This year, we are celebrating many accomplishments. We marked 10 years of a steadily growing program. We moved to a new building, where we have classrooms, a minilibrary and offices. We built a kitchen and began a lunch program for our students. We have an active advisory board of local professionals who have been instrumental in the planning and implementation of our programs.
But perhaps the most exciting development has been the graduation of our “pioneer” class of vocational students. They have already completed more than one year of apprenticeship, and they are ready to take the next step in life. A survey of all 22 graduated students shows that 68% of them are currently working, and more than half of them are earning enough to significantly increase the household incomes of their families or their guardians. 91% want to start their own businesses. Nearly half of this class is now serving as mentors for the next class of vocational scholars. Our graduates are training the new students under the supervision of an experienced artisan. This is a big step toward our dream of making children self reliant, and of children giving back to others. Now our biggest challenge lies in preparing these youth for their next step in life: toward better-paying jobs or businesses of their own.
The vocational program this year has been greatly supported by two new grant sources, Safaricom Foundation, the non-profit arm of a cell phone company in Kenya, and Child Relief International, a private family foundation. Gifts from these donors also made it possible this year for us to serve hot lunch to our primary school children and vocational scholars. On behalf of the board members, staff and the children, I am pleased indeed to thank all of our generous donors! T his year, we also celebrated the graduation of our first high school student. His grades were good enough to qualify for a government college. We have three children in Standard 8 (8th grade), who are preparing for the biggest test of their lives this fall to determine whether they will get into secondary school. Our primary students are a very good group with lots of potential for higher education.
One challenge we faced this year is how to prepare our secondary school students for life after graduation. We are now beginning a program that will give these youth a chance to work at unpaid internships during their vacations to give them more direction.
We always have new goals. This year, we hope to hire a new staff member who will concentrate on helping children to prepare for college, jobs and secondary education. We would also like to establish local fundraising strategies to supplement the efforts in the United States. And finally, we want to create a computer lab where the sponsored street children can have access to computer training.
Jitegemee’s progress this year, and every year, comes from the generosity of friends like you. Thanks to all of you who have helped us get to where we are today. We hope that you will think of us as we go forward into tomorrow.