Aug 22

The Kenyan Shopping Experience

Colourful fabrics piled high. Large wooden tables covered in smoky meats and potent spices. Smiling faces welcoming the crowds. A trip to the market in Kenya is no ordinary shopping experience, but rather a journey into a space full of kinetic energy and every item you could possibly need. (See pictures below article)

Recently, the TCP team experienced that energy when shopping for the mattresses purchased from funds raised by our “$$$$ for Zzzz…” campaign, as well as a large water tank raised by the “Kentank for Vision School” campaign.

Generous donors contributed enough money to purchase 29 mattresses for the TCP kids. The large, colourful mattresses were piled on the roof of several vehicles, making an interesting spectacle weaving through busy streets. The team was also able to purchase other items needed by the children, including the large water tank needed to harvest additional rain from the roofs of the Vision School in Kisumu, Kenya.

The importance of these seemingly mundane items can’t be understated. TCP kids need proper sleep because it is incredibly important for memory and learning, and it is essential for a child’s well-being. Clean water is another crucial element of success, allowing the TCP kids to stay healthy.

Our team hopes to make more journeys to the market for other necessities in the near future, and you can help us reach that goal! Read more about our child sponsorship program.

Step 1: The Shoppers

The Shoppers Kenya

Grace, Mike and Moses prepare for a day of shopping.

Step 2: Go to the Bank

Going to the bank

Off to the bank to take out cash.

Cash withdrawal

Withdraw 220,000 Kenyan Shillings to pay for much needed mattresses, a water tank and other items (thanks to the generous donations of TCP supporters!!)

Step 3: Find the Right Store

Finding the right store

As is the case in any shopping trip, finding the right store with the proper selection for the best price is key.

Step 4: Prepare Items for Transportation

Preparing the water tank for transportation

This water tank is prepared easy installation once it arrives at its destination.

Step 5: Transport Purchases

Buying toilet paper

The back seat of the car is loaded up with toilet paper.

Mattresses in car

Mattresses are rolled up in the back of this hatchback.

Mattresses on top of car

Colourful mattresses are stacked on the car.

Mattresses on top of a van

More colourful mattresses piled high atop a white van.

Kentank loaded on truck

The water tank is loaded up for delivery.

CHANCE Foundation Wine Tasting Event
Jun 21

CHANCE Foundation Wine Tasting Event

On June 6, 2015, members of the TCP team attended a wine tasting event hosted by Ottawa’s CHANCE Foundation at the Perrault Winery in Navan, ON. The winery served as a perfect location for the event due to its isolated rural location and plantation of grape-bearing vines.

The event started off with wine tasting and appetizer pairings, complemented with the beautiful vocals of Julie and Pierres, a duet band from Montreal, QC. Apart from the large turnout and overall success of the event, TCP was fortunate to meet the CHANCE Foundation’s President and Founder, Shannon Tessier.

TCP is grateful for the new partnership with CHANCE, and learning about Shannon’s reason for creating the organization is an example of philanthropic heroism. Her stories of wanting to improve the lives of unprivileged children by providing education, health and recreation closely align with Julie Hakim’s aspirations for TCP.

Julie invested her time in launching small-scale development projects for the sole purpose of improving the lives of children in Western Kenya. Her goal, since TCP’s inception, is to provide a better life to orphaned Kenyan children affected by HIV/AIDS. This specific focus stems from her time volunteering at a local hospital in Kenya. After witnessing the harsh realities faced by children, Julie returned to Ottawa with determination and was able to raise money for an orphanage that was home to underprivileged children.

During the CHANCE event, Shannon shared the story of how children from a very poor village adjacent to where she conducted research in Vietnam met with her every morning at the front of her room; they carried her research equipment to the study site and sat with her as she studied. Shannon eventually formed a bond with the children and knew that she wanted to help better the lives of unprivileged children.

Shannon and Julie share a common ambition, which they both realized during their experiences as volunteers. Volunteering teaches valuable lessons and in some cases, it can change a person’s perspective on life.

