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Kicking out poverty through education

By Milliam Murigi
Sunday, April 18th, 2021
Festus Kimanzi, Project Director at Chuluni Development Centre flanked by the twins, Nicholas and Mercy. Photo/PD/MILLIAM MURIGI
In summary

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

Mercy Mawia James and her twin brother Nicholas Musili James from Nzambani, Kitui county never imagined they will go beyond primary school.

The last born children had seen how their parents struggled to educate their older siblings even when their father was employed.

After he lost his job, everything went from bad to worse, since he was the breadwinner.

The family at some point couldn’t even afford a meal a day. They also used to sleep on sacks with nothing to cover their bodies.

Though the parents tried their best to provide for them, it used to be difficult. The older siblings were always in and out of school because of lack of school fees.

Sponspor pairing

“Watching all this happen to our siblings made us think we would not be lucky to go beyond class eight.

For primary education, we were hopeful because it was free. But our God intervened,” says Mercy.

At nine years old, the two were spotted by Compassion International Kenya, an international organisation dedicated to saving children from poverty. This is when their life took a positive turn.

They were placed on the organisation’s Child Sponsorship Programme, through which they were promised better lives, good and quality education, and a safe Christian environment to grow in confidence and social skills. 

Since the organisation works with the local churches to enable them to achieve their objective, the two were enrolled at Redeemed Gospel Church Chuluni Child Development Centre, Kitui. 

“Our mission is to release children from poverty in Jesus name. We know that poverty not only places children at physical risk, but also places them at risk of damage within.

It robs them of the belief that they matter, that they have value and that they can dream of and achieve a different future,” says Festus Kimanzi, Project Director at Chuluni development centre.

Through the help of this NGO, the two managed to complete their primary and secondary education.

They are now in university taking undergraduate degrees in baking technology and economic and statistics courses respectively. 

“For education, we work with different sponsors through one-to-one child sponsorship.

This means one child is paired with one sponsor who not only provides educational needs for the child, but also ensures the child goes through church-based programmes that are beneficial,” adds Kimanzi. 

The programme offers children the following specific needs: the opportunity to hear the gospel and learn about Jesus, regular Christian training, guidance, and love, personal attention, educational opportunities and help, health care, a caring, and safe Christian environment to grow in confidence and social skills.

They also receive hygiene training, and supplementary food if necessary. 

Economic programme

To ensure they reach as many deserving children as possible, the organisation uses the church and local authority to identify the beneficiaries.

Although they work with only one child per household in this programme, in the case of multiples, all the children are helped. They also look for other donors to help the rest of the families.

Recently, they started an economic empowerment programme to help families of the sponsored children as well as those beneficiaries who have exited the programme after attaining the maximum age of 22 years.

“For this centre alone, about 369 children have benefitted. Currently, 301 are still on and the rest have exited the programme.

Once the beneficiary reaches the exit age, they are always facilitated to start something,” he says.

He also reveals that if one reaches an exit age while still in school, the organisation clears school fees and other necessities until the day the beneficiary completes his/her studies.

This is to ensure that they don’t drop out because of lack of fees and other related problems.

And to ensure that this programme is supplementing traditional schooling, all the children, regardless of country, are required to attend their normal school system.

However, since typical school systems in low- and middle-income countries don’t address a child’s non-academic needs, they engage, educate and shape the way the children think, preparing them for the “world out there.

“We not only address the academic (cognitive) but also the socio-emotional and physical.

We provide an age-graded curriculum to our church partners to help minister to the children consistently.

This curriculum is based on the outcomes we hope to see in the four facets of child development: spiritual, physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional,” says Kimanzi.