribution will make a big difference in the lives of the girls Kenya Keys serves in the Taru region. The funds we are raising will allow us to more confidently research and built the best possible rescue center.

Our Kenyan team: Susan Nyamawi, Joseph Mwengea, Grace Kariuki, Raphael Mangisi, Miriam Karisa, and Anna Mapendo are busy conducting site visits at rescue centers throughout Kenya. They are learning about programs, services, policies, and infrastructure from the most successful rescue centers in the area so that the Usalama Center will mirror best practices in the field. They, along with the Kenyan-based Board of Directors are evaluating locations and launching the initial organizational efforts and inquiries required to begin the construction of the Center. 

Mama (a title of respect) Veronicah is a woman grieving for the tragic loss of her stepdaughter, Cicilia—a young girl who was impregnated and committed suicide last year. While talking to Susan Nyamawi, Mama Veronicah pleaded for help for the young girls in the area. She hopes that no parent will have to go through what she has experienced. The Usalama Center will be the primary way of supporting these young, vulnerable girls—literally rescuing them from the many dangers they face. 

Thank you for contributing to this important project. We still have a long way to go before the Center will be complete. Please visit our project page and share it with others who may be interested in supporting these girls. Asante sana!

The girls of Kenya thank you!
The girls of Kenya thank you!



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Organization Information

Kenya Keys

Location: Lake Oswego, OR - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Megan Wilcken
Project Leader
Lake Oswego, OR United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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