So They Can Kenya Report
This year Wotton + Kearney partnered with So They Can, an inspiring charity empowering communities in Kenya and Tanzania through education so they can break the poverty cycle. Our partnership started with sponsoring the education of Joyce Wambui, a 7 year old girl in Kenya who attends the Aberdare Ranges Primary School, a school established and run by So They Can. As the partnership with So They Can continued, our vision of how we could support the charity grew, culminating in the firm setting a target of raising at least $50,000 for So They Can (enough to support the education of 80 unsponsored children for a year), and sending a team over to Kenya to lend some hands on assistance. This all came to fruition in August this year. The W+K team has just returned from Kenya, and the firm has collectively raised in excess of $100,000 for So They Can – doubling our fundraising target.
MEET THE TEAM
|David Kearney, Chief Executive Partner, Sydney Office|
“I feel proud to be part of a law firm where the people appreciate the privileged position they are in and have a desire to support the less privileged through initiatives like our partnership with So They Can. I feel even stronger about that now having had the opportunity to visit Kenya and see first hand the wonderful work that So They Can is doing with these kids in Nakuru.”
|Heidi Nash-Smith, Head of Pro Bono & Corporate Social Responsibility, Sydney Office|
“I have spoken many times in recent months about So They Can’s core purpose – to empower women and children through education so that they can escape the poverty cycle. I have now witnessed the poverty this community is trying to escape. And I am able to finally comprehend just how significant the projects So They Can is setting up and supporting are to this community.”
|Karen Jones, Partner, Sydney Office|
“A career highlight has been watching with pride as our firm and the industry came together to support our group of (mostly) ‘would-be’ runners on our 21 kilometre trek across the Maasai Mara, which raised over $100,000 for So They Can”.
|Hope Saloustros, Senior Associate, Melbourne Office|
“I am really proud of our firm’s combined fundraising and marathon efforts this year. Not only did we raise over $100,000 for So They Can, those of us who went to Kenya also completed the gruelling Maasai Mara Marathon. I believe the trip was a powerful and enriching experience for all involved”.
|Emily Schneider, Senior Associate, Melbourne Office|
“It started as an opportunity to support a worthwhile charity and expand my own horizons but turned out to be so much more! I experienced first hand the extraordinary achievements of a properly funded grassroots charity and I was privileged to be able to make a small contribution to a community working hard to break the poverty cycle. The people I met along the way were truly inspiring and I feel very lucky to have had this experience.”
|Mica Cole, Solicitor, Melbourne Office|
“My fondest memory was playing with the children at Miti Mingi Village. One girl, Marcie, was smiling and laughing with me all afternoon. As I said goodbye, Marcie laid out her hand and gave me glitter sequins she had pulled off her dress – something she clearly treasured. I was deeply touched by Marcie’s gesture. It reminded me how important it is to give to others; regardless of whether you have a little or lot to give, it will make someone smile.”
We are delighted to have been able to assist So They Can in the following ways:
- over $100,000 raised for So They Can which will go towards supporting So They Can’s projects to empower and educate women and children in East Africa;
- ongoing sponsorship of the education of 33 children at the Aberdare Ranges Primary School;
- 17 W+K staff volunteered at So They Can fundraising events;
- advocacy and awareness raising about So They Can to our wider community, including:
- 223 attendees at our Sydney charity dinner;
- 117 attendees at our Sydney and Melbourne high tea events;
- 7244 people reached via social media;
- engagement with the W+K network through the individual fundraising pages and communications resulting in 320 donations, including a number of donations made personally by clients and service providers;
- through the generous support of 5 corporate sponsors, MDD Forensic Accountants, Law in Order, Crawford & Company, Austbrokers Professional Services and FDC Construction & Fitout.
In addition, Neil and Daniel from our IT team have provided consultancy services to So They Can throughout the year and provided So They Can’s office with new IT hardware. Michelle, our finance manager has taken on an ongoing volunteer role with So They Can, providing them with her expert accounting advice and assistance.
Miti Mingi Village
Our first afternoon in Kenya was spent at Miti Mingi Village, the children’s home established by So They Can to care for orphaned and vulnerable children, particularly those living on the local dump site.
The Village provides a safe and loving home for 120 children who are cared for by a team of dedicated ‘house mothers’. All of the children receive a quality education at the Aberdare Ranges Primary School.
Our visit started with a welcome from the children and staff – involving poems, acrobatics and a fashion show and then we presented a number of gifts including board games and arts and crafts provisions to the children. The 7 children below accepted the gifts on behalf of all the children.
