Kenyan schoolgirls

Kenya has become the focus of CBB's scholarship program because the circumstances confronting Kenyan girls are the worst of all the countries where CBB has provided scholarships. Along with extreme poverty is the physical, emotional and sexual abuse Kenyan girls commonly endure. Kenya's inequality of income is one of the greatest in sub-Saharan Africa, with a poverty rate of 45% that is little changed in 35 years in spite of rapid economic growth that has benefited the middle class. Poverty is twice as common in households headed by women, with one third of such households eating one meal a day. Mothers in rural Kenya are commonly single and poorly educated, have four or five children, and lack an income adequate to support their family. Nonetheless, most Kenyan mothers, however poor, appreciate the value of education and do their best to keep their daughters in school as much as possible.

CBB gives scholarships to 200 abandoned and orphaned girls, daughters of single mothers with AIDS, granddaughters cared for by single grandmothers, and daughters of prostitutes and abusive, alcoholic fathers, etc. Scholarships are provided for nursery, primary, vocational, high school and university education in central and western Kenya. For poor Kenyan girls, the ability to attend school may be CBB's scholarship of $30 to $50 a year. Without a scholarship, a poor girl is commonly in school for a month or two and then is sent home until her parent can pay her fees to return to school for another month or two. And this goes on all year long, year after year! It is no wonder that the average grade in Kenyan public schools is a C -, or that two out of three countries in the world have better public school systems than Kenya.

Kenyan children must complete nursery school before entering primary school, yet students must pay tuition and have a uniform to attend nursery school. Without a scholarship, many poor girls can never begin their education. The Kenyan government describes primary school as being free, but schools charge a variety of supplementary fees, and a student needs her uniform, school shoes and school supplies. This year, the government has also made high school free, although as in primary school, there still are fees to be paid, as for school lunch, etc., as well as uniforms and school supplies to be bought. Primarily for lack of school fees, only one third of Kenyan girls have been graduating from high school.

Joy World girls

Home for Homeless Schoolgirls

Compassion Beyond Borders funds the Joy World Community Based Organization in central Kenya that gives a safe and caring home to scholarship girls who have been abandoned (36 girls), orphaned (27 girls, with some abandoned by one parent and orphaned by the other), and/or sexually molested (12 girls).

The homes replace the local paternalistic culture that systematically abuses girls with a caring and disciplined community where their innate kindness and positive energy have an opportunity to flourish. The girls heal from their past mistreatment by caring for their "sisters" who also need healing.

Each little girl is cared for by a big girl (12 years or older) who sleeps in the upper deck of their bed with the little girl in the lower. No big girl leaves for school in the morning until she has prepared her "daughter" for school. All girls are expected to be positive role models to their "sisters". For a view of Joy World life, click here.

Prizes for acdemic achievement

Academics and Leadership

Joy World supports its girls in recovering from their abuse, neglect and mistreatment by caring for them in a disciplined community, while preparing them to excel at school. This year, for example:

1. A Joy World girl was the number one student in each of their school’s two nursery classes.

2. Nine primary school girls ranked number one, two or three academically in their class, five times a normal expectation.

3. Two of the high school girls ranked number one and two academically in their class of 158 students.

4. Seven Joy World girls were chosen Prefect (leader) of their classroom, that's more than half of the school's 13 classrooms.

5. One of the home's girls was chosen School Captain, leader of all the primary school's students.

6. For the third time in four years, a Joy World girl was elected president of her high school student body.

7. A young woman from the home was chosen Prefect of her class of 96 students at her Teachers College.

How is it possible that girls who came to Joy World having been abandoned, orphaned and sexually abused reach such extraordinary levels of academic achievement and leadership? We do things differently. Rather than the girls being cared for by adults, they are organized into disciplined communities where they are guided to care for themselves and each other. These previously disadvantaged girls are transformed by their disciplined life. They are survivors, and in overcoming the neglect and mistreatment they have endured they develope skills and strengths of perseverance that other children do not have. Joy World empowers these girls by transforming their lives from abuse and abandonment into being role models for others.

