I had the pleasure of visiting Nairobi from June 23 – 30 for the first time since February 2020. This was my 26th trip to Kenya and I left with three major impressions related to our work through Ngong Road Children’s Foundation (NRCF).
- Leadership is everything. I believe that organizations grow and thrive when they are well-led. We have been working toward developing effective leadership in Kenya that is both a reflection of Kenyan culture yet also responsive to American leadership norms. Kelvin Thuku (Programme Manager for NRCF) and his leadership team are doing an excellent job of leading the organization and it shows. Our staff is long-tenured and mature. It is clear that they have built a culture where team members bring their best ideas to work and feel comfortable tackling challenging problems.
I observed the team discuss issues in our post-secondary program; they were clear on the problems to be solved and very vocal about solutions. I visited the Saturday Program and saw a well-organized, orderly program for 150 elementary-age students. We had many programs running concurrently while I was in Kenya – computer training for recent high school graduates, parent meetings for post-secondary students, Life Skills training, etc. – and it all worked smoothly.
- Get educated and get a job. We have done well in helping students get educated, yet we know we have room for improvement in supporting alumni on their employment journey. We conducted our 2nd Alumni Survey in late June and learned that 51% of graduates had a job at the time of the survey, 80% had one or more jobs in the past 12 months and 72% of alumni are supporting other family members. These results are modestly improved from 2021. While I was there, our new Employment Services Manager (Martha Otieno) began her job. She brings strong skills and background in workforce development and good understanding of the employment market in Nairobi. I expect she will have a positive impact on employment among our alumni.
- Even if a student’s path leaves the main road, they find a way. I spent time with many alumni while in Nairobi, including at least 10 whose education journey was less than we hoped for. In every case, I found young adults who have grown, are more mature, and are piecing a life together. Some are back in the slums, but they have one or more businesses or are employed. If there are children, they are in school. Some are working in the gig economy and earning a living by doing several things like contract workers in our economy. Some are looking for a better job or getting more education or trying to move out of contract employment to more permanent jobs. Most of them are building on the education they earned; they are determined and succeeding.
Sometimes the road taken is not straight. We have 183 alumni from this program whose lives are better than they would have been without education. In most cases, alumni are building a life and by the time they get into their 20s, they understand the incredible gift they have been given. Thank you to each and every one of you who have helped these students in their journey.