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 Education  Kenya Project #20229

Sponsor and Support Students in Rural Kenya

by Kenya Keys
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Sponsor and Support  Students in Rural Kenya
Noah outside his home
Noah outside his home

The Power of Education

Noah grew up in Magale Village and is the first of his siblings to complete high school and earn a college degree. His mother raised Noah and his 12 siblings alone since the passing of his father when he was a child. Being one of 13 children was not easy and his mother struggled to make ends meet as a farmer. Without the support from Kenya Keys, Noah would not have been able to pay the required fees for high school or college to make it where he is today: the top student in his graduating college class with a scholarship to begin a Master’s program in Education. At Kenya Keys we strive to unlock the potential of all the students we sponsor by eliminating the financial roadblocks to an education and are so proud to see all that Noah has accomplished.

The relationship between Noah and Kenya Keys began over 8 years ago when he was preparing to enter into high school at Taru Secondary School. Noah has always been a strong student and scored very high on his high school entrance exam, the KPCE, which gained him a seat at Taru Secondary School. Noah, like many other bright, talented young minds, did not come from a family with enough money to pay for his high school education. Noah applied for sponsorship with Kenya Keys and it was immediately clear he was determined and intelligent and that with the sponsorship he would be able to get the education needed to help provide for his mother and 12 siblings in the future.

Noah just graduated from the University in Kibabi with a degree in Education and will soon begin a Master’s program in Education at Kibabi. He has been such an outstanding student, getting straight A’s, that he has been offered a scholarship for his Master’s program. Graduating not only at the top of your class, but the first, demonstrates the motivation and intelligence Noah possesses.

Noah has embarked on a path that would not have been possible without Kenya Keys. The mentorship and support from Kenya Keys staff, alumni and Noah’s sponsor enabled Noah to get the education he desired but could not afford. To date, Noah is the highest-level graduate Kenya Keys has had the pleasure of sponsoring. The college degree Noah earned and the Master’s degree he will complete over the next few years will enable him to sponsor his own family members in the future to complete their education and pursue their own dreams.

We have seen first- hand the power of an education and the doors that open with the help of a sponsorship to continue education past the 8th grade. The next cohort of students will be applying for sponsorship in the next few months and we are always accepting new sponsors. Contact Kenya Keys if you would like to sponsor a student in the upcoming year.

 

The Kenya Keys Sponsorship Program now provides sponsorships to 145 secondary students, 146 college students and 3 staff members. We will be accepting new students into the program in December. If you are interested in sponsoring a student, or have questions regarding the Sponsorship Fund, please contact linda@kenyakeys.org.

Noah and his mother at his college graduation
Noah and his mother at his college graduation
Noah and his cousin at his college graduation
Noah and his cousin at his college graduation
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Director Joseph Mwengea and Winnie at her college
Director Joseph Mwengea and Winnie at her college

Imagine being a young 20-year old female, alone in the small rented room you call home, and being awakened in the middle of the night by the fearful reality that someone is trying to break in. This was the terrifying experience of one of our college students recently.  Winnie is a dynamic and engaging young student who came to Kenya Keys last year seeking a sponsorship so she could fulfill her dream of completing a college education. 

Winnie had always been a bright student and had high hopes of attending college - until her father died just as she was graduating from high school.  Her mother had no education so could only work on the family plot (shamba) to raise food for Winnie and her three siblings.  It had been a difficult life for Winnie, helping her family as best she could while yearning to finish school. Because of her good grades and dedication to school, she had received several scholarships, but they were only for a semester or two at a time.  Always she had to return home, with no means to pay for more classes. 

Winnie never gave up on her dream of completing college. When she learned of Kenya Keys, she made a fervent plea for a sponsorship.  Her academic achievements were outstanding, her drive unparalleled and her enthusiasm contagious. Because of the generosity of a Kenya Keys sponsor, Winnie’s goal of embarking on a college degree fulltime came true and she was able to enroll in a Bachelor of Science program in Economics and Statistics.  

A Kenya Keys college sponsorship only guarantees a student the required tuition and fees for school. The students’ families are expected to arrange housing, often with nearby relatives or friends.  But Winnie had no such support, so took a room in a low-cost area near her college.  She was rarely in her room as she spent long hours at school studying.  But on that night, she was there, alone, and she was terrified.

Fortunately, someone happened by and scared away the potential intruder.  And, serendipitously, Joseph, the Kenya Keys Director, was in the area just after this incident and made a visit to Winnie.  When she told him about the potential intrusion, he knew he had to do something to keep her safe – immediately. Because of the money available in the Kenya Keys Sponsorship Fund, Joseph was able to move Winnie into secure on-campus housing so she could continue her studies, assured of safe housing and food.

The Kenya Keys staff realized that Winnie was not the only student in stressful situations, impeding their opportunity for success at school.  The growing need for food and housing for many of the college students living far from home became clear. Many students were found living in unsafe conditions, some close to starvation.  They never complained, nor asked for anything – they were just so grateful to be given the opportunity to attend college.

