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."

The Future for Masai Women

23 Aug

While working at the Kakenya Center for Excellence Girls Academy, I had the opportunity to sit down with a couple girls to learn about their journey to the school and their hopes for the future. Here are three stories that hopefully shed a bit of light on the lives and upbringing of Masai girls. For privacy reasons I will not share the young girls’ portraits. However I will share more pictures from the school. Enjoy! Smiles

Angeline Sayvah

With a perfectly heart-shaped face and round glowing cheeks, Class 5 student Angeline Sayuah appears much younger than her reported 14 years. Quiet and prone to picking at any loose ends with fidgeting fingers when adult attention is focused on her, she tends to hang back in the congregating crowd of shouting and laughing school girls. Nevertheless her subdued character is merely the cover of an intelligent girl on the brink of becoming a strong young woman.

Born and raised in the Karda area, Angeline was the second born out of three children to a family of farmers. From an early age is became clear that her older sister suffered from a debilitating illness that prevented her from walking the long distance to their primary school and helping with the daily labor needed around the house. Due to this physical disability, Angeline’s sister was pulled out of school after only reaching Class 3 and Angeline had to take on extra work around the house. The combination of additional work and a long walking distance to school (or expensive motorbike ride), Angeline was consistently late for class and undoubtedly her academic achievements suffered.

While in Class 1 and at the age of 7, Angeline and her siblings became orphans when their mother passed away (the cause is unknown). Whether dead or simply never in the picture, Angeline sums up the total existence of her father when she quietly states: “I don’t know anything about him.” The three children went to live with their grandmother, however soon thereafter Angeline and her brother moved in with their aunt close to Enoosaen.

Last year, Angeline’s aunt brought the young girl to the Enkakenya Center for Excellence to apply for a spot in the new school. Due to her status as an orphan Angeline was accepted without question and began a new chapter in her life. When asked why she likes her new school, Angeline offers the smallest crease of a smile (which she immediately hides with her cupped hands) and says softly that: “learning at KCE is good compared to Karda because the teachers here teach well, the uniforms are given without having to pay for them, and there are enough text books for all the students.” Angeline says that these improvements, plus not having to be late to school due to household work as lead to an increase in her academic performance.

Angeline, now in her second year here at KCE, is aiming to achieve 400 marks in KCPE in order to join a good secondary school which will allow her to go to university. In the future, Angeline would like to become a doctor and support her brother and sister. Furthermore, if she is able to, she would like to build a bigger school than KCE for girls who are orphans. Till then however, Angeline will continue to work hard, and enjoy her hobbies of reading storybooks and playing football. Cats cradle after lessons are overYiamat Nchamusi

For any girl, the early teenage years can be an uncomfortable and confusing period of gangly limbs and flip flop personalities. Standing almost a foot taller than most of the other girls at the Enkakenya school, 12-year-old Class 5 student Yiamat Nchamusi is the epitome of pre-teen awkwardness and emerging beauty. Loud, hardworking and friendly, Yiamat tends to dominate any conversation or game she and her friends partake in. While in class, her hand is one of the first to shoot up when the teacher asks for a volunteer to work a problem on the blackboard.

Yiamat was born into a Masai polygamous family in the Sikawa area. Her mother is the first wife of her father and she has a step-mother who is her father’s second wife. In total there are seven children in the household, three boys and four girls all of whom are attending school. Yiamat fits squarely in the middle as the 4th born in her family. The large family subsists on the income they receive from farming maize, sugarcane, and milk.

When asked to discuss her former life at home, Yiamat becomes uncharacteristically quiet and introverted. Only with gentle coaxing does she revel that while living at home she was considerably unhappy. Yiamat details a rural farm life where men are consistently drunk and who wreak havoc upon their families when they return from a night of drinking elicit brew. She also describes her heavy work load which included selling milk in the evenings rather than studying her school work. She slept little and studied even less.

Yiamat is very happy to now be boarding at the Enkakenya Center for Excellence. Here she is able to study often and sleep more which she hopes will help her achieve 400 marks on her KCPE. When asked what else she likes about her new school, Yiamat says that they: don’t have to pay a lot of money to attend, don’t have to walk a long distance for lunch and that their school is the only building around that is two stories tall. Her favorite subject is mathematics and loves her teachers who she says are “always ready to answer students’ questions.

In the future, Yiamat aims to become a doctor after completing her university studies. However Yiamat explains the KCE will help her achieve her dream of treating sick people because at her school there are many books to read, really good teachers, and she gets to go to school every day. When asked what the best part about living at a boarding school is, her response seems very appropriate for a near teenage girl: “Because we don’t have to be around our parents.” Thumbs upLyn Seenoi

Lyn Seenoi is a 10-year-old tiny ball of energy who never seems to stop smiling her big wide grin for too long of a period. While one of the smallest girls in her Class 5, Lyn makes up for her short stature with an infectious laugh and eagerness to chat and play games.

Lyn was born and raised in the small town of Kilgoris, near Enoosaen. She has one older sister whom after reaching Form 4 had her own baby. While living in Kilgoris, Lyn was able to attend the local primary academy, however while in Class 3 her mother passed away. Without any knowledge of her father’s existence, the two sisters became orphans with Lyn moving in with their aunt and her sister with her grandmother.

With the opening of the Enkakenya Center for Excellence, Lyn’s aunt took her and one of her own daughters to apply for spot in the new student body. Both girls were accepted and began their studies in their respective classes. Once in the school, Lyn’s grades steadily began to improve and she now aims to receive 400 marks on her KCPE and eventually join a university where she can study to become a nurse. When asked why she would make a good nurse, she replies that she does very well in school and nurses have to do that.

In the mean time, Lyn will enjoy her time and studies at the KCE where she gets to play jump rope-a favorite past time activity- be with friends, have many books, and have “teachers that teach well.” Beautiful Girls

Posted By Brooke Blanchard

Posted Aug 23rd, 2010

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