Kenya is a beautiful country of sweeping savannahs, dense forests, snow-capped highlands, and palm-lined coasts. With its beauty and abundant wildlife comes booming tourism and, in some places, great wealth. But there is also great poverty.
Almost 30 percent of Kenyans live on less than $1.25 a day, which the World Bank classifies as extreme poverty. Twenty-six percent of Kenyan children between the ages of five and 14 are child laborers. A quarter of Kenyan girls under the age of 15 are married.
In the Narok South District, where Free The Children focuses its efforts, one in 10 children still die before reaching their fifth birthday, and one third of children under five are stunted due to chronic malnutrition.
In the 16 years since we began partnering with the Maasai and Kispigis communities in southwestern Kenya, together, we have built schools, libraries, water projects, latrines, kitchens and teacher accommodations. Community leaders supported our development and education projects, and implemented active women’s, men’s and youth groups. Here are some of the projects we are proud to work on in this beautiful country.
In 2002, Kenya’s newly-elected government made primary education free. The sudden announcement left no time to prepare, Kenyan schools were caught off guard, and the government is still struggling to catch up. Free The Children empowers the communities by:
Learn More about the success of Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School
Much of Kenya is arid and dry. Water services are poorly distributed and rural Kenya is especially hard-hit with poor access to clean water and adequate sanitation. According to wateraid.com, nearly 40% of Kenyans lack access to safe water, and two-thirds of the population lack access to adequate sanitation. This leads to 10,000 childhood deaths every year. We help by partnering to provide:
Maternal and childhood mortality are two of the biggest health issues in Kenya. According to the United Nations, the risk of death for pregnant women is about one in 38, and nearly one out of every 100 children dies before the age of five, according to the Red Cross. The health infrastructure in rural Kenya is especially under-funded. We help in our partner communities by providing:
Learn More about the Baraka Health Clinic
While agriculture is a mainstay of the Kenyan economy, droughts as well has the high cost of food have left many Kenyans unable to properly feed themselves. It’s believed that roughly 10 million people—about a quarter of the population—are food insecure, according to the Food Security Portal. We help by partnering to create:
Empowering the people in rural Kenya with the tools they need to earn an income is a key Adopt a Village pillar. Free The Children helps by:
When Free The Children began working in Salabwek in 2007, school buildings in the community were primarily mud structures. The average child walked three to four kilometers to school, though some walked as far as eight kilometers. There was no local source of clean water. The community had an illiteracy rate of more than 90 percent, and an average family income of less than $1.25 per day. Subsistence agriculture provided the only source of income, maize being the crop of choice. Gender equality posed a particular challenge, and early marriages were commonplace.
Since partnering with Free The Children, huge improvements have been made to the wellbeing of the community. Here’s how.
As new schoolrooms are built, water projects are implemented in tandem. In addition to sanitation education, a Water Management Committee oversees sustainable and equitable sharing of water.
A mobile health clinic visits each month, and students receive regular deworming medication. Most importantly, students have taken ownership of their health and established health and environmental clubs. Around 88 percent of households are now practicing healthy habits at home such as hand washing and dish drying.
The school farm, tended by students, provides nutritious food such as kale for student lunches that are cooked in the community kitchen. Introduction of the drip-irrigation system has resulted in both higher crop yields and reduced costs.
As one of Free The Children’s oldest Adopt a Village communities, Salabwek’s alternative income and livelihood programs are well established. The goal of this pillar, as with the others, is to make the community economically self-sufficient. To that end, we have provided financial literacy training to men’s and women’s groups.
A passing cow lumbers by the circle of a dozen seated villagers, the bell around its neck clanging merrily amidst a chorus of buzzing cicadas and clucking hens. The members of the Saunok Village Savings and Loans group pass around a metal lockbox and each put in one hundred and twenty shillings. Coins clink as they drop inside, and paper rustles as members deposit bills printed in the red, green and black of the Kenyan flag. Members wave and offer a friendly “Jambo” at people passing by as the box makes its rounds. In the distance, children laugh and play in the bright sunlight outside of Salabwek Primary School.
Village Savings and Loans Associations (or VSLAs) like the Saunok group are transforming the local economy in Salabwek by introducing new strategies for supporting small businesses and financial independence.
In their early stages, groups meet on a regular basis to save money for a collective fund that members can draw on to start new enterprises or pay school fees or medical bills.
But as members pick up personal finance skills and strategies for working in teams, they begin to expand their activities to include shared business projects like beekeeping, goat rearing and farming.
The Salabwek Youth group, made up of 15 enterprising young community members, makes monthly contributions to support the half-acre garden where they grow vegetables and beans. They’ve already started reaping a profit by selling their kale crop at the local market. They’ve asked Free The Children to help install a connection to the village water supply to boost their productivity.
The Bereigwet men’s group have become local legends after starting a sprawling 10-acre maize farm. These formidable farmers are forecasting a bountiful bumper crop of 200 bags of maize, which they plan to sell at the local market. They have already used their group savings and purchased a pair of bicycles to make travel to and from the farm more efficient.