Brooke Blanchard

Brooke Blanchard (Undugu Society of Kenya): In 2004, Brooke conducted research on child labor abuses in Ecuador and worked as a physical therapist for children. In 2009 she worked as the Youth Program Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee. At the time of her fellowship Brooke was pursuing her MA in International Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. After her fellowship, Brooke wrote: “After working in the slums, I see myself as unbelievably fortunate. It was very trying at times, so I think I’m proud of getting through the most difficult aspects."



Kakenya’s Dream

23 Aug

The small town of Enoosaen in West Kenya has one main dirt road which you either travel by foot or by motorbike on, one market, lots of donkeys, cattle and chickens, and a beautiful community of Masai people whose lives seem to be straddling their traditional rural past and the modernizing developments of the future. Men and women will cross your path wearing traditional Masai garb, with ears stretched out and the occasional red dyed hair. It is a startling difference to the gritty urban expansion world of Nairobi. Young Masai Girls

While living in this farming area tucked on the south western edge of the Rift Valley, I had the incredible opportunity to work for the Kakenya Center for Excellence; a newly developed boarding school for Masai girls. The idea of a well functioning school that targets only girls, boards them, and has a set curriculum that might mirror many exclusive private schools in the states is a rare accomplishment. In Enoosaen, traditional Masai roles are still for the most part maintained. Most young girls are put through the ritual of female circumcision (FGC/FGM) around 14 years and are married soon thereafter. They rarely receive an education past grade 8 if any at all. Many young girls are married against their will and some (whom I had the privileged to meet and live with) have managed to escape (sometimes running for days) and find refuge with an understanding neighbor or teacher. Kakenya's School Girls

The Kakenya Center for Excellence (The Academy for Girls) was initiated by a vivacious, warm, and incredible Masai woman named Kakenya. She left Enoosaen to go to college in the United States with the promise that she would use her education to better her home community. To learn more about her please visit her website, http://www.kakenyasdream.org/ Kakenya and her girls

The Academy for Girls is only two years old at this point but it is growing in many ways each day. There are currently about 64 girls attending the school and receiving a rare type of education in Kenya; one that focuses on individual and active learning. Parents are not responsible to pay any fees and only to bring food for the girls’ meals. In order for a girl to be accepted into the school and to stay at the school the parents must agree not to circumcise her. A smile in the classroom

While working at this school I got to meet and play with over 60 amazing young Masai girls who with this advance type of education will perhaps follow in Kakenya’s footsteps and continue their education to the university level (albeit in Kenya or abroad). Their smiles and attitude towards learning are strong and healthy. They clearly represent a golden light in the future of Masai women. Kakenya Center for Excellence 2010

Posted By Brooke Blanchard

Posted Aug 23rd, 2010

3 Comments

  • sheli nan

    August 23, 2010

     

    dear brooke
    the fotos are heartwarming and the work albeit difficult is filled with joy. when i see those smiles I am so grateful for people like kakenya who has had the strength to grow forward and to be a role model for young and older women alike.
    kudos to you, to your program and to the girls school!!!!
    xsheli

  • Susan

    August 23, 2010

     

    Brooke!
    You are such an excellent photographer and your selection is wonderful, each photo says so much and makes your narrative come alive. I’ve visited the Masai region and am so glad to hear brave women like Kakenya are demanding an end to female mutilation and also giving the positive reward of education. I’m so proud of you for being there, supporting Kakenya’s efforts and for being an additional positive influence in all the girls’ lives.
    lots of love,
    Susan

  • Sharon

    August 23, 2010

     

    Great stories and great photos. Thanks, Brooke.

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