COVID-19 Update: One Step At a Time and
No Summer Trip
We regret to announce that continued presence of the coronavirus around the globe has forced us to indefinitely postpone our plans for the annual August trip to Kakamega. Meanwhile, schools in Kenya remain closed but our staff in Kenya are now doing some essential field work as they deem necessary.
As of July 1st, 2020 there were 6,673 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout Kenya, with 2,089 recovered patients and 149 related deaths. The number of new daily cases is steadily increasing, and no plan for allowing international visitors has been announced. It is clear to us that we will need to wait some time before safely taking our next trip to Kakamega.
We are exploring options for the sponsor letter exchange, but, since the U.S. Post Office suspended mail service to Kenya because of lack of transportation there, it doesn’t look promising at this point. We will continue our efforts to make it happen and keep you posted if and when things change.
In Kakamega, our students are studying from home and schools remain closed with continued postponements of reopening. The current discussion is about a phased re-opening from September at the earliest and moving the exams for Class 8 and Form 4 students well into next year so they have enough time to prepare.
At KOCC, offices remain closed but field staff are again doing home-visits in a very cautious manner. Social workers are delivering workbooks to students and checking in on the families, while agriculture officers are following-up on recently launched youth farm ventures (see Strong Young Women article in this newsletter).
Strong COVID-19 control measures in Kenya have left many Kenyans with no means of livelihood, and the families we support have been hit hard. With your support, we were able to send $38 per month in April and May, and recipients were overwhelmingly grateful. In June, July, and August, we will continue to send families $38/month to help them buy food, soap, and other necessities during a time when they cannot go about normal economic activities. Consequently, we are launching an appeal for another round of giving to the COVID-19 Fund for the June, July, and August stipends. You can donate to this effort now by clicking on the below button.
Above, studying from home, washing hands, and monkeying around with pawpaw.
December Retreat Inspires High School Students
The annual high school retreat took place at Nyang’ori High School over five days and four nights in early December. Nearly all 175 high school students supported by Friends of Kakamega and its partner Crossroads Springs Africa attended. The students learned new life skills, shared opinions in discussion groups, and enjoyed meals, talent shows, games, and conversation together. We haven't yet written about it, so we decided that now is a good time to share news of its overwhelming success.
Each morning started with a plenary session, after which students broke into small groups to dive deeper into the topics presented. The Care Centre staff handled logistics, and ten guest presenters shared their wisdom and life experience. This year’s topics included:
Since a lot of our graduates will not qualify for the few lofty careers that most dream of, such as doctor, lawyer, engineer, or pilot, the most important retreat theme was proactivity and the importance of making one’s own future instead of waiting for it to come knocking. Students were strongly encouraged to work hard and aspire without limit but also to recognize the realities of life in rural Kenya and the importance of having a plan B, C, and D should Plan A not materialize. In this vein, many of the guest speakers were people from the greater Kakamega community who have achieved success in self-employment or small business with sheer determination and a willingness to take calculated risks. They shared how they have made their living from activities that don’t require diplomas, ranging from selling boiled eggs to grafting trees and taking wedding/event photos.
An anonymous survey given at the end of the 5-day event informed us that 98% of attendees agreed or strongly agreed that they learned something new, and 93% agreed or strongly agreed that they want to find out more about something they were told about. One student wrote that (s)he learned “to work on my self esteem to be who I am, and be strong during [any] storm.” Another wrote that (s)he learned to “build my confidence and build the good morals I should have in order to live well with others in society.”
The retreat ended with an assembly to award small prizes and public recognition to top and most improved students and talent show winners. When students went home for the holidays, the general consensus was that this year’s retreat had been another grand success.
Agricultural Business Training Changes Lives
We continue to see exciting progress with programs that give participants a chance to change their lives by learning to farm as a business. Before the coronavirus mandates limited gatherings and travel, the newest class of 25 Strong Young Women were engaged in learning new ways of building a brighter future through agricultural businesses via workshops and site visits. Since then, they have been receiving help via phones calls and stipends to start initial micro-projects.
For five years, we have been training young adults how to reap a meaningful income from farmland, their most valuable physical asset. The new cohort is benefitting from an extended series of inspirational site visits and workshops hosted by guest speakers, exposing them to a wide variety of higher-earning agricultural activities.
In the first few months of this year the new Strong Young Women group visited fish ponds, mushroom farms, value-addition processing centers, poultry farms, diversified horticulture farms, an agriculture training college, and other sites. They also engaged in workshop training for business planning and smart practices in hygiene and sanitation. The site visits and workshops are now on hold, but, when the COVID-19 crisis subsides, participants will continue to get more valuable exposure to new and higher-earning farm activities. Eventually, they will choose activities that suit them best, create business plans, and receive training from experienced practitioners in their chosen fields. To cap it off, each participant will receive a "micro-grant" as start-up capital to help start her venture, and then engage in workshops that will help her scale the businesses by connecting her with micro-finance banks and training her to plan wisely for the use of loan capital. The program is life-changing, and, although it is now running minimally through agriculture officers’ phone calls to participants, we are grateful that it has started and hopeful that it will soon resume in full force.
Group training is now on hold due to coronavirus precautions, but the program continues through agriculture officers’ phone calls. And, in order to keep a strong connection and offer
opportunities during the program's coronavirus-related slowdown, all participants were given $40 to begin an initial micro-project. Most are now rearing chickens for eggs and meat after receiving this boost, and some are doing other ventures such as goat-keeping or growing vegetables for sale.
Our partner organization, Crossroads Springs Africa, is funding a program under the same model for young people who finished high school under sponsorship but did not advance to college. Because it has both young women and young men, this parallel program is called “Strong Young People”.
Beyond the current cohorts, we are excited to announce that as part of our gradual shift to a holistic “Family Care” program model, we are working with clubs from Rotary International to explore the possibility of offering this training to the guardians of over 150 families supported by other Care Centre programs.
Largest-Ever Class of 33 New Form 1's
This January, we sent off our largest-ever class of 33 first-year students to high school. Our partner organization Crossroads Springs Africa supported 15 more. KOCC and its sponsors now have 48 Form One students, a truly incredible achievement we never dreamed of in the early days of our organization.
We extend our gratitude to sponsors who are paying the way, to the KOCC staff who have worked tirelessly to help these students be the best they can be, and to the students families for providing them with the motivation and encouragement they need to work hard towards a better tomorrow.
Currently, these Form 1 students and all the others we support are at home doing their best to continue studying while schools remain closed. Many report that food is scarce and other necessities are unaffordable during this time, and we are doing our best to assist them. You can help us support all the needy people in our programs including these students and their families by contributing to the Relief Fund through the button below.
Friends of Kakamega's News & Updates
This page offers occasional highlights, news, and updates about our work in Kakamega.