Packing Up!

Books, soccer balls, toothbrushes, National Geographic magazines, and sweet treats were among the many items donated for the PayPal Kenya Connect October trip!  Team members Dustin, Matt, Gregory, Chris, Steve and Sharon collected items from colleagues, friends and family, members of their faith communities, and from local dentists to carry over for students in Wamunyu.


The team will begin their journey on October 2nd by visiting the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage near Nairobi before traveling to Tanzania to visit several of the National Parks.  The group will then head to Wamunyu, Kenya Connect’s Project site, to provide enrichment lessons, team building activities, and motivational talks for students at four of our partner schools.  Wamunyu, roughly 2 1/2 hours from Nairobi, is a rural village that does not get many visitors.  Students at our 55 partner schools enjoy having visitors since it allows them to practice their English, learn about life in America, and participate in a new lesson.

The team will also meet with Kenya Connect Access students, an enrichment program funded by the U.S. Embassy, at the Learning Resource Center. While at the LRC, the team will provide support to Technology Specialist Patrick Munguti.  One of the special moments for the team will be participating in the 2nd Annual Run Like a Kenyan in Wamunyu.  Students from six partner schools will participate in this 5k race in the community.  Some of the visiting team members will run alongside and be cheerleaders for the runners.  The festivities will also include inspirational talks and providing participation awards for all students.

The team plans to be posting along the journey…… stay tuned!




Feedback from KC Headmasters

One of our goals is to ensure Kenya Connect programs and projects are meeting the needs of our 55 partner schools and the community.  We met with 50 of our 55 partner heads to gather their feedback on programs we have provided including professional development, ICT education, hand washing stations, library and literacy resources, deworming, and other items.  After a brief presentation on the history of Kenya Connect and some of our future plans, the Headmasters were led in small group session by Board Chair, Alicia Wrenn, to better help us understand the effectiveness of our programs and how we can best serve the community.  Animated conversation and discussion was seen as the Headmasters gathered in groups around the KC compound.  Their feedback was interesting and helpful confirming some ideas and conclusions we had developed while leading us into new areas of thought.  More to come on the outcomes, but we were honored that all of the Headmasters indicated that ALL of our programs were essential and that they were grateful for the support.  At the conclusion of the meeting, the Headmasters perused books by Phoenix Publishing, a local publishing house.

Singing, Dancing and Tusome!

Tusome? What could that possibly be or mean?  When we met with USAID at the U.S. Embassy we learned that a new program was introduced thanks to USAID and the Kenyan Ministry of Education to strengthen early learning for students in form 1 and form 2 (1st and 2nd grade). This program not only provides books and workbooks for ALL students, but also provides training and support from a Curriculum Development Officer to the schools.  We were excited about the potential for the initiative, but even more excited when we saw it in action!

We were welcomed joyfully by partner schools Kambiti and Kaitha with singing and dance.  A welcome from schools in Wamunyu is such a heartwarming experience.  While visiting the schools, we also saw the Tusome program in action.  The teachers were excellent modeling best practices in education by engaging students in meaningful activities in maths and English.  What we witnessed showed the power of the Tusome program and it’s potential for changing the nature of rote education in Kenya.

We also had a terrific reprisal of “This Little Smile of Mine, I’m Gonna Make it Shine!” when we passed out toothbrushes (thank you Elaine and Doug!).  The kids loved the song!

Our day ended in Wamunyu with a class in Computer Assisted Design (CAD).  The students were designing boxes for solar powered lights.  Totally cool to see.  Thanks Level Up Village (LUV) for the amazing curriculum.

A Very Special Visit!

