LIGHTING STUDENTS' LIVES IN KENYA
LIGHTING STUDENTS' LIVES IN KENYA
In 2014, Watts of Love joined forces with Kenya Children’s Fund to provide each student enrolled in the Kinyago-Dandora School [KDS] with a new solar light. The school is located in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya—East Africa’s most populous city and the largest urban slum on the continent.
Just outside of Nairobi lays the village of Dandora, which sits on top of what is widely regarded as the largest active garbage dump site on Earth. Here, the dirt roads are obscured by mounds of garbage and debris and it is not uncommon for a family of six to share a small, single-room shack.
When we delivered lights to the family pictured here, we were invited into their 6'x8' shack to see where they live each day under the sprawling heat of the dump site. Words cannot describe their living environment.
We believe in the following three things: Every light tells a story; everyone deserves a chance, and everyone is entitled to be the best person they can be in life .
Even though this school is located in a very dark and dangerous place, cheers of joy, laughter and love can often be heard from within this courtyard.
Despite their everyday struggles and hardships to survive, I have never experienced such joy and happiness as I did with these children and teachers at Kinyago-Dandora.
Often, the alleys of Dandora are lined with rows and rows of recently hand-washed clothes. I now look at my washer and dryer in a completely different fashion.
Giving a light to this grandmother who is currently raising 10 grandchildren all by herself was one of the most meaningful and humbling experience of my life.
Nancy Economou, founder of Watts of Love, and Ginger Palm, CEO of Kenya Children’s Fund educate students and staff on how to use their new lights.
It was so obvious that every student we met was keenly aware that they had essentially won the “lottery in life” by being fortunate enough to attend Kenya Children’s Fund schools in Kinyago-Dandora.
The entire staff from the Kenya Children’s Fund, Watts of Love founder Nancy Economou, and Ginger Palm celebrate as the first day of delivering lights begins.
This photo captures the light in these happy student’s eyes, but it wasn’t from my photo flash–it came from their mounting sense of HOPE for a better future, starting with a brighter tonight!
Despite the bars that keep them safe while in school there is always so much joy in each and every classroom we visited.
Light = Education. Each child knows that their education means a pathway to a new and better life.
These high school students from Kenya Children’s Fund made the experience of giving out their new solar lights even more joyful than I could have ever imagined!
This mother and five children was thrilled to receive her new lights to eliminate some of the darkness in each of their lives.
There is no running water in the village, no electricity and not a single toilet flushes. In the rainy season, Dandora becomes overrun with sludge and flooded garbage, and all year round, it smells of decay.
Armed guards traveled with the team at all times while in the garbage dumps in Dandora.
“When I first entered the Dandora dump site, I had the feeling that for the first time in my life, I had entered a place that all humanity, dignity, joy and hope had been completely eradicated. I was wrong,” said founder Kevin Kuster
“Giving a light to this grandmother pictured above who is currently raising 10 grandchildren all by herself was one of the most meaningful and humbling experiences of my life,” says founding member Kevin Kuster. “You can’t experience such extreme poverty and not be radically changed.”
But one beacon of hope remains a constant in this community, and that is the Kinyago-Dandora School (KDS) run by the compassionate people behind Kenya Children’s Fund. Serving approximately 800 local students from preschool to high school, the KDS curriculum is considered among the best in all of Nairobi, providing education, nutrition, medical and spiritual care for the impoverished children of Dandora.
Although all the windows at Kinyago-Dandora have bars on them and a few have broken glass, there is a hope, focus, drive and understanding from each student because they know their education is a complete gift.
In the moment of taking pictures, I never find it hard to create the images. However, when I relive the moment as I do when I write about my experience, it absolutely crushes me emotionally.” - Kevin Kuster
Most of the homes in Dandora are built from the trash, waste and garbage.
Even out of focus, you can still see that amazingly bright smile behind our Watts of Love wristband.
Together, these two cooks provide the only means of nutrition that the students of Kinyago-Dandora are guaranteed to receive for the day.
Pastor David is the wonderful Spiritual Director for Kenya Children’s Fund. He is a bright light for all the children.
WOL team members learned that attending KDS, where children have access to two square meals, a nurse, and unbelievable opportunity, is like winning the lottery in this part of the world.
After distributing 1,000 solar lights and sending each child and teacher home with a lantern for their family, these students can continue learning when the school day ends and the sun goes down. They no longer strain to read a textbook page or learn a trade like sewing in near darkness. At last, KDS has access to the solar tools needed to foster optimal success.
Even though this school is located in a very dark and dangerous place, cheers of joy, laughter and love can often be heard from within this courtyard. Without a high school education, locals face little chance for employment. In Kenya, more than 40% of the population is unemployed, according to the World Bank. Without the distinguished education provided by schools like KDS, all too often, children are forced into demoralizing trades like theft and prostitution in their effort to survive.
Despite consistently being ranked among the top 10 most corrupt countries in the world, according to the watchdog group Transparency International, Kenya provides shelter to nearly a quarter million refugees from Somalia, Uganda and Sudan who have fled varying degrees of terror in their home countries.
Kenya Children’s Fund envisions a better, brighter future for these ambitious boys and girls, and the Watts of Love team feels very fortunate to have been a part of improving their lives.
THANK YOU KENYA CHILDREN'S FUND
Watts of Love would like to thank our wonderful partners at Kenya Children’s Fund for their support in making this distribution possible for the entire student body of KDS. We would especially like to extend our deepest gratitude to Ginger Palm for helping us achieve such immense success during our first-ever solar mission trip in Africa. We truly can’t wait to go back!
For more information, on KFC visit kenyachildrensfund.org
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