Wairimu Mwaura is a Jitegemee Board Member. She took her first trip to visit the program in May 2013.
I grew up a city girl in Nairobi and was blessed to have come from a middle class family. Poverty was all around me, but always on the periphery. I never saw myself as being part of its eradication. It wasn’t until I moved to Boston and joined the board of Jitegemee that I realized the impact I could have, and the impact that Jitegemee’s children would have on me.
In May, a group of board members and I took a trip to Machakos to view the program’s effort. We had a chance to attend the ground breaking ceremony for the new library and computer center that we are building and to meet with Jitegemee’s staff and children. Each of us was assigned to a group of vocational students, who walked us around the town of Machakos. The tour gave me a chance to hear their stories about the program and to visit students from previous vocational classes who are now working around town in their trades. Since I am a native speaker, I communicated easily with my group of eight girls and they found it easy to open up to me. Connecting with this group of girls, whose experiences are so much different than my own, was the highlight of the trip.
“I used to be such a rude person and did not have any respect for my elders or peers,” one girl told me. “Here, I learned what the word ‘respect’ means and why it’s important.” Another said: “I’ve learned love, patience, kindness, self control- all things I think I knew but never really had anyone to enforce.” Theoretically, I understood that our vocational training provides basic skills in carpentry, welding, hairdressing etc. that local students use to get hired or start a business. But I didn’t understand until visiting the center exactly HOW this program changed their lives.
It was mind-blowing to me: Not only were these students learning a valuable employment skill, but they were also learning “life skills:” virtues and rules to be a good person in society, lessons that I learned because I had structure in my life. I had parents, teachers, pastors, and relatives who taught me, corrected me and made sure I understood and lived up to these expectations. Jitegemee provides the structure and leadership these kids lack or abandoned.
The students in my group had only been in the program for about two months. But the impact on them was already life-changing.
When I joined Jitegemee I was humbled by the dedication of its founder and the rest of the volunteer board members in the United States. While in Kenya, I saw that the commitment of the staff in Machakos is also incredible. And the willingness and determination of the kids to make a better life for themselves is simply inspiring. My experiences during this trip strengthened my resolve to work with Jitegemee and to involve others in the great work being done.
One of our board members summarized why we all need to continue to be committed to this great work by using a simple analogy of the cooking pot held up by three stones: one is the Jitegemee teachers. Another is the parents and guardians of these children. And the third is you – the donor. All of us are necessary to keep this pot on the fire. If any one of us is removed, the pot will fall. So thank you for your role in transforming these young lives.
– Wairimu Mwaura