Beyond Expectations

Our music club has put Hands of Love on the map, winning first prize at district-wide (Kasarani) competition and then at the regional-wide (Nairobi) competition. So, we will be participating at the Kenya National Music Festival which will be held at Kabarak University, Nakuru, August 5 – 9.

But the competition has been about more than just winning prizes. It has played an important role in uncovering and nurturing the talents of our children and giving them a platform for expressing their creative and artistic abilities.  For the children this has had a transformative – almost life-changing – effect

For example, Lydia Wambui lost her mother to death in early 2018, she really hadn’t come to terms with that loss. She’s been moody and bitter at school. Very irritable and often involved in fights with other children in class and outside. Then she joined the music club and it is as if she is a different child now.  It is hard to explain but the transformation is amazing. She jovial and happy and from being quiet and withdrawn she is now teaching songs to her classmates who are not in the music team. There is a Swahili saying that “muziki ni sabuni ya roho” (music cleanses the soul). This has certainly been true for Lydia.

The two wins have been a morale booster not only for the children but also for the teachers. There is a believe now that we can achieve anything if we put our minds on it. Teacher Lucy’s comment exemplifies the mood – “I lack words to express how happy I am as a HoL teacher, this is probably the proudest moment for me since I started working for HoL.” The most profound lesson for me as the director is the in which preparing our children for the competition has meant working with them and their families in ways that we as teachers, may never have thought about.

We are now preparing for participation at the national competition. The children are continuing with their training. And we are planning for travel, accommodation and food for forty children and teachers for two days. Through our connection with AFS alumni, we have managed to get a school in Nakuru that will host us for Ksh300 ($2) a day per person (including food). But we must bring our own beddings. Most of the children do not have a spare blanket at home, in fact many would be sharing bed with their parents or siblings and therefore asking them to bring beddings is out of question. We therefore need to get at least 20 sets of beddings at a cost of Ksh900 ($9) each. Travel will cost about Ksh60,000 ($600). The total cost is Ksh102,000 ($1,020). I am worried about these costs. We do not have a budget for participating at the national level. If we cannot raise the funds, then our children will not participate at the competition which would be a big blow to them.

Would you please consider helping us by donating?

Kisii

I traveled to Kisii to attend Justus Kishoiyan graduation ceremony at Kenyanya Teachers Training college on Friday May 24. It was a wonderful, colorful day. Lots of dancing, lots of fun.

Justus was one of the 296 teachers graduating from Kenyanya Teachers Training College. He also received an award for best actor.
Maasai warrior
…and the food was good

Precious Nyaguthii

Happy new year friends. To start off the year I want to share a story that show how big an impact your donations to Hands of Love make. Last year, 16 children who graduated from Hands of Love in 2012 sat for their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations. These examinations determine transition into high school and are therefore hugely important in a child’s education and future career prospects.

Since the examinations results came out on November 18, 2018, I have been able to track down seven of the 16. What I have found out is very heartwarming and encouraging. Of the seven one had 403 points out of a possible 500 points, three had between 351 and 399, two had between 300 and 350, and one had 287 points.

Meet Precious Nyanguthii.

Precious left Hands of Love after completing 2nd grade and joined third grade at a nearby public primary school. She had been with us for five years at the time she left. She scored 403 points in last years exams, emerging top ten in Kasarani school district. This good. Very good indeed.

To put it into perspective the top student countrywide scored 453 points and out of 1,052,364 children who sat for the exams only 12,373 had 400 points and above. Slightly more than one percent. She will be joining Alliance Girls High School, a top tier national school and one of the best performing girls school in Kenya.

Precious’s mum attributes her success to – in her own words – “the good education foundation that my daughter received at Hand of Love.” She says that her daughter would probably have missed out on early childhood education because the family couldn’t afford it. She is very thankful for the contribution Hands of Love continues to make in her children’s education. Two of her other children Emanuel Mureithi (grade 1) and Maryann Wanjiru (grade 2) school with us.

For over 150 children like Precious and her siblings at Hands of Love, a good education is the only way they can break free from grasp of poverty. We are their best chance at a good foundation that will enable them successfully navigate the public education system. Our work with them reminds me of my favorite Nelson Mandela quote – “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” At Hands of Love I believe that we are changing our community, and by extension the world, one child at a time.

