Though many African cultures regard orphans as the responsibility of the community, often only academically gifted orphans have a shot at making a better life for themselves. They may even have access to the numerous bursaries and scholarships offered by the government and various organizations. So, what happens to the average orphan?
Rebecca Wairimu, a nineteen-year-old girl from Mweiga in Nyeri county, Kenya, was orphaned at the early age of ten. Even though her relatives were able to educate her until secondary school, they could not afford to send her to college—and she did not earn high enough grades to secure a scholarship or loan to pursue her higher education. Rebecca says, “This was a difficult time for me especially as I watched my peers and friends leaving for university and college. For me, there was no hope.”
Rebecca is one of many orphans whose hopes and dreams for a better future end when they receive average grades in school. St. Joseph CBO, a community-based organization established by the Brothers of St. Joseph in Mweiga, has for several years been responding to the social economic challenges faced by orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) in Nyeri county.
With frequent interactions with orphans and OVC who failed to make it past primary or secondary school, St. Joseph CBO realized that the most effective way to secure the future of OVC is through establishing a sustainable community fund to support the vocational educational needs of OVC and to provide business start-up kits to OVC upon graduation.
To make this new initiative successful, St. Joseph CBO had to mobilize the community to become involved, build long-term partnerships, and establish a sustainable local funding model. In addition, the organization partnered with the Yetu Initiative, a USAID-funded program that works with the Aga Khan Foundation to improve the environment for community philanthropy and help local civil society organizations become sustainable. Through support and capacity building from Yetu, they launched the Action for Orphans campaign that has to date raised over KSH 3 million (USD $30,000) toward this cause.
Rebecca, together with 10 other girls, was selected to join the pioneer program. “I have always loved cooking so when Brother Harun asked me which course I would like to do, I decided to take a course in meal preparation,” she says.
Rebecca has graduated from Bradegate International College in Nyeri with a Certificate in Meal Preparation. Action for Orphans has gone further and helped her secure a paid internship at the Green Hills Hotel in Nyeri, one of the top hotels in central Kenya.
Read more about the Yetu Initiative here.