In the largest slum in Africa called Kibera, near Nairobi, Kenya, live approximately over half a million people. They are living without access to clean water, sewer system, electricity, or any meaningful infrastructure. It is unsafe at night with no lights and women and girls are sexually assaulted and battered. We are taking these children out of the slum and sending them on a Road to Freedom, to attend a beautiful boarding school. There, they receive medical care, a bed, a uniform, 3x nutritious meals a day, clean water, an amazing education, and safety.
The money raised for Road to Freedom Scholarships goes directly to these girls from the slum. We travel to Kenya on a regular basis providing them this opportunity personally. They are excelling in this school, with gratitude, and a complete appreciation that this is their chance to change their lives, they understand that they have been given an incredible opportunity and take it very seriously. They dream BIG. We would love to send as many girls to this school as possible!
In 2010, Road to Freedom Scholarships was founded, with the intent to provide a boarding school education for orphans from Kibera. At first however, despite a willingness to pay full school fees, this was proving difficult as many schools demurred when approached to accept girls from the slum of Kibera.
But persevering, Road to Freedom Scholarships succeeded in creating access for the children, and now 16 girls, mostly orphans or from vulnerable family structures, are attending boarding schools in Nairobi, Kenya. Also, 2 young men, - one boarding at high school in Nairobi, and another at Dominican University, San Rafael, CA, USA, which graciously provided a four year full scholarship to RFS's oldest student, Yema. Now, the boarding school is happy to accept our children from the slum as they say they are among the best students they have ever had.
A grassroots organization, RFS, is in place on the ground in Kibera, with Lilian Kakoli, a Kibera resident and one of the few mothers in our program, leading school visits, medical visits and updates. John Adoli, of Kibera Hamlets, an after school program in the slum, is responsible for our guardian outreach program, communications and report cards. We are teaching our children to be confident, to dream big and work hard. We teach them that it is important to express your feelings, that their opinions are meaningful to us. We teach them to take pride in their slum heritage, and to celebrate how much they have overcome, - to learn with joy, and to accept the responsibility that comes with opportunity. Our values based approach also include discussions about ethics, - community, honesty, humility, strength and the importance of upholding high standards.
Road to Freedom Scholarships chooses participants in our program based on a needs assessment rather than report cards or scholastic aptitude tests. We have experienced that students who were middling students or below in slum schools, exhibiting little to no excellence, were able to excel once they were well fed, and safely housed in their schools. We also prize the diversity of our students by supporting the individual achievements of each student, knowing full well that each of them are overcoming years of inconsistent or total lack of schooling or proper nutrition, and yet the majority of them still score in the top half of their classes.
We would love to open our program to many more students. Africa as a continent is struggling yet failing to provide education for its many orphans, and Kibera too has plenty of orphans and children with vulnerable family structures that need help. We see so many children every day, with so much talent and sheer force of will to survive, we want to help them onto a Road to Freedom. Please help us reach out a hand to these children so we can provide safety, food, medical assistance and education for these children, and help them become the leaders of their communities. They literally go from living in the slum in a "house" of dirt walls and floor, with no clean water, to living in at a beautiful boarding school, learning, growing and thriving.
In 2010, during filming of the Danish film, Lost in Africa, actress Connie Nielsen met up with a group of children at the Kibera Hamlets after school program for children in vulnerable families. Many of the children were orphans, and many did not know for sure where their parents were and are now living with relatives - 'aunties' - sisters, or cousins of the parents, whose resources are often stretched to the breaking point trying to provide for their own children in addition to the surviving children of siblings and extended family. Boarding schools are common in Kenya and are considered essential to educational success and are available only to the wealthy. For children in the slum, boarding schools also mean safety from violence and sexual assault, hunger and thirst.
None of the children Connie met that afternoon had eaten since the previous day. But they had goals and dreams. Rosemary here below, wants to be a doctor, she loves science and math and had lived through some difficult experiences. Today, Rosemary is excelling in boarding school and is now a strong-willed teenager we are proud to be working with. Another girl Connie met that day, Phaustine, also pictured here below, had lost both parents a few weeks before, and had just arrived in Kibera for the first time to the house of relatives. She looked under nourished in shock and afraid, and yet she was able to whisper that she wanted to go to school. Today, Phaustine too, is excelling in school. After these girls have received a bed, proper nutrition and medical care, they are thriving. Her RFS family of girls from Kibera with whom she boards with at school, have become a strong resource and pseudo family of support for each other.
Our oldest student, Yema, at Dominican University in San Rafael, CA, was accepted into this private University despite his middling performance whilst living in the slum. He repaid our trust by achieving a grade average of A+ throughout his now five semesters at Dominican, earning the President's Award now two years in a row, and being appointed student ambassador for Dominican, a first for a foreign student. Yema is now also vice-president of the student council. See photos of these students below...