January through March in Kakamega is the busiest time of all as students start their new school year. During this time, KOCC staff are absurdly busy but also excited as they oversee the placement of more than 350 students in schools all over western Kenya.
This year, the Care Centre is home to 47 elementary age students, nine of whom came in new as of January. The new children had been a part of our Home-based Program, but the KOCC management and staff determined that conditions in their homes were so difficult that they needed the kind of protection and environment that the Care Centre offers. During the first three months at the Care Centre, these children have made good friends, and their faces show relief and happiness as they experience the warmth and support of the Care Centre community.
The new school year has brought a number of positive changes for the Care Centre children, geared to improving their academic performance, which is particularly important in Kenya where national test scores determine a child’s educational opportunities. A math teacher from one of the local schools now comes to the Care Centre two nights a week to tutor older students. The Care Centre’s Activities and Education Director Kelvin Kalogoni has also organized small study groups, during which the children lead and teach each other. Test scores have already shown improvement since these initiatives began, and the children are enthusiastic about their learning, challenge one another, and bring more questions and thoughtfulness to their studies.
Another innovation at the Care Centre involves matching each child to a staff member who serves as their mentor. Students check in regularly with their mentors, are able to talk about things important to them, receive guidance and help with academics, and feel extra special love and care from this connection.
Home-based Family Care Program
In December, KOCC’s Home-based Field Worker Lucy Khasoha led six KOCC graduates in conducting the second annual Monitoring Assessment, during which they visited each home-based child’s home for two hours and examined the positive and negative aspects of each situation. This major effort was very important, not only because it provides an opportunity to check in with parents or guardians, but also to assess and plan for the needs of those homes which lack strong models of care. This year's assessment, which resulted in a 10-page document about every family, also alerted us to some serious problems such as roofs in disrepair and pit latrines full or falling in. We are now working on programs to address these concerns.
At the start of the new school year, the KOCC management committee selected 15 children to be added to the home-based program. Please help us find sponsors for these 15 new home-based children. To learn more about the home-based program, click here.
Fourteen new Form I (first year) students started high school through Friends of Kakamega (FoK) sponsorships, and it was an exciting time for all involved. The Kenyan Ministry of Education assigns students to schools based on their exam scores at the end of eighth grade. We were very proud of the marks our students scored on their exams, especially Emmanuel, a Home-based boy who scored in the top 1% nationwide.
With the help of Friends of Kakamega’s sponsors, 52 teenagers are going to high school, where they have opportunities to socialize and get to know people from a broader area, and to mature into well-rounded and competent adults. KOCC also runs the Crossroads Springs Africa (CSA) High School Program, which sends another 120 young people to high school through support from CSA. Through the two programs, KOCC sends nearly 175 students to high school.
High School Retreat
In December, KOCC held a first-of-its-kind 4-day retreat for ALL 175 high school students in its programs, using the facilities of a high school that was empty during vacation. Sessions covered topics such as life skills, relationships, health, substance abuse, HIV, leadership, and integrity. Students participated in games, competitions, and a talent night, and they also had plenty of time to just hang out with their peers. Deemed a great success by all involved, students and staff expressed their hope for similar events in the future. We are very grateful to Crossroads Springs Africa for providing funds for such an important event.
We have much exciting news to report in Friends of Kakamega’s 15th anniversary year.
We could not think of a better $32 investment in the futures of these children and families, and both we and they send heartfelt thanks to all who contributed.
New staff in Kenya and Maine keep us moving forward.
Both of these women are skilled professionals who care deeply about making a difference through their work. We offer a hearty welcome and congratulations to Lucy and Lydia, and we thank them for accepting these challenging roles.
The new position includes working with KOCC to develop new programs in Kenya, managing old and new collaborations on both sides of the ocean, and organizing our work so it attracts new partners and larger funding through foundations and planned giving. To make all of this happen, we needed someone who understands the Kakamega community and Kenyan social and political issues, and who has the experience, education, and commitment to accomplish our goals. John fits the bill perfectly since he has been volunteering with our project since 2003, has a master’s degree related to NGO management, and has visited Kenya numerous times, both at the KOCC and for a graduate project in Nairobi.
He has been working for Friends of Kakamega since the start of 2017, applying his knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm to the project in many capacities. His accomplishments so far include building our new website (see below), Guidestar certification, new financial systems, and, most of all, helping us develop new programs, update our mission, and work with KOCC to craft a strategic vision for our future. His deep knowledge of and experience with our programs come from his being the son of our founder and director Sukie Rice. We feel blessed that he is committed to continuing and expanding what Suke helped start with the same dedication and energy that she has brought to the organization thus far. Thanks to John, you will notice changes and improvements in the way we do things and communicate.
