We are pleased to report that the construction of Jitegemee’s new center has finally begun. In May, we held a colorful ground-breaking ceremony, attended by students, parents, local community members and friends from the United States. We are now at the stage of completing the foundation. The first phase will include an administrative block, library, computer lab, classrooms, canteen, security gate, kitchen and toilet. If all goes as planned, the exterior of the main building will be completed in December. The interior walls and finishings are expected to be completed in the spring of 2014, if funding continues at pace. This year, we hope you will consider making as generous a gift as you can so we can continue on this ambitious timetable. We look forward to inviting you to a ceremony marking the opening of the new building next summer.
In the future, we hope to undertake “phase two” which will include an additional classroom, multipurpose hall and temporary housing for youth who are waiting to be reunited with their families. We give our thanks to everyone who is making this dream possible, including generous American donors who contributed matching funds and students and parents in Machakos who are contributing their labor.
In addition to building this new center, we are building up the capacity of our program to serve more youth and offer more services to the community, including our future library which will be accessible to the public. We therefore saw the need to undertake a 5 year strategic plan to prioritize our goals. Expanding fundraising and administrative capacity inside Kenya and bolstering local leadership are two of our biggest priorities.
In line with these goals, we hired personnel in Kenya for the first time to assist in fundraising from within the country. We are also strengthening our local advisory board in Machakos to help mobilize local support.
Even as we expand, we remain focused on one goal: empowering street and destitute children and youth through education. Jitegemee now supports a total of 193 students. We have 68 kids in primary school. So far, we have not had any drop-outs. These scholars have shown great improvement in terms of discipline, hygiene and academic prowess. It is hard to believe that a former street child could score over 300 in a national examination. Yet, out of the 14 Jitegemee candidates who sat for the class 8 (8th grade) exam in 2012, 10 of them scored over 300 marks out of 500 total marks. These scores earned them admission to good high schools.
Due to that great performance, the number of Jitegemee students in secondary school rose to 22 this year. Timothy Muli scored very high marks and was enrolled in Makueni Boys, a top-tier school. Harrison Wambua, a child who has faced a lot of difficulties in life, including being forced to become the breadwinner of his family at a very young age, joined Kangundo High School. The other eight scholars were enrolled in different prestigious provincial schools.
We also have students who are college-bound. Harrison Kyalo and John Kiluma could not hide their joy after emerging top students in Machakos School. They scored a mean grade of A and A- respectively. They will be joining public university in the fall.
Our approach of addressing the problems of these children contributes to their improved performance. For instance, we have paired the secondary school students with primary school candidates to mentor them and prepare them for life at boarding school. They meet at our center over the holidays. In addition, we have paired our current vocational class with mentors in the previous vocational class, who are already working. They meet every Thursday to share experiences and discuss problems and opportunities in the workplace. This year, we are proud to have partnered with the probation department to admit young people arrested for minor drug offenses to our program instead of serving time in prison.
In addition, we have empowering motivational sessions with the children and we are developing a “Career Day” with students to expose them to different viable professions. In an effort to help the kids choose their career, we organize unpaid attachments in the field of their choice. For instance, Wambua Nzioka, a student at Alliance Boys High School, who dreams of becoming an electrical engineer, was attached to the Machakos municipal engineering department in order to get practical understanding of the profession.
Through activities like these, student’s attitude towards academics and life in general has changed positively. To continue improving our teacher’s skills, we organized a refresher training course on guidance and counseling last fall. This has helped them address the complex issues that impact our children.
None of these life-changing programs would be possible without your donations. They make all the difference. Thank you for helping the stigmatized and less fortunate children and youth of Machakos become resilient, self-reliant and productive members of their community.