While I might have a few issues with the aid and development industry in countries like Kenya (who arguably does not need foreign aid, just good governance and accountability), the incredible impact of sponsoring a student’s education is something I whole-heartedly support and emphatically encourage people to do. The cliché that there is no greater gift than education resonates as fact in developing countries and there is no shorter, sustainable way out of poverty than going to school. If you want to assist those less fortunate, then sponsoring a student is the most effective way to ensure you make a real difference.
At Kiota Children’s Home, 20 children receive support from Dutch and Australian sponsors. In September, we were fortunate to introduce Sheila to Ndunda, who she sponsors. Ndunda’s story is sad, but not unusual – his parents abandoned the children and he was found with his younger brother picking through the garbage dump when he was only 5 years old. Since arriving at Kiota, he has learnt social skills (although he is still very shy), has been able to attend school and has access to counselling. He has a chance at a decent future now. Moreover, when Sheila visited with her friend Christine, they “Packed For A Purpose” (www.packforapurpose.org) and were able to bring specific items needed at Kiota – pens, exercise books, coloured pencils, etc. There is more than one way to give!
Jared wanted to return to university to finish a Bachelor of Public Health after his first sponsor was no longer able to support him. Thanks to Bev, he is completing his degree this year. Bev travelled to Uganda last year to meet Jared and spent time with his relatives, seeing his life. From the first time I met Jared in 2012 to the time of introducing him and Bev in 2014, I saw a remarkable change in him. He seemed to have grown, which for a man in his mid-20s was unlikely. But he stood up straighter and had more confidence. Regardless of any academic results, just this change in demeanour will surely take him further than the shy boy of two years previous.
Pauline travelled in Kenya in 2014 and, upon learning the plight of girls in education, wanted to sponsor a young woman. Sylvia is a Maasai girl who achieved excellent marks in her primary school exams, but her prospects of getting to secondary school were slim to none. The primary school she had attended had largely waived her fees in the knowledge that her parents were extremely poor but that Sylvia was very bright. A secondary school would not make the same allowance. Enter Pauline, and Sylvia is attending boarding school in Narok, the closest town to her family yet still 100km away. She now has the opportunity to avoid an early marriage and a life of walking miles to fetch water and firewood.
Education is life-changing and we are committed to affording as many students the opportunity to go to school as we can. In Melbourne, Australia we hosted a fund raising event in May 2015. Guests were invited to sponsor individual students or make a one-off donation. The money we collected from the donations has been given to the Titus Ngoyoni Memorial Primary School to replace the desks and chairs, which are in severe disrepair. We intend to make the Melbourne event an annual one so we can continue to raise funds for needy schools and homes.
Of course there are still plenty of students who would benefit from sponsorship. Susanna is a Maasai girl from the same area as Sylvia who is starting secondary school this year. Winnie is a young woman in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, who has two more years of secondary school to complete. There are children at Kiota Childen’s Home who require support for primary education. Mara Explorers Camp in the Maasai Mara works closely with their local community to identify students in need. And Sunrise of Africa School in Kitengela has 30% of their students attending on scholarship due to the generosity of donors. There is even a single mother working in our local bar trying to raise money to finish her nursing degree. In Kenya there are 91 registered nurses and 64 enrolled nurses per 100,000 people. Compare that with Australia where there are 1195.8 nurses per 100,000 people – and Australia claims to have a health care crisis! Sponsoring a nursing degree would not just impact the student, but all the extra people who can access her care.
The value of education in Kenya
Education is most needed in rural communities where schooling costs are twelve to twenty times as much as the monthly income of parents, despite the abolition of secondary school fees. The costs are for uniforms, shoes, text books, stationery and boarding fees. This means secondary school is out of reach for the poorest households and early marriage for their daughters is seen as a much more immediate way out of financial strife through the dowry payment. In Kenya, one in ten young people never complete primary school and so struggle to find well-paid work. Thus there is 60% youth (18-35 years) unemployment. When you consider that an average wage earner supports about a dozen family members, the impact of an education that can secure a job is huge for a whole community. Yet, one million children are still out of school in this country. While this number is only half of what it was in 1999, it is still the ninth highest of any country in the world.
While committing to an ongoing sponsorship of a child can seem a little daunting, the relationships we have seen forming between sponsor and student are far more rewarding than anyone imagined. Of course, it is important to be updated on the academic progress of the student, but a personal connection is also possible and can be amazing – as evidenced by Bev and Jared mentioned earlier. If you are interested in connecting directly with a student who needs sponsorship, do contact us. We are committed to ensuring students get the education and resources they need to succeed and also to enabling you to have the accountability and connection you are looking for. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how you can directly transform a young Kenyan’s life today.