We are proud of our new and improved website and invite you to visit it to learn more about KOCC’s programs. You’ll find the site to be rich with information and photos, and we’ve also made it easy to donate online and pay sponsorships in automatic monthly installments.
You're actually reading this newsletter on our new site, so please have look around by clicking through the navigation menu at the top of this page.
Participants in our new Strong & Healthy Young Women program recently learned how to build kitchen sack gardens as part of a workshop promoting better nutrition.
Following the nutrition workshop, the twenty-six young women and Priscah got hands-on experience by filling and planting vegetable sack gardens on a small strip of empty land behind the Care Centre. Soon, participants will be harvesting their own sack garden produce at home, and the low-cost planters pictured in this post will be producing food for Care Centre children while serving as an inspiration to visitors and passerby.
Nathan had to leave high school after his sophomore year for lack of fees and was out of school for a year before joining our program. In his first year in the program, he grew maize for both food and sale and reinvested his profits in the purchase of a young calf.
Nathan eagerly applied his lessons in planning, marketing, and cost-effective, mostly organic soil fertility management. He worked hard to make compost for his farm and has demonstrated great foresight by rotating his crops and expanding his business. For example, his cow, now a year old, produces manure that fertilizes his horticulture crops and increases his yields even more. It is likely that his cow could bring more income every month than many of his neighbors can squeeze from their maize farms in an entire year.
We commend Nathan for his hard work, sacrifices, and dedication to a farm endeavor that has great potential but requires a lot of hard, dirty, and exhausting work. While some of his similarly situated peers reject farm work and search for unavailable white-collar jobs, Nathan is hard at work each day improving the future for himself and his family.
We are thrilled to announce that we have recently launched Strong & Healthy Young Women, our fourth small farm business program for out-of-school youth.
The program offers 25 young women training in small business planning and income-oriented farm production or trading, while also providing them with micro-grants to help start their independent ventures.
Similar to our other agricultural/small business programs, Strong & Healthy Young Women adds important new components. The participants, most of whom are young mothers, will also get training in child & maternal nutrition; participate in workshops on life skills, such as financial literacy; and attend a retreat which will cover sexual and reproductive health.
Building on our success with similar programs, we are excited to be able to keep expanding our efforts to help deserving but vulnerable young people build strong, independent, and healthy lives for themselves and their families.
We are grateful to the Avison Charitable Fund for funding this program.
High school students work very hard in Kenya, especially at boarding school where they are tasked with up to sixteen hours a day of classes and studying.
The whole experience is considered preparation for a single, comprehensive, three-week examination at the end of high school. Despite this tremendous workload and intense pressure to perform, most students see education as the key to a better life, and they place great value on the opportunity to work hard each day at school.
We are proud of all our high school students' efforts and commend them for their dedication.
Our small farm business programs manager Alfred Kitayi often sends us photos from his mobile phone that illustrate the positive impact our programs have on the community's youth.
As we move from our third to fourth small "agribusiness" training program, we share in his happiness with the results. Participating youth are now growing more food for their families, earning meaningful cash incomes from their harvests, and reinvesting their profits in farm animals (pictured) and other business activities. Everyone involved is very excited about the outcomes so far!
When Ida visited the U.S. a year ago, he visited the Emma Willard School, a boarding school for girls in Troy, New York. He taught the girls about Kenyan history and the Care Centre’s work. Sukie told Ida that he was planting seeds during his visit, and we’d have to wait and see when, where, and how big they would grow. Ida recently recalled that because seeds he planted at Emma Willard have blossomed and continue to grow, much to the delight of all involved. In March, a group of Emma Willard students visited the project in Kakamega on a cultural exchange trip, which was a great success.
Led by FoK board member, Leah Bennett, 11 girls and 2 chaperones traveled to Kakamega and stayed at the Care Centre for two weeks.The group included girls from China, Korea, Mexico, Bahrain, and Japan, as well as the U.S. The girls learned about life in Kenya, including how to do laundry by hand and Kenyan dances, as well as about Kenyan education and food. They also learned about the history of the project and conditions in Kenya that necessitated it; the history of colonialism and how the current political system emerged; and traditional women’s roles, tribal practices such as female circumcision, and how they gave rise to today's gender roles and expectations.
The Emma Willard girls taught the "Whip Nae Nae" dance and spent time with kids playing, reading stories, and helping with homework. The Mexican girls explained more about where they're from, brought traditional costumes, taught the Macarena, and handed out Mexican candies.
Ida’s seeds grew and multiplied when the Emma Willard girls returned to school committed to raising funds for and awareness of the Care Centre and its work.
Friends of Kakamega's News & Updates
This page offers occasional highlights, news, and updates about our work in Kakamega.