International Day of the African Child

Today is the International Day of the African Child, a day set aside to give voice to the challenges facing the continent’s children, often due to poverty.
COVID-19 made this last year even more difficult for vulnerable children across the continent.Your unwavering support of our food hampers distribution program and our vocational training school has made love and care more tangible than ever.
Dear Jennifer,We’re halfway there!!! Yeah…Imagine, 2021 is almost past the halfway mark and we starting to see a little light at the end of this long, dark, tragic tunnel. The vaccine has been rolling out in Kenya since March 2021, and close to one million people have had their first vaccination. Interestingly, our office manager and head teacher both had their 2nd jab last week and are now fully vaccinated. This is a great relief. However, I’m not quite sure how it came about, but I suspect that because we work so closely with agencies such as People with Disabilities Organization, local area community leaders, vulnerable families, and young women within the county, our staff were classified as front line, at-risk workers.The first six months of 2021 have certainly been challenging for everyone at Kijiji Mission. Especially the new students, who have to come in one at a time and have to quarantine for two weeks in our, now unused, volunteer room. The Kenyan culture is so very family and community-oriented that being completely removed from extended family is very difficult for the girls. However, we’ve been operating this way for over 15 months now and everyone has remained safe and well. The students are not permitted to leave the compound and visitors must follow strict Covid protocols.It’s been tough on the girls! But the young women all know that they have been selected for an opportunity that is rarely offered to a girl from a poor family in East Africa, so they all work hard to make the most of the opportunities they have been given. 
Meet Bernadette, one of our recent admissions.
Bernadette is the third born in a family of five. The firstborn is at home with little prospect of skills training or employment. The secondborn is handicapped. The fourth born completed secondary school together with Bernadette, but is still at home, again with little hope of skills training or employment. The fifth born is in class 7.  Her mother has also adopted 5 orphans that had been left on the streets.Her mother separated from their father a long time ago and the children have no memory of him. Her mother has a fibroid tumor that needs an urgent operation, but she doesn’t have the resources for the surgery.  She was a tailor by profession for many years, which is how she fed and raised her 5 children and 5 adopted street children.
However, due to the pain, she is undergoing and the pandemic, she was forced to close her business. The family now relies on food from the People Living with Disability Organization which has been assisting Kijiji Mission in identifying the neediest recipients for our weekly food hamper distribution.
In 2020 Bernadette was admitted to Nakuru Youth Polytechnic to undertake fashion and design. Unfortunately, she didn’t get a higher education loan from the government and was forced to drop out. She is very grateful to have been accepted into Kijiji Mission where she will finally have the opportunity to accomplish her passion of becoming a businesswoman after she completes the 12-month course. She vows she will also help school children from needy families within her community who are forced to attend school in torn, threadbare uniforms, promising to sew new uniforms for them for free.
Our food hampers distribution program has been assisting the elderly, people with disabilities, single mothers, elderly grandmothers struggling to care for multiple grandchildren, child-headed households, and the needy in the communities we target each week since the pandemic first arrived in Kenya 15 months ago. This has only been made possible because of the dedication of Martha’s husband, Ephantus, who has faithfully donated his time and vehicle, along with his team of volunteers, who have been identifying the neediest and arranging the food distribution to our recipients in an orderly, safe and dignified manner week after week, and of course because of your very kind support.
In the beginning, none of us could have possibly comprehended what lay ahead. To think that we would be dealing with lockdowns and school closures 15 months on would have seemed unfathomable.
Imagine the long life this beautiful great-grandmother has had and the stories she can tell. She was born during European colonization. A time when the 40-plus ethnically diverse tribes of Kenya, then known as East Africa, were stripped of their land ownership rights and were either relocated to less desirable land or “employed” by the European settlers to work on their own land. She lived through the violent Mau Mau uprising in the 50’s when Kenyans fought for and won independence and reclamation of their land. She lived through several episodes of post-election violence in the 1990 and again in 2007 when she witnessed neighbors being slaughtered and villages burnt to the ground around her, simply because they came from the wrong tribe.AND NOW COVID!!!
Because of your continued support, I’m proud to say that we have been assisting over 400 families just like this lovely great-grandmother with food hampers every month since the pandemic first arrived in Kenya.
We would like to thank our supporters, sponsors, and donors without whom we couldn’t do any of this work. Please stay safe and know that you are in the thoughts and prayers of your family in Kenya – Kijiji Mission. Warmest blessings,Jennifer Hughes-Bystrom