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Sign of the times: 3 ways our street children’s project reflects wider changes in Kenya

1. The Tech Revolution


Our partner, EPTF (with Keith King of LIM far right)

Did you know that by 2020 there will be more than 700 million people using mobiles in Africa? In the last two decades, this tech revolution has gripped hold of Kenya - in 2002, only 2% of Kenyans used a mobile, yet within fifteen years, this has risen to 88%. So what changed? The big telecom companies arrived early in the noughties, setting up mobile-phone masts even in remote areas. Cheap handsets, often second hand, became widely available to Kenyans on low wages. And for those living in places hardly reachable by road, without easy access to banks and post offices, a phone became a must-have.

When New Life Nyambene started over 15 years ago, we often had to rely on ‘snail mail’ to keep in touch with our Kenyan colleagues, and letters could take weeks to reach us. Like most Africans back then, the manager at that time was barely computer literate and had to visit an internet café to get his emails typed out for him. Fast forward a decade, and our new, digital-savvy generation of Kenyan workers all have mobiles, are on skype and what’s app, use m-pesa to transfer money and reply to emails and messages within hours. Their mobiles help them keep in touch with our young people at college and university, and with the teachers at the schools our children go to. “If there are any emerging issues or cases in schools, teachers reach us via phones”, explains Frederick, one of our support workers.

Thanks to the generosity of the Langley Institute, a mentoring scheme for Christian workers in Africa and Asia, our staff in Kenya now also have an office with computers and Wi-Fi. “We meet daily in our office and discuss all the issues concerning our children. We use our new office to manage our documents, send communications, keep our children's records like fee structures and school report forms, and to keep children utensils like pens, pencils, files, books”, Frederick explains.

2. The entrepreneurial response to youth unemployment


Winfred

Kenya currently has more young people than there are jobs to support them. One in every three Kenyans is between 18 to 34 years old. Yet according to the World Bank, while 800,000 Kenyans reach working age every year, only 50,000 new formal modern-wage jobs are being created.

One of the solutions to this problem of youth unemployment is summed up brilliantly by our NGO partner EPTF, which wants to show young Kenyans that formal employment is not the only way to get an income, and that they can instead become “job creators, as opposed to job seekers”.

EPTF stands for the Economic Projects Transformational Facility, and their mission is to nurture and empower young entrepreneurs in Africa through training and mentoring, and to support them to create business enterprises. So far, EPTF have trained over 5000 Africans and mentored over 1000 young entrepreneurs.

As our partner, EPTF are managing and mentoring the three support workers for our children’s project. Our support workers will be expected to use what they learn to put our charity on a path to sustainability. If we can raise enough funds, we also hope to put some of our older young people through EPTF’s entrepreneurial training scheme, so that they can start to think about how they can earn their own way in the world.

3. More girls than ever before are enrolling at university in Kenya


Christabel

The number of women at university in Kenya is rising steadily, and for the first time ever there are more than 100,000 female students. We are incredibly proud of two of our girls - Winfred Kathambi and Christabel Gacheri - who have both made it to university. Given their early childhood experiences of homelessness, this is a huge achievement. Winifred has no father, and became a street child because her mother was dying of HIV and could not care for her. Christabel has no memory of her parents at all – she was so young when she lost them that she can’t even remember if she had other relatives.

“I’m studying a bachelor of education majoring in kiswahili and religion as a teaching subject,” explains Winifred. “I have a great passion to teach”, she adds. “When I have completed my degree I want to teach in school to earn capital, enable other Kenyans to fulfill their dreams and support needy children to acquire education”. Christabel is just as ambitious – she has her sights set on a career in business, and is doing a diploma in procurement, majoring in purchasing and supply management. Her dream is to “start a project that will enable me to give back to the society”.

While both Christabel and Winifred feel that they have had the same opportunities as boys to go to university in Kenya, they do say that university can be hard for a girl: “It is difficult, especially where a girl has ventured into a career that is male dominated ,one is seen as a deviant”. They are both full of good ideas about support that can help African girls cope with challenges at university and be successful though: “Inform them to avoid peer pressure, drug abuse and unhealthy relationships. Provide them financial assistance by paying their school fees and necessary materials such as books and other requirements needed for their upkeep at the university. Guide them of career choice and opportunities and give them spiritual guidance.” It is brilliant to be able to say that your money is enabling our team to provide exactly this support.

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