Kenya Keys is committed to the success of our students: this means providing safe housing, meals and access to computers for all of them.  We want to keep the cost of individual sponsorships low enough to enable families and individuals to be able to afford sponsoring a student, but we must also provide for the safety and well-being of these students.  This is why the Kenya Keys Sponsorship Fund is so vital.

This special Fund made it possible for Winnie to feel safe – and to thrive in school. She is now looking toward graduation this winter, fulfilling her lifelong dream of earning a college degree.  There are currently 130 other Kenya Keys-sponsored students in colleges throughout Kenya: 64 girls and 66 boys. More students will graduate from secondary school this winter and embark on their college careers. Through generous contributions to our Sponsorship Fund, our staff in Kenya will be able to ensure that all of these students have adequate housing, food and support, enabling them to thrive in college. Please visit our website below for more information.

Winnie and her mother in their shamba (farm plot)
Winnie and her mother in their shamba (farm plot)
Winnie's mother
Winnie's mother
Winnie inside her home
Winnie inside her home
The 2018 graduating class of sponsored students
The 2018 graduating class of sponsored students

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New students selected for Kenya Keys sponsorships
New students selected for Kenya Keys sponsorships

We are excited to welcome 40 new students into our Kenya Keys family!

Each year Kenya Keys receives hundreds of applications for sponsorships from students wanting to continue their education. Children love to learn and know that their futures depend on getting an education, yet so few families in rural Kenya can afford to pay the required school fees for secondary school.  A Kenya Keys sponsorship is their only hope to continue in school.

Can you imagine having to decide who gets one of the coveted Kenya Keys’ sponsorships?  Fortunately, we have a dedicated Sponsorship Team of local Kenyans on our Kenya Keys Board of Directors who carefully review each application, the school referrals, academic standing and the family situation. They look for a commitment to education and the community, family need and leadership potential.  

It is a long and challenging process, and in the end, only 40 new students are taken each year: students like Joyce whose parents both died of AIDs when she was young.  Her little brother also died.  Fearful that she might also have the disease, her uncles rejected her, leaving only her elderly grandmother to take her in.  When she learned that she had scored well on the national exams and been accepted to Taru Secondary School, Joyce and her grandmother walked 18 miles to the school.  But her grandmother had no money to pay the school fees or provide the needed supplies.  They turned to Kenya Keys.  Joyce now has an entire book club in Oregon sponsoring her, with 10 American “mamas” supporting and encouraging her!

We welcome Joyce and all of our new students, and celebrate with them the joy of the possibilities ahead. As students in our program they will all receive extensive support from our staff, mentoring from Kenya Keys alumni, and multiple leadership training opportunities.  But most importantly, they have a connection to someone on the other side of the world that believes in them, cares about them and wants them to succeed – that is the essence of our Sponsorship Program.

Our students are each carefully matched with a unique sponsor. If you are interested in sponsoring a student, please contact missy@kenyakeys.org.

Joyce is jubilant to begin her secondary education
Joyce is jubilant to begin her secondary education
Kenya Keys staff help students through challenges
Kenya Keys staff help students through challenges
Kenya Keys alumni return to mentor new students
Kenya Keys alumni return to mentor new students
Students listen intently during conference
Students listen intently during conference
Students get the 'wiggles' out during conference
Students get the 'wiggles' out during conference
Community members, teachers & alumni give support
Community members, teachers & alumni give support
Hundreds of students benefit from sponsorships
Hundreds of students benefit from sponsorships
Joyce now has many American "mamas" supporting her
Joyce now has many American "mamas" supporting her
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Missy and Miriam - forever friends
Missy and Miriam - forever friends

When I traveled to Taru village in 2017, I met Miriam, the girl my family sponsors through Kenya Keys. She had inspired me the moment I heard her story, and it’s been an honor and a joy to be a part of her education as she makes a difference in the world.

While in secondary school, Miriam founded the Save Our Sisters Club (SOS), helping girls learn to advocate for themselves. She and other girls would gather to discuss issues important to them, including the importance of education, hygiene, study skills and other topics. They would visit other schools, teaching younger girls, mentoring them and helping them see the value of staying in school. 

Though shy and quiet when we met, I could feel Miriam yearning to make a difference in the world. After two weeks in Taru, I could see that her reach has gone farther than even she knew. The Save Our Sisters Club has grown tremendously and is holding conferences, helping girls stay in school, develop leadership skills and advocate for important causes.

Undoubtedly, Miriam’s life has changed because she has been able to pursue an education, now attending college.  I am grateful to be a part of that. And because she is a strong woman, the lives of all those around her will also be better. 

It would, however, be vastly understating her impact to say that only those in Kenya have felt her influence. When I saw her again in 2018 I felt a familiar surge of joy at seeing a friend. As we talked about our families and she asked about my kids by name, I was touched that she remembered their names so well when she had only seen pictures or read about them in letters. 

Pulling out pictures, she said, “Of course I remember them! I hope I can meet Ashlyn one day.” My daughter, Ashlyn, is ten, and wants very much to meet this girl who has inspired her and helped her value her own education. I want my daughter to have strong role models, to see women who are sharing their story and making a difference in their community. And undoubtedly, this dynamic student, this strong woman, this loyal friend, is one of them. 

Education changes lives, that is certain. But just how many lives are changed, well, only time will tell. 

Each year, Kenya Keys provides sponsorships to over 200 secondary and college students from the rural poverty-stricken Kinango Constituancy of Kenya.  If you are interested in sponsoring a student, please contact Missy at missy.kenyakeys@gmail.com or visit our website at www.kenyakeys.org.

Missy and Miriam meet in Taru Village
Missy and Miriam meet in Taru Village
Daughter Ashlyn loves to read letters from Miriam
Daughter Ashlyn loves to read letters from Miriam

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Sponsor Susan Goodwin with Flora and her son
Sponsor Susan Goodwin with Flora and her son

One of the most rewarding things about a Kenya Keys visit to the village of Taru is being able to watch as sponsors meet the students they have sponsored - sometimes for many years.  It is always tinged with a bit of disbelief for both the sponsor and the student.  "Really? The person across the world, whose name I've heard and whose life I have learned about, is really YOU?" It’s one thing to read the biography of a student  who is a “first generation learner”, a student who could never go to school without outside assistance.  It’s another thing to get to meet them, to have that human connection!

For countless students in the Taru area of rural Kenya, the door to further education is simply shut after 8th grade because students have to pay to attend secondary school.  Poverty can lock up their potential.  But through a Kenya Keys sponsorship, a whole new world opens up to the student.  If they perform well and show dedication and leadership potential, they can even go on to college, fulfilling a dream they never thought possible. This is a promise we make to them, and sponsors are the key to fulfilling that promise. 

Sponsors are people who value education and feel grateful to be able to pass this gift on to a student or students. They are caring and compassionate.  But it’s almost impossible for them to realize how huge the impact of their sponsorship is on their student, and their entire family.  That family has now been infused with hope! 

Just as meeting their student is a powerful experience for sponsors, imagine how overwhelming it must be for the students to come face to face with the person who has made it possible for the them to have a better future. It is a unique honor for a student to meet their sponsor.  This was true for Flora, who traveled with her 2-year old son for 14 hours one way on public transportation  just to meet one of her cherished sponsors from years past. Hearing that Susan Goodwin was arriving in Kenya with the 2018 Kenya Keys team, Flora knew she had to meet her to tell her personally  "asante sana" (thank you).  It was because of the generosity and caring of Susan and her subsequent sponsors that Flora completed her college education and is employed as a math and science teacher today.  This sponsorship was the key to her future. After years of sharing letters and photos, they were finally together. Susan and Flora exchanged hugs and stories and held on to each other in gratitude.  

After only being in Taru for a few hours, Flora had to begin the 14-hour journey home so she could return to work. But it was a journey she made with a heart filled with gratitude.

Susan later met our first Kenya Keys staff member, also named Susan, whom she sponsored - ushering in our program of having sponsors support vital staff in Kenya.  Though Kenyan Susan has since taken a job with the county, she returned to Taru village to meet the woman from the U.S. who had made her job with Kenya Keys possible.  It was so rewarding to watch them work side by side, together with Clemence, the new staff member that Susan Goodwin now sponsors, as Kenya Keys prepared for a special alumni conference.  

After meeting these women and many others in the village, Susan had this to say: "their beautiful smiles have poured pearls into my open hands: the colorful kangas (cloths) shower rainbows into my senses and their praises of God in song have streamed gold into my soul.  I do not view them as the poor deprived of this world.  The richness of their character shatters a world of illusion for what is truly important, and I thank them for this priceless gift."

What a difference this one sponsor has made through her ongoing commitment to our sponsorship program, and what a difference every student and staff member she has sponsored is making in Kenya today.  

Sponsors matter. 

Kenya Keys recognizes that not everyone is able to be a sponsor - but everyone can help to make a difference in the lives of these students. Kenya Keys established the special Sponsorship Fund to support students until a sponsor can be found, and provides for the special emergency needs of students as they arise. There are many "cracks" through which impoverished Kenyan students can fall: Kenya Keys is there to catch them, and lift them up so that they too have the opportunity to realize their potential.

The Kenya Keys Sponsorship Program now provides sponsorships to 145 secondary students, 146 college students and 3 staff members. We will be accepting new students into the program in December. If you are interested in sponsoring a student, or have questions regarding the Sponsorship Fund, please contact linda@kenyakeys.org.

Read more about our sponsors' experiences meeting their students in the links to our blogs below.

Susan and Susan, our first sponsored staff member
Susan and Susan, our first sponsored staff member
Susan with sponsored staff Clemence and her mother
Susan with sponsored staff Clemence and her mother

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Kenya Keys

Location: Lake Oswego, OR - USA
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Project Leader:
Deborah Shimkus
Lake Oswego, OR United States
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