Sunday, June 27, 2010

On the ground and running



Aaaaand…We’re Back!
The Shining Hope for Communities U.S. Team has officially landed in Nairobi for an incredibly exciting summer of work in Kibera. Not only does this mean that a fantastic array of new projects and school developments, but it means that blogging is back, and better than ever before. We hope to have new updates every few days—so please stay tuned and keep checking back for stories, photos, and video!

What’s going on at the Kibera School for Girls and the Shining Hope for Community Center? Here are the summer project highlights you can look forward to:

Kibera School for Girls (KSG): Interviews are currently underway for the newest pre-K class of students. Fifteen of Kibera’s best and brightest young women will be admitted in the next few weeks—and we are already so excited about the applicants! So far there have been 150 families that have submitted applications for the spots. KSG is tuition-free, and is committed to providing the girls in the most dire financial circumstances, Executive Director Kennedy Odede is personally conducting home visits to assess the financial situation of the families. All people who live in the Kibera slum live in extreme poverty, but the students at KSG rank among the most poor even in the slum. To get a spot at the school, parents agree to volunteer for five weeks a year.

The first year of the Kibera School for Girls was a resounding success. Thanks to the hard-work of their teachers, even the youngest of our students are reading, writing, and speaking in English. They can do addition easily, give you a history of countries in Africa, and love going to school. We couldn’t be happier with the progress of our students. A few weeks ago a teacher took one student to take an entrance test at the nearest government school, just for comparison’s sake. Our 2nd grade student placed into a 5th grade classroom! At KSG our students love learning (this week they made puppets with a visitor, wrote storybooks about their lives, learned about proteins and vitamins, and started science experiments with soil. The atmosphere at school is lively. Students are always singing and smiling—school is a very happy place to be! Parents are always around to contribute, and it’s clear how beloved the school is by the community as a whole. Our staff of teachers and administration is overwhelmingly committed and skilled—they are leaders that are cherished by parents and community members alike.

The Green Bio-Latrine Center: Construction has been completed on the bio-latrine center adjacent to the school! The final piece of the process was to hook the structure up to a water pipeline—and yesterday, we did it! Already the nearby community is using the faucet to fill up water for cooking and cleaning, and the bio-latrine is slated to open early next week, as soon as Nairobi Water comes to turn on our water meter. The bio-latrine uses innovative green technology to convert waste into methane gas—providing the community with access to sanitary toilets (a desperate need) while offsetting carbon emissions. The facility is absolutely beautiful---one of the most amazing facilities our staff has ever seen. It’s a cheerful green color, and has six toilets and three showers. We can’t wait to open for business! Stay tuned for plans for a dedication ceremony next week….

Johanna Justin-Jinich (JJJ) Community Clinic of Kibera: We have purchased a plot of land adjacent to the KSG that will be the site of our community health clinic (a difficult feat for high-density Kibera). We expect to start the beginning stages of construction next week on what will be a two-story six room clinic. All hands are on deck as we begin the process of assembling an expert staff of committed medical professionals to help run the clinic, unpacking and inventorying the hundreds of boxes of medical equipment and supplies shipped by partners AFK, and meeting with potential medical partners in Kibera and Nairobi. In addition, we have assembled a team of community health worker volunteers who have began training this week with American Friends of Kenya Medical Team. There are many clinics in Kibera—but this will be the first clinic that remains truly community run, and accountable to the people it serves. We’ve spent a lot of time in area clinics this week with several ill students—and the need for our clinic has just become even clearer.

Gardens for Growth Gardens Initiative: The community garden next to the school is growing lush with fresh veggies! Our garden is overflowing with kale, spinach, a local green vegetable, peppers, onions, and maize. Parent volunteers have been harvesting the vegetables to cook the nutritious lunches for the KSG students each day. This week we are making vertical gardens for all parents to take home, and in the coming weeks we will begin to distribute them in the community.

SHOFCO Youth: SHOFCO teens and young-adults have been active at the multi-purpose room of the school making beautiful beaded bracelets for sale in the U.S. three days a week, and recently have begun rehearsing a new play that they hope will spark conversation among their peers in Kibera about HIV transmission and gender abuse. They keep the atmosphere around the Shining Hope Community Center filled with life. We’re also building additional space for the community center, as our current community space and school are filled daily with over one hundred people—keeping us all busy!

Women’s Microfinance Empowerment Workshop: Our women’s group is going strong. They meet each day to make bracelets and sew bags to earn an income. Their work is beautiful, and they love having a safe space to come together and share, while earning a living wage.
The Dennis Silver Memorial Library: Thanks to the generous donations of books and library expertise from the American Friends of Kenya, our library has grown to over three-thousand books—but what’s more—it has been digitized and catalogued electronically so it will be completely searchable, and we will be able to check out books to the students and wider community. We can’t wait to expand this center.

Jessica and Kennedy are joined this summer by several full-time staff volunteers Ari Tolman, Leah Lucid, and Ilana Nelson-Greenberg, along with Sammy McGowan for the summer. Together with the staff of the community center and school—we invite everyone to follow along as we establish the JJJ clinic, continue the work of the school, start a boarding facility, open our bio latrine, and continue to make a difference for women and the Kibera community as a whole.

2 comments: