When Leila asked (forced) me to write a blog post for the website, I racked my brain for a way to get out of it. It’s not really my “thing” - even my family is lucky to get the occasional email update that is longer than two lines. As it turns out, I’m grateful that she asked (forced). It created the space I needed to reflect on the massive month we’ve had here in Njabini and what a force we are becoming.
Here is a breakdown of the last four weeks:
- We hosted a group of families (30 people in total) from the Africa Yoga Project who lit up our lives for the 5 days they were here. They built a 8x15m greenhouse on our school site which will allow us to grow more of our own produce, supporting our vision of paddock to plate and providing fresh and nutritious produce to our students. Our students will also have the opportunity to learn hands on about horticulture and agriculture.
- Our rockstar volunteer, Charlotte, directed and produced our first school play – School of Rock. The students were broken up into sub groups: actors, choir, marketing committee, and stage crew. We ended with a performance in front of family and friends, and a cast party (any excuse for 150 homemade cupcakes).
- We are in the final stages of getting internet at our school. Coming on the heels of putting up our transformer for electricity, this opens up so many doors for the students and staff.
- Thanks to the generosity of the Barnes Family, we were able to open our computer lab in early August, with 12 laptops and 2 Endless Computers. The students have set up camp in that lab and might never leave.
- Our primary school students attended a Scouts sleep-away camp in Nairobi. Not only did they learn outdoor and survivals skills, but it gave them the chance to meet new people, make new friends and practice the networking skills they've been learning at school.
- Our house moms went to Nairobi for training in childhood development and trauma, learning how to more effectively work with students who have experienced significant abuse, neglect, trauma, and poverty, specifically as they enter adolescence.
- We rolled out another innovative LaunchPad program for our high school students, including the new addition of host families in Nairobi for our younger students.
- We hosted another guided volunteer trip – which was jam-packed with equal parts play, learn, and serve. Our volunteers brought such a great energy to our school, and we were able to accomplish so much in the time they were here.
- We held our first Kenyan Advisory Board meeting, attended by some of the country’s most inspiring leaders in the fields of youth, education, and development.
- We went to the beach. The idea (dream) came about during a trip to the river with the kids. “Can you PLEASE teach us all the five swimming strokes?!” I was obviously confused, looking at the 1 ft. deep water and trying to figure out the fifth stroke they were talking about. I'm not really supposed to talk about the trip, because our team worries it could hurt our ability to fundraise. But here's the truth: about five donors came together and gave us enough money to spend three days on the coast. In addition, we were able to secure airline tickets for 70 dollars a person, so we flew one-way to Mombasa. You can (cannot) imagine how amazing it was.
SOME THINGS JUST CAN’T BE MEASURED:
We’ve been talking a lot about measuring our impact recently (we’ve got a head-start here) in order to better demonstrate how our programs are reshaping opportunities for some of Kenya’s most vulnerable youth. I'm encouraged about this approach to our work. However, working with these kids everyday, it’s so clear that some things just can’t be measured. They may seem small, but these are the moments that stop me in my tracks:
- When the shyest girl in the class becomes the Scouts troop leader
- When our most withdrawn teenager asks to sit for an extra meditation session on a Saturday afternoon
- When our eldest female student comes to my cabin for a lengthy discussion about boy problems (it’s universal) -- she brings a notebook, and a pen, and lots of questions.
- When two students, accompanied by the Chairman of the Student Council (for good measure) eagerly approach me three days before the student council meeting with an item to add to the agenda, and some possible solutions to brainstorm in the meeting
- When our youngest student, Njeri, receives her first ever 5 shillings from the tooth fairy, and comes straight away to deposit it in her FK savings account.
- When our “coolest” teenage boy comes and asks for a notebook so he can start keeping a journal -- “I have a lot on my mind. I want to see if writing it all down will help me feel better”
It might sound simple, but let’s not forget where these kids have come from, what they have endured. I have listened to their stories (the parts that aren’t too excruciating to share), and I know that these small steps are in fact huge… and immeasurable. This is what motivates me and the rest of the team here in Kenya to keep climbing, and we are so grateful to our friends, sponsors and supporters all over the world who make it all possible.
Program Director and Social Worker