Corn harvest

Growing their own food

Compassion Beyond Borders provides agricultural land where the hostel girls can grow their own food. School vacations in Kenya come during April, August and December--months when the girls can participate in planting, weeding and harvesting the food they will eat. When the hostel girls are in school, a team of mothers of other scholarship girls helps with the farming. The girls very much enjoy the agricultural work--for them it is a welcomed break from their academic studies.

Corn and beans are the staple crops. There are two plantings, weedings and harvests a year for each crop, so the girls have ample opportunity to develop their agricultural skills. To see a video of Joy World's corn harvest, click here.

CBB has also begun a banana plantation where the hostel girls can also develop those agricultural skills. In addition to providing fruit for the girls to eat, the plantation grows a cash crop to help meet the expense of caring for the hostel girls.

Goats waiting for distribution

Goats for girls

Compassion Beyond Borders' Kenyan Project Director recalls that as a girl she was “hungry when she went to bed at night, hungry when she went to school the next morning”. The situation today for girls living in poverty is no different.

When the principal of a school where girls receive CBB scholarships was asked if they went home for lunch, he replied, “Why would they do that? There's no food there.” Instead, students bring any vegetable they may have from home, and, if there is enough, the contributions are put into a pot to make a soup. If there is not enough, the students do not get lunch that day.

When CBB asked mothers of its scholarship girls what they most wanted, they said it would be a goat. So, CBB gives these mothers a goat that is easy to care for, as they eat almost anything, and they provide milk that is especially nutritious both for the girls and for their mothers ill with AIDS. The women breed their goats as soon as they are mature. Male kids can be sold for money to buy food, while females will grow up to give more milk.

A primary school classroom, Kakamega, Kenya

Back to school

A large proportion of orphaned and abandoned girls in rural Kenya are not in school. Some of these girls have never been to school, while others started school, but were forced to leave by their poverty when their father died or abandoned them. So, CBB began a back-to-school program giving scholarships to over 100 orphaned and abandoned girls, paying their school fees and other school expenses.

Amazingly, these girls are so grateful for the opportunity to resume their studies that they are out-performing their classmates who have attended school continuously. These scholarships are awarded in a rural area outside the town of Kakamega in western Kenya where they are administered by the Indangalasia HIV/AIDS resource center.

Since receiving CBB's support, this facility was designated the best HIV/AIDS resource center in its district in recognition of its achievements. The following year it was named the best center in its province. And the next year, Kenya's National AIDS Council designated Indangalasia as the best local HIV/AIDS resource center in all of Kenya!

Teacher Miriam

One Girl's Story: Miriam Wanjiku

Miriam was a ten year old orphan living with her drunken, alcoholic grandfather who, for a bottle of beer, sold her to his drinking partners for sex. Then he sold her in marriage, also for a bottle of beer. The marriage lasted one night and Miriam found herself thrown out on the street where she lived for the next three months.

Miriam was brought to CBB’s hostels by the local chief who found her going from house to house in her neighborhood begging for food. CBB did not hesitate to accept Miriam even though it was obvious that she was a very troubled girl, as it turned out, more difficult to care for than any ten other girls put together. And yet, her heart was in the right place, Miriam just didn't know right from wrong.

Now Miriam has healed from her immense troubledness and is near the top of her class at school. She volunteers to help without being asked and is a cooperative member of her hostel community. Miriam is loved and appreciated by her “sisters” and adults alike, and of all the hostel girls she is one of the most thankful and appreciative for having been rescued.

And Miriam has continued to grow and mature. She has taken a special interest in the nursery school girls, teaching them dancing, gospel songs and memory verses from the Bible, and helping them with their school lessons. In return, these girls have given her the title "Teacher Miriam", a mark of great respect in the Kenyan culture. Imagine, from forced prostitution to Teacher Miriam in just three years!