Kenya has become the focus of CBB's international scholarship program because the circumstances confronting girls in this country can often be the most desperate of all the countries where CBB has offered scholarships.

Kenya's rapidly growing economy has produced an inequality of income that is one of the greatest in sub-Saharan Africa. In spite of advancing to become a "middle income" nation, Kenya continues to endure a poverty rate of 45% that has hardly changed for 35 years. Poverty is higher in households headed by women than by men--as much as double--with one third of such households eating only one meal a day. The average mother in rural Kenya is single, poorly educated, and without an income adequate to support her family.

Combined with this poverty is the physical, emotional and sexual abuse Kenyan girls endure, making them among the most vulnerable in the world. CBB gives scholarships to abandoned and orphaned homeless girls, to daughters of single mothers ill with AIDS, to daughters of abusive alcoholic fathers, to daughters of prostitutes, to girls who have been molested, etc.

Kenyan children must complete nursery school, normally three years, before entering primary school, yet students must pay tuition and have a uniform to attend nursery school. Without a scholarship, many poor girls can never begin their education.

The Kenyan government describes primary school as being free, but schools charge a variety of supplementary fees, and a student needs her school uniform, shoes and school supplies. For the 50% of Kenyan girls who are poor the difference between being able to attend primary school or not may be CBB's scholarship of $35 a year. Without a scholarship, a poor girl is commonly in school for a month or two and then is sent home until her caretaker can pay her fees to return to the classroom for another month or two. And this goes on all year long! It is no wonder that the average grade in Kenyan public primary schools is a C -.

The cost of tuition, school uniform and supplies, etc. for attending high school is $150, half a year's income for a poor family. Again, it is no wonder that only one third of Kenyan girls graduate from high school. CBB gives scholarships to 250 nursery, primary and high school girls in central and western Kenya.

Hostel girls

Homeless Schoolgirls

CBB has founded two hostels in central Kenya that give a safe and caring home to 50 scholarship girls who have been abandoned, orphaned, physically abused, and/or sexually molested. The hostels are organized as communities where, under the guidance of a matron, the girls care for themselves and each other. All girls, big and small, assist in food preparation and clean-up.

To support these girls in healing from their past mistreatment and neglect, the hostels provide a structured, disciplined and caring environment. The girls share their stories with each other--and there is no more effective way to heal than to care for another person who also needs healing.

Each little girl is looked after by a big girl, and the older girls are expected to be positive role models to their younger "sisters". Amazingly, the girls who were mistreated the worst before coming to a hostel are the ones who appreciate most being rescued and are often the easiest to care for.

These girls are survivors, and in overcoming the terrible neglect and mistreatment they have endured they develope strengths that other children may not have. Many of the girls had not attended school regularly, if at all, but once they settle into their new home, they begin to excel academically, with one third of the hostel girls now in the top 10% of their class in school. For a view of hostel life, click here.

Corn harvest

Growing their own food

CBB provides ten acres of agricultural land where the hostel girls can grow their own food. School vacations in Kenya come during April, August and December--months when the girls can participate in planting, weeding and harvesting the food they will eat. When the hostel girls are in school, a team of mothers of other scholarship girls help with the farming.

Corn and beans are the staple crops. There are two plantings and harvests a year for each crop, so the girls have ample opportunity to develop their agricultural skills. The girls very much enjoy the agricultural work--for them it is a welcomed break from their academic studies.

To see a video of the hostel girls' corn harvest, click here.

Goats waiting for distribution

Goats for girls

CBB's Kenyan Project Director recalls that as a girl she was “hungry when she went to bed at night, hungry when she went to school the next morning”. The situation today for girls living in poverty is no different.

When the principal of a school where girls receive CBB scholarships was asked if they went home for lunch, he replied, “Why would they do that? There's no food there.” Instead, students bring any vegetable they may have at home, and, if there is enough, the contributions are put into a pot to make a soup. If there is not enough, the students do not get lunch that day.

When CBB asked mothers of its scholarship girls what they most wanted, they said it would be a goat. So, CBB gives these scholarship mothers a goat that is easy to care for, as they eat almost anything, and they provide milk that is especially nutritious both for the girls and for their mothers ill with AIDS. The women breed their goats as soon as they are mature. Male kids can be sold for money to buy food, while females will grow up to give more milk.

A primary school classroom, Kakamega, Kenya

Back to school

A large proportion of orphaned and abandoned girls in rural Kenya are not in school. Some of these girls have never been to school, while others started school, but were forced to leave by their poverty when their father died or abandoned them. So, CBB began a back-to-school program giving scholarships to over 100 orphaned and abandoned girls, paying their school fees and other school expenses.

Amazingly, these girls are so grateful for the opportunity to resume their studies that they are out-performing their classmates who have attended school continuously. These scholarships are awarded in a rural area outside the town of Kakamega in western Kenya where they are administered by the Indangalasia HIV/AIDS resource center.

Since receiving CBB's support, this facility was designated the best HIV/AIDS resource center in its district in recognition of its achievements. The following year it was named the best center in its province. And the next year, Kenya's National AIDS Council designated Indangalasia as the best local HIV/AIDS resource center in all of Kenya!

High school girls receive their kits, Kenya

Kits for Girls

Throughout the developing world, millions of poor schoolgirls are absent from their classes several days every month for lack of money to buy sanitary pads. So, Compassion Beyond Borders is distributing 1,000 feminine hygiene kits to older schoolgirls, a project initiated in Albuquerque, NM through the organization Days for Girls.

CBB’s sewing shop in Kenya that makes school uniforms for its scholarship girls assembles the kits, which include panties, shields, washable pads, soap and towels, etc. that girls can use over and over again for several years.

CBB has distributed the feminine hygiene kits to schoolgirls in ten communities in Kenya and Uganda. The cost of assembling the kits for a classroom of 50 girls is $300. To see a video illustrating these kits, click here.

Teacher Miriam

One girl's story: Miriam Wanjiku

Miriam was a ten year old orphan living with her drunken, alcoholic grandfather who, for a bottle of beer, sold her to his drinking partners for sex. Then he sold her in marriage, also for a bottle of beer. The marriage lasted one night and Miriam found herself thrown out on the street where she lived for the next three months.

Miriam was brought to CBB’s hostels by the local chief who found her going from house to house in her neighborhood begging for food. CBB did not hesitate to accept Miriam even though it was obvious that she was a very troubled girl, as it turned out, more difficult to care for than any ten other girls put together. And yet, her heart was in the right place, Miriam just didn't know right from wrong.

Now Miriam has healed from her immense troubledness and is near the top of her class at school. She volunteers to help without being asked and is a cooperative member of her hostel community. Miriam is loved and appreciated by her “sisters” and adults alike, and of all the hostel girls she is one of the most thankful and appreciative for having been rescued.

And Miriam has continued to grow and mature. She has taken a special interest in the nursery school girls, teaching them dancing, gospel songs and memory verses from the Bible, and helping them with their school lessons. In return, these girls have given her the title "Teacher Miriam", a mark of great respect in the Kenyan culture. Imagine, from forced prostitution to Teacher Miriam in just three years!