The Watoto Wetu Story

As told by Josephine Munywoki – Program Director…

Background

Back in 2001 when we started Fadhili, we were responding to a need for home-based care training for caregivers with terminally ill patients, especially those with HIV or/and AIDS. We were losing patients every week. It was a terrible time. Some patients had relatives who were responsible enough to take over the welfare of the children but there were others who totally ignored the plight of the orphaned children. Every time I saw these newly orphaned children, I felt helpless – often we would support them with food. I kept telling myself our focus was with the patients not the orphans. I guess I did that to block myself from “getting involved” as many of us Christians sometimes do. We pray for God to help a particular individual but we think we are bystanders to watch what God is doing. Sometimes He is just waiting for us to say, “Yes, Lord. Send me. Use me.”

Anyway, one morning in December, 2003, I was busy doing home visits and ministering to the sick in their homes when I met a little boy, Eric (not his real name), whose mother we had buried a month or so earlier as a result of AIDS. He is the youngest in a family of four. Eric, who was five years old, was playing outside their tin house in the slums instead of being in school. He got excited when he saw me and ran to hug me. Then he asked me in Kiswahili, “Josephine, why don’t you come to our house any longer?” How do you tell a five year old that you only take care of patients and not orphans, that you are afraid of being involved, that you feel like you will be overwhelmed by the needs of children, that God will take care of his needs but not through me…

All these thoughts went through my mind as the boy was staring at me expecting an answer. Finally, I told him that there I was and I could visit with him. The boy had been left alone in the house. Two of his siblings were in a day primary school while a sister had run away while the mother was still alive. She had become so overwhelmed with the sickness of her mother that she took off and got married at 14 years old . (She is still married to this day after many hiccups. She has two children and seems to be doing okay).

Beginnings

I was very concerned that Eric at five years old was not going to school so I followed up with his oldest sibling and a neighbour. Apparently, the boy had not paid the 1,500 shillings ($19 CAD) fee at his school. I mobilized my two colleagues and some friends to donate some cash and Eric went back to school after two days. Thus started our education support project; quite spontaneously, without even writing a proposal. I started sharing freely about the orphaned children and it brought tears to many of my friends. One of them, whose son was doing an advertisement for AIDS, gave us the 50,000 shillings ($625 CAD) that he got from it.

In 2004, we got a scholarship for three orphans in secondary school from USAID via World Relief, Kenya. The then Chief Executive of the electricity generating company in Kenya got interested in us through his wife, who is part of our board. For nine years up to 2012, he auctioned the gifts that he received throughout the year and gave us all the proceeds from the sale. This helped us support 71 students through Secondary education and others through colleges.

Sadly, for us, the CEO completed his tenure in 2012 and retired. Some children who were yet to complete high school were going to be affected negatively. It could have been the end of the road for them. But our God does not slumber, neither does He sleep! Around the time the CEO retired, a Canadian school teacher named Peter, visited our office. He had been referred to us by his sister who lives in Kenya. He was looking for internship for his wife’s niece who was coming to Kenya. She was interested in interacting with AIDS patients in a health center. Since we no longer had an active HIV treatment facility, I referred him elsewhere. He went away but came back to my office and said he felt that the niece would still benefit from associating with us. That’s how we got more help for the orphans and vulnerable children.

The niece was so touched by the children she visited in families affected by AIDS that when she went back, she shared about her experiences with her relatives and people started channeling funds through Peter who by now had gone back to Canada. Peter finally found an organization in Canada through which they could send the funds so that people could get tax rebates and to date, they have supported over 40 children at different levels of education.

The problem is that the need for education support in Kenya is very real. There has been talk of free Secondary education and while that is a noble idea, it might be a while before it comes into being. Currently, the government is doing its best to ensure all day secondary schools are free. However, the bright children are usually admitted to what is called national and county schools. Others are admitted to sub-county schools. These are
mostly boarding schools and the fees is higher than the day schools.

School Fee Structure

According to this year’s school fees circular, the government will pay 22,244 KES for every student in secondary school regardless of the type of school. This translates to the following:

School TypeTotal School Fees per YearGovernment SubsidyBalance to be Raised by Parent/Sponsor
National75,244 ($941 CAD)22,244 ($278 CAD)53,000 ($663 CAD)
County & Sub-County62,789 ($785 CAD)22,244 ($278 CAD)40,545 ($507 CAD)
Day Schools22,244 ($278 CAD)22,244 ($278 CAD)0

The above figures do not include uniforms, beddings etc, personal effects and transport. Personal effects and transport are usually pegged at 15,000 per year ($188 CAD). Uniforms are purchased every two years; at Form 1 and and Form 3 levels. The cost of two uniforms and bedding ranges from 20,000 ($250 CAD) to 25,000 ($313 CAD) per child depending on the location of the school.

We are currently only accepting children in National, County and Sub-County Secondary schools since the day schools are meant to be free.

Current Status

As I write this, we have stopped accepting new students. Since 2004 we have supported more than 117 children. However, funding has become increasingly difficult to access and as a result we agreed with our current partner to maintain our current beneficiaries until the situation improves.

We are currently reaching out to beneficiaries who have graduated (alumni) and seeing how to engage them in support of bright needy students.

Despite our funding challenges, we have recently been challenged to think about the children who do not perform well in school and can be registered for vocational training in village polytechnics. This will allow us to become all-inclusive and accommodating. (Food for thought when our funding situation improves.)