Since 2009 Jitegemee has had the good fortune to be able to partner with the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Students in the master’s program have traveled to Machakos to conduct evaluations of both our vocational training program and our formal schooling program. The most recent team just completed their evaluation of our formal schooling program, and we are anxiously awaiting their report. Kiri, one of the students who visited Jitegemee in 2010 recently contacted us to share a short reflection he wrote about his time there. We are continually grateful for the work and support of the SIPA students and faculty. Enjoy!
In March 2010, I had the privilege of spending two weeks at Jitegemee, working with students and staff as part of a consulting team from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. We were working with the vocational training program, learning about the trades Jitegemee students were training in, the economy in Machakos, and other potential employment opportunities for graduates.
We got to meet Jonathan, who had recently completed the vocational training program. He worked with an electrician during his attachment phase, and stayed on at the same business after graduation. He was shy at first when speaking with us, looking down more at his soda bottle than at us; I can only imagine how it felt to have these three American strangers suddenly peppering him with questions.
But Jonathan was polite and patient and eventually wanted to show us where he worked. He walked us through Machakos to the electrician’s shop where he told us more about his work. We asked him what type of electrical equipment he could fix.
“Everything,” he said, without hesitation. “I can fix everything.”
He spoke with such confidence, and I know that it was largely thanks to Jitegemee that he felt so self-assured. The educational opportunities afforded to bright young men and women like Jonathan wouldn’t have been available if it weren’t for Jitegemee’s dedicated staff and mission.
We also spent a day with the young students that Jitegemee was sponsoring at primary schools throughout Machakos. They taught us Kenyan games and songs, and had so much energy that by the end of the afternoon, I felt exhausted but exhilarated.
I was embarrassed as I realized that I had always taken being able to attend school for granted. But with Jitegemee’s help, the new students would be able to secure their educational future.
The trip itself was something I talked about for months afterward, and I still think about it often. I describe the work that Jitegemee does, and the amazing students and teachers, and feel incredibly lucky that I had the opportunity to meet them.