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May 30

Youth Unemployment In Kenya

When asked what the Kenyan government should address immediately, unemployment ran second place, just behind the economy.

In particular, Kenya faces a youth unemployment issue no country is jealous of. As the economy transitions from agriculture to more modern systems, many young Kenyans are finding themselves displaced when looking for work.

According to a UN discussion report on Kenya, youth — those between the ages of 15 and 24 — represent two-thirds of Kenya’s workforce. There is currently a trend of rising unemployment over the past 4 years, reaching 17.1 per cent in 2013, the last year the World Bank had statistics for.

Many Kenyans still work on small-scale family farms. Youth as young as 15-years-old drop out of school in order to help on farms or to do other informal work.

However, as the number of farms diminish, many have found need to move into the cities in order to find work. Coming from rural backgrounds, young Kenyans often lack the skills and education needed in order to pursue wage-work in both the private and public sectors.

A problem with wage-work is that men hold most positions. Of the 5.1 million wageworkers, 3.4 million are men, compared to 1.7 million women. On the family farms, it’s mostly women who do the work.

According to 2014 data from Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics, the industries with the highest wages included agriculture, forestry, fishing, education, manufacturing and wholesale or retail trade.

Work is so important for young Kenyans because of the little social security they have; if they are unemployed, many will starve until they find new work — if they can’t find a job, many are forced into prostitution or other crime in order to make ends meet. Not having a job also leaves them viewed as untrustworthy and not integrated into their community.

To complicate things even more, young Kenyans often have to care for their children and other family members, leaving many, younger and old, dependent on them.

In order to operate in the changing landscape of their nation, the Kenyan youth need to learn valuable job skills in business and service industries. As urbanization grows, those skills will provide them with new career opportunities and will allow them to get more for their families.

Thank you to guest blogger Martin McFarlane for contributing this article to TCP!

Jan 20

What It Means To Be An Orphan In Kenya

Like most (possibly all) of our sponsors and donors, our volunteers and I have never travelled to Kenya. As Program Executive for TCP, my value to the organization is my ability to manage the program and funds, provide leadership to the team, and optimize our resources, as scarce as they may be. For that reason, I count on our board member, Wendy Muckle (pictured above, left), for her deep knowledge and understanding of the socio-economic and cultural contexts of Kenya.

Part of that knowledge sharing is explaining what it means to be an orphan in Kenya, and in the case of some of our TCP kids, a partial orphan.

A good number of the children have at least one parent, but were left in an orphanage due to a shortage of food at home. Recognized orphanages are in part funded by foreign donations; their operators market themselves to impoverished parents. While some may offer love and care to the children, the reality remains that an orphanage is not a natural way for children to be raised.

The majority of TCP kids have a first degree relative who should be caring for them but are not. Should a parent or relative re-enter the child’s life, the need for sponsorship is not removed. A partial orphan may be struggling with a mother or father who is sick from HIV, unemployed and without the means to feed or educate the child. The child becomes the caregiver for the sick parent and has to work to try to find food for the parent to eat. These situations place the child at an increase risk of abuse.

Any exposure, however little to their parents and relatives, is critical for them to become successful adults. They need to know where they belong and where they come from. This is a human need and a very important element in Kenyan culture. One of our major difficulties in working with orphans is that many of them lacked a consistent and loving caregiver when they were young. As a result, they have severe attachment disorders. They can survive anywhere, are charming and can make anyone like them. But, they fundamentally lack any sense of who they are, the difference between right and wrong, and cannot really trust anyone. As adults, they will face challenges for being good citizens, employees and parents.

Recognizing the fundamental need for family, TCP encourages parents and guardians to be part of their child’s life. We also work to have children feel strongly attached to the Tumaini group of children. Vision is a private school and the children who go there come from fairly well-to-do families. The parents of these children have expressed how wonderful it is to see orphans who are being treated like any other child and not like orphans. This is a psychological advantage for our kids since they are being exposed to children who are expected to do very well in life. This is why it is so important to make sure they have the same (not more) as other children.

