Many of you have followed the news of the post-election violence in Kenya with worry for our program. We are grateful to report that our students in Machakos were safe and sound during the chaos that took place elsewhere in the country, and that Kenya is now back on the road to peace and prosperity.
We are pleased to report tremendous progress among our students. Over the past year, we have had no drop-outs from elementary school, as we have worked to ensure that the children had the food, counseling, healthy homes and medical care they need. Two of our students this year did extremely well on their exams and proceeded on to prestigious provincial secondary schools. One of them, Mutindi Mativo, is an orphan who lived with a well-wisher identified by Jitegemee while she completed primary school and took her exams. Now she is doing extraordinarily well, and has a goal of becoming a computer scientist. Her report card proves that she can do it: she is doing well in math and has an A in Physics—a very rare grade.
Our vocational students are also doing wonderfully. In December, Jitegemee organized a special graduation ceremony for our first two classes of vocational graduates, who have spent more than a year in hands-on apprenticeships, mastering various trades. Of the 39 vocational graduates who completed our most recent survey, 75% are currently employed or self-employed. More than a third of these graduates hope to be running their own business one day. The main challenge they face is finding the funds for start-up costs.
So, in January, Jitegemee launched a pilot program to provide micro-loans to these young people. In partnership with the Canada-based organization, Street Kids International, we trained youth on business skills and street banking, record-keeping, and making and spending profits. The Street Kids International educational tools exposed our graduates to various sources of financing and introduced them to the concept of forming a solidarity group.
After completing the training, a group of 13 graduates who are all employed or self-employed were given loans of between 3,000 Ksh each (about $50 to $80 each). They were each asked to develop a plan for how they would use the capital. They were also asked to open bank accounts in order to receive the funds. Next, the group of vocational graduates formed a solidarity group to act as a guarantor to the loan. Over the next six months, these youths will repay their loans, gaining support and assistance from their solidarity group. Then, our graduates will be ready to join another community-based microfinance organization aimed at serving adults.
In this way, Jitegemee has surely changed lives of street children, giving them a chance to earn their living, grow their businesses and support their siblings and families. This experience proves that street kids are not deviants or criminals—as some believe—but children who have been robbed of their dignity. Today, after years of work, training and your kind donations, our vocational graduates are self-sustaining, responsible young adults, helping their own families.
By Mike Kimeu