Local schoolteacher Jennifer Hanson, 24, has been working tirelessly to support the educational future of street children and children in prison in Nakuru, Kenya.
At 18, Jennifer made her first trip to Kenya, where she was blown away by the reality of life for children living on the streets. "I couldn't just walk away from the experience I had. I came home and decided I would do whatever little bit I could to make a difference." After studying a Masters and researching access to education in Kenya, Jennifer went about setting up her own educational project, Tumaini Kenya.
Tumaini Kenya was launched in September 2011 under the charity Hope for Childen, and for such a small scale project it has made a significant difference in the lives of hundreds of children. Over 40 street children in rehabilitation have successfully transitioned into formal school through the Tumaini Stepping Stone project, including 14 year old Charles.
"When Charles began attending Tumaini, I was told that he would never be ready to go to school, that he lacked determination, and the terrible experiences he had on the streets would hold him back. However, in just over a year he is a new boy with ambition and a big smile on his face. He has just transitioned into formal school and I am positive he will carry on doing very well. He has been given the chance of a future."
Children aged between 4 and 16 attend the Stepping Stone project, where they attend lessons in maths, English and life skills with project worker Melanie Otieno, 23. More importantly, they learn the routines and expectations of formal school with a passionate and approachable teacher, and have the opportunity to attend group and 1:1 counselling to prepare them for the transition and help them deal with their past experiences.
Tumaini Kenya also has a second branch working in a local children's prison. The Tumaini Justice for Tomorrow project is currently the only access to education that the children in prison are receiving, so it is welcomed and well attended. Once a week, the project worker delivers workshops focused on healthcare, sanitation and well-being, and can be working with around 75 children aged between 5-16.
When funds permit, donations of underwear and hygiene products are made to particularly support girls into making positive decisions regarding their personal hygiene to ensure a healthy future. Hundreds of children have benefited from this project since launching, and continue to do so on a weekly basis.
The only way the project can run is through continuing support from local people and organisations, as it runs entirely from donations. It is small scale and inexpensive, but has a huge impact on the lives of children in Kenya, helping them move towards a positive future. Jennifer has big plans for future expansion of the project, hoping to recruit more staff and increase the resources for both projects to open the minds of the children it is educating. "In the UK we all often take for granted the access to great resources that we have, and when I take simple educational aids across to Kenya I realise just how lucky we are in our schools. Everything I have purchased for the project is used regularly and benefits the children."
Jennifer has been fund raising for and managing the project whilst working as a full-time Year 2 teacher at Twyford Preparatory school in Winchester. The children across Year 2 will be finding out more about the project and writing their own letters and e-mails to the children in a school link project, developing global awareness on both sides. The Pre-Prep staff are also preparing to take part in a sponsored swim later in the year, and Jennifer will be taking a small team on a 40km walk across the South Downs in May to raise more vital funds to ensure sustainability and continuity of the project.
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