We were then shown around the village by Village Director, James and Operations Manager, Moses. We were able to see first hand the work being done at the village and the impact the donations to So They Can have had in recent years.
So They Can has partnered with SOS Children’s Villages to ensure they are operating according to world’s best practice. Based on recommendations from SOS, So They Can has started building new houses to accommodate the children in a family environment rather than dormitories. Each home has a dedicated ‘mum’ caring for eight children in a nurturing home environment, creating as close a family and sibling upbringing for the children as possible. As such, recent donations have been used to fund the construction of the new homes and support the ‘Miti Mingi Mums’.
Since making this change to the village over the last year, the children have prospered – doing better at school, being healthier and happier.
The team spent the rest of the afternoon interacting with the children and house mothers, playing, exchanging stories and learning from one another. Miti Mingi Village exudes happiness. So They Can has achieved something special at Miti Mingi – a true sense of family, community and home.
Aberdare Ranges Primary School
On Monday we spent the day at the Aberdare Ranges Primary School. The school was initially established by So They Can to meet the critical need for education for the children in the poverty stricken Pipeline Camp (now known as New Canaan Village) that was formed after the 2007 political violence that saw many dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. Over the years as the school has grown it has widened is scope and now caters to meet the needs of the wider Pipeline community.
The school currently has 960 students who are receiving a quality education and will have 1080 students in 2017 when it will be at full capacity teaching ages 3 through to 13.
Our day started with a school assembly. The kids made us feel extremely welcome – particularly as they had come into the school during holidays to spend time with us. They put on lively performances of music, dance and acrobatics, with some highlights including a performance of the Haka (for our team mates from Trilogy in New Zealand) and a rendition of Waltzing Matilda.
After school assembly we were introduced to our sponsor children, including Joyce (the 7-year old girl sponsored by W+K) and other children that members of the team had sponsored. Having spent the last 8 months talking about Joyce, it was quite overwhelming to finally meet her – our efforts over the last 8 months had come to fruition.
Over lunch, the team helped serve food to the 400 children who had come to school that day. This is part of the school’s nutritional program that provides all of the students with two hot meals a day designed to fulfil their daily nutrient requirements. For many, this is the only food they will receive, which explained the copious servings.
Our afternoon was spent taking part in a sports carnival with the children. We were each assigned to a school team and competed against each other and the children in sprints, a blindfolded race and a sack race. There was also plenty of time for us to interact with the children.
One of the lasting points of connection which Wotton + Kearney has with So They Can is through child sponsorship. In addition to the firm’s sponsorship of Joyce, 14 members of staff have also sponsored children at Aberdare Ranges. A further 19 children were sponsored by clients and guests at our fundraising dinner in Sydney. Having now witnessed the excellent education that Aberdare Ranges provides to the local children and the opportunity for an improved future, we are extremely pleased to have an ongoing commitment to So They Can and to the children attending the Aberdare Ranges Primary School.
Providing some hands on assistance
The main focus of our third day in Kenya was to provide some hands on assistance at the Aberdare Ranges Primary School by painting classrooms, the kitchen and the reception area. It was great to help out and brighten up some areas at the school for the kids to enjoy.
During our time at the school, we were invited to view a STC business based in the school grounds. Sew Woman Can is a social business offering vulnerable young single mothers vocational training in sewing classes and making handicrafts. These women also assist in making school uniforms for the school children.
The Pipeline Camp, home to many of the families supported by So They Can
So They Can began following a visit to the Pipeline IDP (internally displaced persons) Camp by co-founders, Cassandra Treadwell and Keri Chittenden, back in 2009. At that time, the Camp was home to 6,700 displaced persons following post election violence in 2007. During their visit to the Camp, the community communicated to Cassandra and Keri their most desperate need – the need to educate their children. They recognised that education was the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, and this led to the establishment of the Aberdare Ranges Primary School.
Our visit to the Camp was extremely confronting and emotional. It brought into stark contrast the facilities at Miti Mingi Village and at the school. During our visit to the Camp, we witnessed the poverty that this community is trying to escape and we were finally able to comprehend just how significant the projects So They Can is setting up and supporting are to this community.
Our first stop was a visit to the Community Health Clinic, run by 3 nurses who on average see 70 patients a day from the camp and surrounding communities. They provide this service from 3 rooms. For 20 Kenyan shillings (about 20c US), patients can access most medical services and medications. Before So They Can became involved, the clinic was only open 2 days a week – now it is open 5 days and the nurses have seen a significant reduction in illness and disease in the community as a result.