If our job was just to pay for education, it would be quite simple. But, in fact, our job is much bigger as we try to set these kids up to be successful, contributing members of society. In doing so we will not only transform their lives, but their community as well.

Christine Pothier*
TCP Program Executive

*With notes from Wendy Muckle, TCP Field Manager

Dec 11

Happy Holidays!

The Holidays are fast approaching. A long awaited Festive Season for many individuals. It is often associated with happiness, celebrations, gift-giving, parties and, most importantly, the gathering of families and friends.

A week ago, we launched our 2014 Holiday Drive to give the gift of water to our young scholars. We aimed to raise $600 dollars, approximately 47,400 Kenya Shillings, to put towards the purchase of a second water tank at Vision School in Kisumu Kenya. These tanks allow for easier harvesting of rain water. They also reduce water borne diseases by serving as treatment units.

Our growing community and donors supported us yet again! We surpassed our goal in five days! To have included the gift of clean water speaks not only to our donors’ generosity, but also to their sense of social responsibility.

The importance of water cannot be overstated, nor can the impact we can have on these children’s lives. In having supported our Holiday Drive, our donors have extended their family’s reach internationally during this festive season. They’ve contributed to boosting our children’s health and confidence.

Please note, we will soon launch our New Year’s campaign to raise funds for school fees for three of our new high school students. Check in for details!

Oct 17

2014 TCP Fundraiser

On October 15th, The Tumaini Children’s Project held their annual joint fundraiser in support of the children in our program.

A few elements from that night left me feeling inspired. Some of our TCP volunteers took time off of work, away from their significant others and their children, and in the case of two of them, traveled from Toronto to spend a couple of days not only on the fundraiser but on TCP work. Despite long hours and a late night, their energy and enthusiasm was contagious.

At the event, as I watched the crowd savouring the food, clinking glasses with the Ottawa REDBLACKS quarterback, Henry Burris, and compete for bids at the silent auction, I pictured our TCP kids studying, playing, and whispering to each other from their beds before falling asleep. I imagined them doing what they can now do because we have sponsors and donors.

Speaking of our sponsors, the event’s highlight for me was meeting the sponsors of Anthony Ooyoo. This young, beautiful couple exude warmth and care, and are representative of our community of sponsors and donors.

Finally, once home, I crawled into bed where my two year old now insists on sleeping. She tossed around a bit until her hand found mine. Our TCP kids may not have a mother’s hand to find in the dark but they have several hands within their community, their school, and TCP’s donors and sponsors.

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Sep 3

First Day of School

On August 26th, my daughter had her very first day of school. She wore a new outfit, helped me fill her lunch bag with wholesome, nutritious food, and carried her new backpack. Getting her into school required nothing more than paperwork. Primary education will lead to secondary education, which will lead to post-secondary education and quite likely a fulfilling career in an area of her choice.

For our girls in Kenya, the path to education is much more complicated and the stakes are higher. With the requirement of school fees for both primary and secondary levels, those families unable to pay are faced with having to hire off their daughters as house help or to marry them off as a second or third wife, often times to an older man, and often to an abusive environment. These girls, at the age of 12 or 13 years old, don’t necessarily have the mature bodies required to bear children, leaving them and their babies at risk of health complications and maternal/infant death.

The comparisons between Western and developing countries, some would argue, are unjust as the context is so widely different. Perhaps so, but as I watched my own daughter enthusiastically step out of the house, as I watched her greet her teacher, and as I watched her interact with her new little friends, it struck me how uncomplicated her and our worlds are, as a female child and as her parents.

Our TCP girls have an opportunity to escape those complications. Their smiling faces in the photos we receive are an indication of the hope and potential they hold within. But they can’t do it alone. Where we recognize it takes a village to raise a child, in some contexts, such as this one, that village can extend to our homes.

I encourage you to view the profiles of our kids and consider joining our TCP community of sponsors and donors.

