“All three of these students would have to turn to some form of prostitution or illegal activity just to get the basics to live if not for the support they receive from the college through Twinning funds.” -Brother Oscar, Principal of Mwangaza College.
Peninah, age 17
“I see chefs on TV and I like baking a lot. It is my passion. That is why I am at Mawanza College to learn to bake and someday be able to support my family.”
Peninah is an orphan, losing both parents within the past three years. At the tender age of 17, she is responsible for her family, which is made up of her aged grandmother, two sisters (one of whom is mentally challenged), a brother (who is blind), and a brother-in-law (who works to support the family as mechanic jobs allow). The family all lives together in a small mud hut without the benefit of running water or electricity.
When we visited her home, located a one hour walk from Mwangaza College, a walk Peninah does round trip everyday, we were warmly welcomed. We entered a small area that is surrounded by a wooden fence and consists of the family’s house, a small structure for grain, and another for small farm animals such as chickens and ducks. There is a small plot of land behind the granary where the family does subsistence farming and there are a few banana trees from which the grandmother gathers bananas daily for sale at the dirt road crossing. Survival is a daily challenge. The family has great hopes for Peninah and frankly she knows all too well of the responsibility she carries.
With the skills that Peninah is learning at Mwangaza College she sometimes bakes cakes to sell to her neighbors. When she achieves her certificate from the Food and Beverage Program, she will be able to find regular employment. That is her dream and the hope of her family.
“My dream is to get enough money to support my family, especially my sister, who needs to be in a special school. I am so appreciative of all that has been provided for me and I am inspired to do my best. God bless and thank you.”
Beth, age 18
In 2008 post-election violence in Kenya led to the killing of certain tribal groups. It was a time of great upheaval and unrest. Beth and her family were driven from their ancestral homes after experiencing horrific violence. The Kenyan government established “refugee” camps in “safe zones” located far from the ancestral homes. Beth’s family was resettled in such a camp. Since 2008 until last month Beth and her parents, older brother, and maternal grandparents lived in a tent made of heavy sheets of plastic and a (leaky) tin roof the size of an18x10 foot backyard garden shed. Last month, due to Beth’s mother’s chronic sickness from the cold, the family was able to move into a small house a short 20 minute walk from the tents, where her grandparents still live. When her older brother is home from the government University on break, he has to spend the night at various neighbors tents or house since there is no room for him at either the tent or the house where his parents now live.
We visited the resettlement tents. During these past 8 years, the community of 300 people, have established a substantial farm that does help to provide fresh food for the community. However, with no direct access to fresh water, issues of sanitation and disease control abound.
Beth, too is in the Food and Beverage program at Mwangaza College. Her dream is to graduate and move her family to a place where they can be together and safe and her mother warm. The Twinning funds assist Beth and allow her to stay at a local hostel so she does not have to travel to the 20 miles to the school daily (something she cannot afford)
In reflecting upon her studies she told us “I am passionate about cooking. I am so inspired by Madame Nancy. She is a teacher who truly cares for her students. She believes in us. I do not know what would become of me without Brother Oscar and Madame Jane.”
Dismas, age 18
The son of a fourth wife in a polygamist household, Dismas was dismissed from the family ancestral home, after completing secondary school in a rural village and told to now “fend for yourself.” “It was a long journey but I am now able to attend this College because of the generosity of so many who believe in me – people I do not even know.”
Dismas is an accounting major and principal, Brother Oscar noticed that he was always very tired. After inquiring, Brother discovered that in addition to his work-study program, Dismas was working nights to afford a place to live. Thanks to the “powerhouse team” of Brother Oscar and Madame Jane, Dismas has found housing with a local Christian family that provides room and board in exchange assistance with chores.
“I am so very grateful. This is truly God working in my life.”
In addition to financial assistance to students, the Twinning program has provided updated equipment for the Food and Beverage, Beauty, Fashion Programs. Additionally, the technology available to the students has been updated. Saint John Baptist de La Salle writes of a Lasallian education as being a means of salvation. The work of Mwangaza College in Nakuru, Kenya is certainly a source of that today!