The Micro Finance Business School is another critical project being undertaken by So They Can. The aim of the business school is to teach business management to the poorest women in the community, empowering them to take out Micro Finance loans to start their own businesses, generate income and improve the standard of living for them and their families. Whilst we were at the Camp we visited several of these women and heard from them the difference the business school has made to their lives.
The entire time we were at the Camp we were surrounded by the children that live there. Their clothes were tattered and worn, many didn’t have shoes, or the ones they had were falling apart. They were dirty. They had no toys to play with. But they were full of smiles and love for one another and for their families. They clung to our hands – the young ones unable to communicate with us, but wanting to stay close.
From this visit we were able to see how So They Can is making a significant difference to this community. We also understood why it is so necessary to invest in this generation of children and to enable them to live a different life – one of opportunity rather than poverty.
The Maasai Mara Half Marathon
There were 2 parts to our trip to Kenya, the first was visiting So They Can’s projects and the second was taking part in what is undoubtedly one of the most challenging half marathons in the world, the Maasai Mara Half Marathon.
The team knew in advance that the run would be challenging. We had been told that the terrain would be uneven, that there may be animals en-route, that we would be running at altitude and in temperatures of around 28 degrees. It is one thing to be told all this and it is quite another to experience it.
When race day arrived, the whole Wotton + Kearney team were excited and ready to run. The team had been training for this day for almost 8 months. Race day was the culmination of a huge amount of effort from a group, the majority of whom had never run a half marathon before.
The team jumped in safari trucks to make the journey to the race start. Slightly disconcertingly, about 100 metres from race headquarters we encountered a hyena and 2 jackals. Thankfully they passed us by without much interest and we arrived at the start line, joining a few hundred people standing in the middle of the Maasai Mara, nothing around us apart from the wide expanse of the Reserve.
After some waiting around and a group warm up, it was time to go. The Kenyan elites strode off into the distance and it was truly amazing to see. The speed they were running, their colourful running gear quickly disappearing from sight. It was a privilege to run with them (albeit briefly).
In an outstanding effort, each member of the Wotton + Kearney team completed the Masai Mara Half Marathon. The team completed the run as part of the firm’s fundraising efforts for So They Can. For each of you who sponsored and supported us in undertaking this challenge we can re-assure you it was exactly that – a challenge. It took every ounce of grit to get through the run. It took months of training and dedication from the team. Having spent the preceding days witnessing the great work that So They Can is doing in Kenya – and the need for the charity to be present and providing opportunity to the communities in Nakuru – we all agree that the training and pain during the run itself was worth it. Through these efforts and your support we are making a difference.
A Continuing Partnership
Looking ahead, W+K will continue its partnership with So They Can through child sponsorship and volunteer opportunities. In addition, we have committed to hold 2 fundraising initiatives across the firm to raise funds to support the Aberdare Ranges run club:
- a morning tea, where we will aim to raise $500 to enable So They Can to purchase running equipment for the school running club; and
- a fun run. For each race entry W+K will make a donation to So They Can to support the school run club.
Alongside these initiatives, members of the W+K team that travelled to Kenya are championing some additional fundraising to support one of the staff members at the Aberdare Ranges Primary School.
Introducing Ken, by Hope Saloustros
During our time in Kenya, we had the opportunity to meet Ken, the cook at Aberdare Ranges Primary School and school running coach. Ken is a dedicated runner. He took part in the Maasai Mara half marathon last year and finished in an impressive 1 hr 14 minutes – just 4 minutes behind the winner. After that run, Ken returned to Aberdare Ranges and set up a running camp to share his passion for running with the kids. He’s currently training 40 students to run 5kms – and hoping that they will all take part in an organised race in Nakuru in September this year.
Ken took me, my husband Robert and Heidi (our pro bono partner) out for a training run whilst we were in Kenya which provided an opportunity for us to connect with him. He is an extremely gentle, generous and understated man who is giving his all to the Aberdare Ranges community. Each of us came away from our run with Ken motivated to support him and the work he is doing at Aberdare Ranges with the run club.
Over the course of the year, we’ll be looking to:
- Raise money to fund the cost of Ken’s flight to the Maasai Mara, accommodation and race entry into the Maasai Mara half marathon in 2017 – estimated cost $1000; and
- Raise money to fund the cost of a running coach for Ken to help him reach his goal of winning the Maasai Mara half marathon 2017 – estimated cost $600.
Ken is using the skills that he has to give back to the So They Can community, with no expectation of return or reward. He has great potential, but without support that potential will not be realised.
Ken has inspired us to continue in our own marathon efforts. Our ongoing involvement with Ken may also engage others in a similar way!