Over the past year, the staff and children at Jitegemee have faced many challenges emanating from difficult economic times. In 2009, Kenya experienced one of the worst droughts in our history, which killed animals and crops across the country and created wide-spread hunger.
Today, thankfully, rain has returned and our economy has begun to recover. But the price of food and basic goods has remained too high for many poor families. Many children dropped from school due to lack of food and money for small expenses, such as after-school tuition payments. But thanks to the friends and supporters of Jitegemee, we managed to walk the year without registering any school drop outs.
Our work with street children is driven at all times by understanding that each child is an individual with a unique set of experience, aspirations, needs and challenges. We conduct comprehensive surveys in schools that our children attend to assess their academic progress. We also ensure that we conduct personal evaluations of all Jitegemee-sponsored school children, especially during the three month-long school holidays that they spend at our center. This assists us make the right decision on how to support the kids. Talking with their teachers and classmates helps Jitegemee staff understand our children’s challenges even better. Each one of us does his part and considers that the welfare of these children is our own responsibility.
This year, we held a graduation ceremony for 54 vocational students (21 girls and 33 boys) who have made the transition from the streets to the workplace. “I don’t know where I would be now if it were not for the Jitegemee program,” said Lucy Ka-vunga, who is now a qualified tailor and dressmaker. “It is amazing that I play a very great role in supporting my family with food and school support for my siblings.
“Before I joined Jitegemee I would not express myself, I was untrustworthy and did not care what happened,” said Stephen Mwanzia, who has been trained in motor vehicle wiring. “My mentor has a lot of trust in me. I am the person keeping records for this business and I do help him manage his work. He says he has a lot of faith in me and the customers give him similar information. Thank you Jitegemee supporters for helping me become who I am.”
Many of the vocational graduates have been employed by the mentors who taught them their trade. Others have opted to start their own small businesses. Street children are robbed of their dignity through communities’ ignorance and fear; but Jitegemee has come out strongly to empower them and reaffirm their potential. Contrary to when the children were in the streets, now the majority of community members want to be associated with Jitegemee graduates. Street children need support to succeed in life.
Our secondary school program has not lagged behind. Currently, Jitegemee supports 13 scholars in prestigious secondary schools. This year, Nzioka Paul, who just began his first year at Kitondo Secondary School, has so far scored an A in all subjects, including science and mathematics. Sophie Mutuku, an orphan who began her first year at Misyani Girls High School, posted a B in almost all subjects.
Jitegemee is also pleased to report outstanding success in college. One recent graduate, Mwende Musyoka, is already employed in early education, while another, Musa Tom, is working as a trained electrician.
We attribute much of this success to our “attachment” program, where secondary school students spend school breaks working in an office or an institution as an unpaid intern. This program has built up the career ambitions of our students. After spending time working at a state-run wire news service, Jitegemee scholar Muli Kieti will be joining Kenya School of Mass Communication. Another recent secondary school graduate, Mbithe Mutinda also intends to pursue a Diploma in Journalism, while Lilian Syokau will be joining the Kenya Medical Training College for a Diploma in Nursing.
Through experiences like these, Jitegemee’s children are developing personal esteem and are fulfilling their responsibilities for supporting other children. This year, we invited our secondary school kids to orient the younger Class 8 candidates on what happens in secondary school. Secondary school graduates also gave a talk about their life experiences after school to all Jitegemee scholars, demonstrating how former street children have developed aspiration and ambition for the future in addition to a sense of commitment to others.
In 2010, Jitegemee is working hard to realize our goal of building a new educational center with offices, classrooms, a library and a computer lab on an acre of land that we purchased last year. Although we have faced some unexpected hurdles along the way, we know that we shall realize our goal. We sincerely appreciate your donations which have made all this possible. Together, we will continue to make a difference in these children’s lives.
By Mike Kimeu