Jul 15

New Uniforms

I wore a rather unflattering uniform in high school. Each day for five years, I wore a long navy blue skirt, a shapeless navy blue vest and a white blouse. If memory serves me correctly, a single set cost approximately $200. My mother, a self-taught seamstress, bought material, copied the pattern and made me two sets that I made last for five years. Upon graduation, I burned one set, as per tradition, and kept the other. I figured as an adult, I’d surely hit hard times and would need a reminder that times were once worse.

Yet my hardships were nothing compared to those of our Tumaini kids. They face the stress of schools fees, the lack of parental guidance and support, tenuous relationships with relatives, and for some of them, disease, including HIV/AIDS.

In looking back at my high school years, wearing a school uniform gave us a sense of belonging – a sense we were all in it together. As students, we came from different socio-economic, cultural, and even geographic backgrounds, but we had one visible point of commonality. Every morning, we put on our school uniform. Most of us spent Sunday night ironing our shirts. Most of us spent far too much time attempting to individualize our outfits. As girls, we complained of the uncomfortableness of wearing pantyhose in the summer. The boys begged teachers to let them take off their blazers in the heat. Beyond the visibility of navy blue polyester, we all shared the experience of wearing those uniforms, of being students, and of navigating the trials and tribulations of adolescence.

Our TCP kids live an experience particular to their context. They may be a partial or full orphan. They may or may not have relatives visit on Parent Day. They may have a sponsor thereby completely removing the financial stress of school fees. Despite circumstantial differences, thanks to the generosity of donors and sponsors, they all have uniforms. They’re all in school. They all have a shot at ending their cycle of poverty. When they put on their uniforms in the morning, they touch their access to education. They touch hope. They touch their own potential.

Photo: TCP kids wearing their new uniforms and shoes, purchased with the funds of our donors and sponsors. July 2014.

Jun 13

Featured Student: Blaise Ochieng

A few years ago, we reached out to the Tumaini Children’s Project (TCP) community to seek support for one of our boys, Blaise Ochieng. Blaise was showing tremendous intellectual capacity and so we transferred him to a more competitive primary school. We also encouraged him to study hard to achieve the highest mark possible in his primary school exit exam, promising to send him to one of the best high schools in Nairobi, Kenya. Blaise delivered on his exams and has been attending Kanga Boy High School.

TCP’s support has markedly changed Blaise’s path. Without TCP, Blaise would be living on the street, trying to find enough to eat and survive another day. Best case scenario, he would find menial work, carrying huge jugs of water for hotels, selling eggs or trinkets or hustling at the local bus depot. He might scrounge up enough money to buy a boda boda (a bicycle taxi) but quite frankly, even buying a used one speed old bike is out of the reach of most orphans. Worst case scenario, he would have gotten involved with street boys, spending his time sniffing glue and hustling tourists for food and money. Every day, he would face the threat of being beating, robbed or assaulted.

Instead, Blaise enjoys Physics and Maths and aspires to be an engineer. With continued support, this intelligent and good kid spends his time studying and playing soccer instead of hustling in the streets.

Recognizing Blaise’s potential and seeing his commitment to his education, we are seeking a sponsor to provide financial but also emotional support. Letters, photos, and videos received from a sponsor communicate a belief in the child’s ability to pull themselves out of a cycle of poverty. They let the child know someone out there believes in them, in their future and their dreams.

Please help us find a sponsor for Blaise. If you are interested or if you know someone who might be, please contact us.

Sponsor Blaise

Sponsor A Child

Mar 12

Dearest Tumaini Donors

Dearest Tumaini donors,

I am writing to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the thoughts and well-wishes you have sent to our sponsored children, as well as your generous donations over the year. Having recently returned from Kenya, I want to provide you with updates on the children as well as share with you details on upcoming initiatives.

The Tumaini Children’s Project currently supports 44 children in primary boarding school and one in high school. They are all doing very well. They have all grown over the year and are healthy and vibrant. They have become much more expressive with enough energy and curiosity to spare!

Being fully aware of their sponsorship by the Tumaini Project, they expressed to me many times how grateful they are to their sponsors for helping them stay in school by paying their boarding fees, as well as providing them food, uniforms, books, and medical care. Many expressed their desire to do well in school as a way to show their sponsors how much their support means to them. They also desperately want to continue on to high school.