You can be part of our mission to be a school for those without. By donating just $1 a day, you can send a child to our school for a full year. This will not only provide education, but will feed and provide basic healthcare as well. Please consider donating $365 – or any other amount.

Automated Water Vending Machines in Kariobangi

Automated Water Vending Machine

Lack of proper sewage, waste disposal and clean water are challenges that residents of Kariobangi have faced for many years.  A good number of health challenges we deal with at Hands of Love are gastrointestinal infections related to contaminated water. 

But there is positive movement in the direction of making clean water more accessible to resident of Kariobangi and surrounding slum areas. Since November 2018, Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company has been installing Automated Water Vending Machines (locally called water ATMs). These ‘ATMs’ supply water securely via a smart card-based payment system. Users load up “WaterCards” with credit, then use them to buy water via the ATM’s touch screen. Residents can now spend just half a shilling to fill a 20 liter (5 gallon) container where before they would buy the same for 10 shillings from water cartels. More importantly, the water quality is good. 

This is good news for the neighborhood and the school and an unexpectedly good move by Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company especially because we are not used to receiving good services from public utilities. 

Astur Ali

In October 2016 Astur’s parents filled an application form for her to join Hands of Love. After going through the selection process (home visits and interviews) she was among 52 children whose applications were successful and were schedule to start school in January 2017. But she would never start.

In November, she was taken to hospital for a routine vaccination. The visit turned out to be anything but routine. Two weeks after she developed an infection that by mid December had led to both sides profound hearing loss.

Although Astur couldn’t start school, we kept in touch with her and her family and have helped the family navigate through Kenyan public health system. Both her dad and mum have no education and being very religious were quick to attribute what had happened to the will of God. This attitude by the parents quickly frustrated our efforts to have the hospital take responsibility.

Hands of Love continues to support the family facilitating hospital visits and linking up the family with organisations that can help. But after two years they have resigned to themselves to their fate. It is easy to see that they (especially her mother) have never gotten over the initial emotions they had when Astur first lost her hearing. They worry their child will never regain her hearing and wonder what this means for her future.

Astur is a bright lovely child. Hearing loss is shaping her life in a way it does not have to. By donating just $1 a day, you can help us improve her situation. Doctors say that a cochlear implant can help regain her hearing but it is an option that is costly and her family cannot afford. Even if she doesn’t regain her hearing she needs to start schooling.

Tamara

Tamara

Tamara is a seven years old girl in grade 2. One of the twenty three second graders who have now left Hands of Love and will be other schools next January.

Two years ago, her mother walked through Hands of Love doors seeking admission for her into our school. She shared with us a touching story of resilience and perseverance which we would like to tell you today.

Tamara’s Mum, Judith married when she was only eighteen years old to a man twenty years her her senior. Shortly after they began their married life together she found out she was expecting a child. She and her husband reacted very differently to this news. While she was excited to be carrying the baby she had prayed for, her husband was not ready to be a dad and wanted the pregnancy aborted. That was, so to say, the beginning of the end.

Judith decided decided to hold on, determined, in her own words, “to accept the child as a gift from God.” When time came she delivered a bouncing baby girl. Unfortunately, less than one year after her daughter was born her marriage was broken beyond repair. Her husband left and in a short time disappeared from their lives completely.

That was the beginning of what she describes as the “darkest hour” in her life. Left to raise her daughter alone, with no qualifications to her name, she had a hard time finding and holding a job. “We got through that period by the grace of God” she recounts. The only work she could get was doing other people’s laundry and cleaning. She would also do shifts in Kariobangi’s small factories and operate a food stall in the streets. When she was working there was no one to be there for her daughter when she needed looking after. Judith struggles to keep her child fed, educated and healthy. Just managing to keep her head above the water, often depriving herself to make sure there is enough for her daughter. Her dedication shows, Tamara is one of the cleanest child in the school and she does well in her studies. 

Judith’s story is a story of hope and is a story that is similar to tens of other HoL families. More than a third of our families are single parent families led by young mothers most of whom got their first child when they were teenagers. Majority are hardworking and do their best each day to ensure their kids get a better life. They fight every day for their children.

Hands of Love is proud to be fighting on their side. We realize that education presents the best opportunity for them to escape the trap of inter generational cycle of poverty.  You can be part of this story by supporting Hands of Love.