Today we hosted Kenyan Ambassador Daniel Wambura at the LRC.  He brought a delegation from his village, Kuria West.  It’s the most high ranking guests Kenya Connect has hosted and I have to say they were beyond impressed with what we are doing and have accomplished.  I think they were amazed with the LRC and level of programming we have achieved.  The ambassador’s daughter even made a keychain from our 3D printer.  James was tremendous in arranging the program and welcoming these guests.  At the end of the village the ambassador commented that he believes every village in Kenya needs a LRC like ours— and several of these guests have traveled around the world!
Three of our partner teachers gave presentations about how our work has impacted them.  Again, it was heartwarming and inspirational.  So much talent in the classroom!
Some of our students participating in the U.S. Embassy Access program were having class today and they shared some of their experiences with the ambassador.  It was incredibly impressive.
From the different folks we have met with over the last week, it is clear to me we are doing some very special work in Kenya and that we have a very unique and needed program thanks to James, Patrick and Cyrus.
It looks like our work is spreading!

Machakos Rotary Club!

Rotarians have been making a difference around the world for decades.  Kenya Connect has a wonderful partner in the Sunrise Rotary Club of Ellicott City.   We now have a new friend– The Machakos Rotary Club.  On Saturday our team met with four members of the Rotary Club so we could share our work and hear about possible partnerships.   The delegation shared some wonderful ideas and we are excited about future opportunities together!IMG_5731

Exciting Work at the Karibu Centre in Thika

Traveling around Kenya can be a bit challenging with the traffic (think Mad Max style driving), the fumes, and lack of GPS direction.  However our trip to Thika to visit the Karibu Centre was well worth the drive.

The Karibu Centre is doing similar work to KC’s LRC, however they are larger and serving children for 3 months in age through primary school.  We saw how the preschool students were using durable computers with headphones to learn basic computer and early learning activities including Sesame Street and Reader Rabbit.  We then watched a dynamic teacher introduce STEAM to the students.  His class and teaching was interactive and supportive and encouraged

critical thinking and group work— methods often not used in Kenya.

The Karibu Centre is working to be self-sustaining through creating soap.  They are growing fields of Aloe Vera and have packaged a beautiful product.  This program employees local workers and will help tell their stories to consumers back in the states.

As our own work progresses, it is exciting to meet and develop partnerships with groups like the Karibu Centre.  Their Director, Luke Kincaid, who visited our LRC last month was generous in sharing his knowledge and the scope of their work.

Our Visit to the U.S. Embassy!

It’s thrilling visiting the U.S. Embassy in Kenya.  As one walks through the halls, there is stunning African Art, many interesting office titles, and many foreign service professionals and guests bustling about.

We were fortunate to meet with staff at the Cultural and Educational Affairs Division.  Kenya Connect has been extremely fortunate to be partnering with embassy for three programs this year.  We have two Fulbright Teachers, Alexis and Rachael, who are teaching in two of our partner secondary schools and assisting in the Learning Resource Center; we participate in English and Literacy Professional Development workshops for teachers; and we received an Access Grant for Education Enrichment Programs for 20 Secondary School students.  All of these programs are advancing our work to strengthen education in the rural village of Wamunyu and giving students and teachers resources that would not be available to them otherwise.

As we shared our work, it was exciting to hear how they value our expertise and continued work to improve education.  They provided a number of insights and ideas of how we can move forward.  We also learned from our meeting with the head of the USAID Education and Youth programs that they have launched, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, an initiative to get books into the hands of all level 1 and level 2 students in an intentional way.  This is helping to build a culture of reading, that hasn’t existed in Kenya previously.  We discussed future partnerships and ideas and pathways for our students to attend U.S. colleges and universities.

It is heartening to hear how these programs are not only helping to provide access to a stronger education for students in Kenya, but also helping to keep Kenya a democratic country.  We were also very impressed with the dedication and ideas of these program officers and their passion for their work and for Kenya.  It was an excellent first day!

Karibu Kenya!

KC Executive Director Sharon Runge, Board Chair Alicia Wrenn, and Board Member Cindy Dyer are headed to Kenya this week!  Our journey will include meeting with officials at the U.S. Embassy, Publishing Houses, the Machakos Rotary Club and other groups.  Our goal is to nurture current partnerships and build new ones.  We will also visit the Learning Resource Center and meet students participating in the Access Grant Enrichment program. Later in our trip we will meet with Principals at our 55 participating schools and we will visit several partner schools.  Stay tuned to learn about our journey!