One of our boys, Blaise Ochieng, was consistently coming first in his sixth grade class. Recognizing his intellectual capacity, we transferred him from St-Francis to a more competitive school. Now in his seventh grade, he is still coming second in his class and will be writing his exit exams from primary school next year. In Kenya, the mark on your primary school exit exam determines which high school you can be admitted to. I have encouraged him to study hard to achieve the highest mark possible. If Tumaini can raise the funds, I’ve informed him we would try to send him to one of the best high schools in Kenya, which are in Nairobi. Recognizing that attending a high ranking high school is more than he could have ever imagine for himself, he cried when I gave him this news. We not only have the opportunity to give Blaise the hope that comes with knowing someone out there believes in him, but also power in knowing that realizing his dreams for the future is possible.

One of our young girls, Mary Claire Auma, attends Asumbi Girl’s School, a primary school about 2.5 hours from Kisumu (see photo – left below). She is in grade six now and doing very well (see photo – right) . She has asked me if she could join her school’s Girl Scouts. As she would need a uniform, and we’ve not budgeted for this this year, I’m reaching out to our donors. If anyone would like to sponsor her Girl Scouts uniform, I know she would be thrilled!!

I should also note, out of our 42 students enrolled at St. Francis Primary School, most are in need of new school uniforms. We are not in position to fund these with this year’s budget and so again, I turn to you. If anyone would like to sponsor our children’s school uniform, we would greatly appreciate it.

Mary Claire’s sister, Dorothy, is our first child to graduate from primary to high school (see photo – left). We have placed her at Asumbi Girls High School, an excellent school, so she could be near her little sister. The school grounds are beautiful (see photo – right above) and she looks great in her new uniform! As she was excited and nervous to be starting there, I told her many times how proud we all are of her for doing so well on her primary school exit exam and being accepted into such a great high school!

We are currently seeking to bring three more children into the Tumaini group of sponsored children. Two of them, Josephat, 14 years old, and Jackeline Akinyi, 15 years old, are children previously supported by Tumaini. Though we had placed them in school, they were removed and sent back to their villages because of their HIV+ status. Thankfully, we have located them and are going to place them in the same school as Blaise. Having spoken to the school administration, I have been assured that there will be no discrimination based on their status and nurses will be available to administer their medication.

Finally, I am thrilled to announce our 2012 summer project. The Tumaini Children’s Project is running the first EVER (in all of Kenya!) Leadership Camp for Orphan and At-Risk Youth!! It will be a one-week sleep away camp for 50 children ages 10-15 years old held in Kisumu, Kenya. Though some of our sponsored children will be attending, we are also taking referrals from local teachers and community workers who know of an orphan child (especially girls) who might benefit from the camp.

Most of these children have spent their entire lives being told that as HIV+ orphans, they are a burden and will amount to nothing. Many of them have missed critical learning normally imparted by parents regarding healthy bodies, menstruation/puberty, safe relationships, and their rights. Most have never been encouraged or given the confidence to seek success. We hope to change all of this through our camp!

With the help of Kenyan counsellors and guest speakers, we will focus on leadership, self-esteem, goal setting, healthy bodies and relationships, and self-defence and rights. This will be a fantastic and motivating experience for these children, and I know it will positively affect all of their lives. By the end of week, I want the children (especially the girls) to know if they believe in themselves, THEY CAN ACHIEVE!

As you know, these children are either orphans or have a single parent or extended family member unable to care for them. Without Tumaini’s help, these children would be idling in their home villages, begging, sniffing glue, or being exploited. Together, we have given them the best gift possible: a chance to escape poverty!

Thank you for making the Tumaini Children’s Project possible. Thank you for supporting these children and giving them a chance at a better future. Of all the disasters in the world and the battles that are lost, please think of our 45 children and of those coming to our Summer Camp and know that theirs are the battles you help win.

All my love,
Julie Hakim