For just $1 a day, you can help us continue providing severely disadvantaged children aged 3 – 7 with education, two nutritious meals per day and basic healthcare by donating $365 – or any other amount

Fernando Torres

Two weeks ago I received a call from Fernando’s mum saying that he was missing. Fernando, a grade three boy was a student at Hands of Love from January 2015 to December 2017. He had been missing for three days and the mother wanted my help in the search efforts. After searching for two days we located at Dandora dumpsite – Nairobi’s biggest dumpsite.

Fernando Torres

We learnt that he had been lured into joining a gang of teenage boys who scavenge the dumpsite for scrap metal and other things they call sell. Difficult situation at home could also have contributed to his running away. Youth crime and gang culture – outcomes of exclusion – are becoming widespread in Kariobangi. This gangs sometimes recruit young vulnerable boys aged 8-10.

After we found him Fernando didn’t want to go home with his mother. He wanted to come home with me. I had to stop and think. His condition was bad. Dirty. Stinky. I looked at him and at that moment he was almost unlovable, but I found love anyway and took him home with me. He was afraid to go home with his mother probably because she would have beaten him. But he is okay now. After staying at my house for a week I bought bus tickets for him and his brothers to visit their grandmother in Siaya – western Kenya.

Fernando’s story shows the dedication Hands of Love has to the children and the families we serve. Even after children have left our school we remain in touch with them and their families and continue to help where we can.

Nacho Mirya

Meet Nacho Mirya, a grade 2 nine year old girl from Uganda who joined Hands of Love school in January 2015. Her mum Scovia fled to Kenya from Uganda to escape an abusive marriage in 2013.

Nacho was initially left with her dad in Uganda. Scovia initially settled in Busia – a town on Kenya -Uganda border – were she had found work as a live-in  domestic servant. In 2014 she moved to Nairobi with the family she was working for. The same year her ex-husband kicked Nacho out of their former home in Uganda when he remarried. This meant that Scovia had to leave her job so that she could live with her daughter.

Scovia narrates that it was very difficult living with her daughter in a foreign city. They moved from one slum to another so that she could go to where odd jobs were available. In  August 2015 they settled in Kariobangi. Shortly after arriving in Kariobangi Scovia was encouraged to enroll Nacho at Hands of Love by a neighbor whose child was schooling with us. She had gotten a job at a carpenter’s shop – helping sand-down and paint furniture – and didn’t have a place to leave her daughter as she went to work.

She has been working at the same job for four years now making $2 a day. Last year (2017) she remarried and the family now has a two weeks old baby. The money that she and and the husband makes is not enough for housing and food. This means that Nacho sleeps without eating many nights and depends on the food she gets at school. Without Hands of Love this girl would probably be out of school and hungry.

365 Campign

365 is a campaign to raise funds for Hands of Love, a school in the slums of Kariobangi in Nairobi that provides education, two nutritious meals per day and basic healthcare to children aged 3-7

What can you do with $1?

In Nairobi one can do quite a few things. You can buy 2 -3 cups of coffee / tea, you can buy two matatu (public transport) tickets for a 6 -10 miles trip, you can buy 2 pounds of sugar, or four pounds of corn flour to make ugali – the staple food in Kenya.

There is something else you can do. For just $1 a day, you can send a child to Hands of Love school for a full year. With the money Hands of Love will educate, feed and provide basic healthcare for a severely disadvantaged child from the slums of Kariobangi in Nairobi.

We currently serve 157 children and provide support to their families in order to encourage their social, emotional, and cognitive development. Without our Hands of Love most of this children will be out of school. Please consider donating $365 – or any other amount so that we can continue keeping these children in school.

Beginning today we are going to be sharing stories that show how your support can make a big difference in the lives of HoL children.

We are grateful

As a school, we sometimes focus so much on what we want/need that we do not yet have that it is easy to forget how lucky we are to have what we have. This point was driven home by a tour of slum schools in Korogocho and Ngomongo I recently had with friend.

The situation in this schools is very depressing. It is hard to imagine how learning goes on in such deprived circumstances. Inadequate and untrained teachers, very dark classrooms, leaking roofs, inadequate desks, and basics such as chalkboards, pencils, and notebooks lacking.

We could be like any of these schools but for the generous support we receive from friends in Italy and the US. So I wanted to take a moment to tell them how grateful we are.

ASANTE SANA

THANK YOU VERY MUCH