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Our annual Harambee fundraiser is coming up!  This year our Harambee will be highlighted like never before, with our Samburu-based coordinator Apin Yasin in attendance during his first-ever trip outside of Kenya!  And, we’ve added a Happy Hour Harambee in Denver this year, in addition to our usual festive Harambee in Fort Collins.

“Harambee” is a Swahili word that translates roughly to “people coming together.”  And that’s exactly what we do. We bring people together, share our stories over food and beverages, and experience the good vibes that come with being around a community of people who collectively want to do well for the world.

This year our Fort Collins Harambee’s silent auction will feature an art theme, with a variety of paintings, photography, pottery and more.  At both the Fort Collins and Denver Harambee, we will have our usual marketplace of items made by our Samburu women artisans.

Join us November 9 in Fort Collins, or November 17 in Denver!

Fort Collins
6:30 – 9:00pm
Block One Events Center
420 Linden St

Denver
4:30-6:00pm
Posner Center
1031 – 33rd St

2016gradsIn what has become our annual tradition, we hosted a ceremony and celebration in early January to acknowledge the 11 youth who recently completed high school (in December 2016) and to introduce our 12 new scholarship recipients. Our new SYEF chairperson Christine Namunyak served as master of ceremonies along her predecessor, Boniface Isigi. Together, they facilitated a ceremony full of many words of encouragement, introduction of our 11 graduates and each of our 52 students currently enrolled in high school, and punctuated with a number of high energy and vibrant songs and dances originating from the local tribes. The ceremony was followed by a traditional (and huge!) meal of sukuma wiki (similar to collared greens), goat stew, rice pilau, cabbage and fruit, all prepared by local SYEF volunteers, and with much of the food donated by SYEF parents and guardians.

It was a day in which literally hundreds of people — students, parents, local leaders, SYEF donors and supporters from afar — joined together to celebrate education. We have 39 graduates to-date, and many more to come.

How you can help:

Attend next year’s ceremony! SYEF donors have attended every celebration to-date.

The event is in early January and can be combined as part of a full Kenya safari.

beadingprogram3We ramped up our beading program in 2016, a program in which we partner with women in Samburu to produce beaded items for resale abroad. Proceeds support the women directly as well as SYEF scholarships and programming. It’s a partnership that results in educational scholarships and income generation for women, or what is known to be a win-win strategy for alleviating poverty, supporting equality, promoting women’s rights, and many other benefits. Our evaluation results from 2016 indicated that women spend more than half of their income on food, and can purchase more nutritious food such as fruits and vegetables rather than relying solely on aid-provided sacks of sorghum and maize. In addition, the additional income enabled women to purchase school supplies for her children, clinic fees, and even set some aside for herself. Perhaps most notable, the women reported feeling less stress because they have less worry about how they will provide the basic needs for her family.

Our original partner, Unity Village, combined portions of their individual income to construct a new hut where adventurous tourists can spend the night for a traditional Samburu experience. They are using their income to invest in other income-generating activities!

In 2017, we plan to enhance these efforts even more, by expanding the number of women who participate by adding new items to the inventory. As we scale up the program, we intend to reach out to women whose children are not supported by SYEF but who are working hard to raise the money to send their children to secondary school.

beadingprogramHow you can help: find an event in your community that is suitable for selling the beaded items. Events with a global, international, women’s rights or fair trade theme are usually most successful, though other fairs, festivals and markets can be worthwhile as well.

You can also host a small event in your home where we talk about our efforts, provide some opportunities for Q&A, and then have items available for purchase.

SYEF’s annual Harambee fundraiser is scheduled for Thursday, November 3 from 6:00-9:30pm at the Old Town Artery in Fort Collins.  “Harambee” is a Swahili word with no direct translation to English, but implies “community coming together,” usually for a shared cause.  This year’s Harambee will feature a theme of “What gives you hope” and include photographs, artwork and literature from our SYEF scholarship recipients. And we’ll have our usual food, silent auction and market place of Samburu beaded items for purchase.  Join us!

SYEF will be selling Samburu relics and items at a number of events through the Fall and Winter. The sales support Unity Women’s Village and SYEF’s scholarship program. Come do some shopping at one of our upcoming events, and support our great work while picking up some cool Samburu stuff!

Saturday, October 8

9:00am-4:00pm
First Presbyterian Church
531 South College
Fort Collins, Colorado


Saturday, November 5

HIghlands Ranch Holiday Gift Fair
9:00am-5:00pm
Eastridge Recreation Center
9568 S University Blvd
Highlands Ranch, Colorado


Saturday, November 12

Christmas Bazaar
9:00am-3:00pm
King of Glory Lutheran Church
29th St and Wilson Ave
Loveland, Colorado


Saturday/Sunday, November 19/20

World Gift Market
9:00am-4:00pm (Sat.), 9:00am-2:00pm (Sun)
First Plymouth Congregational Church
3501 South Colorado
Engelwood, Colorado


Saturday, December 3

Denver Waldorf School Holiday Fair
9:00am-3:00pm
2100 S. Pennsylvania St.
Denver, CO 80210


Market with a Mission
9:00am-3:00pm
Everyday Joes Coffee House
144 South Mason St.
Fort Collins, Colorado


Holiday in the Rockies
9:00am-2:00pm
Strawberry Park Elementary
39620 Amethyst Street
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Interested in seeing the impact of SYEF’s work with your own eyes? Join us for our annual celebration and safari in January 2017!  This 12 day trip includes all of the fun and good vibes of the SYEF festivities, as well as additional community experiences with local people to understand “a day in the life in Kenya”, and of course visiting many of Kenya’s premier parks and viewing its world renown wildlife. Go to http://www.usoafrica.com/syef2017/ for more information and to let us know you’re interested!

Our second-ever annual celebration was held in early January, marking the completion of high school for 14 scholarship recipients, and welcoming 13 new young people to the SYEF community. Following a morning of unusually strong rainfall that delayed the celebration for a few hours, a meeting hall full of youth, family members, SYEF donors and other members from the community convened.

The celebration started with a series of songs and dances based on the traditions of local tribes. The high energy performances set the right tone of excitement for the day. Our 39 current, non-graduating students were then introduced, and the top performing students from each grade level over the past year were recognized. Then, our seven male and seven female graduates were introduced one by one, each having chosen an influential adult to join them in front of the room for their moment of recognition. Graduate Wilma Redenta gave a wonderful and articulate speech on behalf of her peers, and third-year student Peter Lengima performed a tribute to the graduating students.

The celebration ended with the introduction of the 13 new scholarship recipients. These young people were notified just the night before about their selection, and less than 12 hours later were attending our celebration as the newest members of the SYEF community. After the ceremony, everyone convened for a huge meal prepared by many of the mothers, sisters and guardians of our SYEF students. Gifts were exchanged and music played throughout the afternoon. The diversity of people in the room was notable. Elders who speak only their native tribal language and dress in their traditional clothes mixed with SYEF donors who had traveled from the United States to participate and local leaders and SYEF students who remain proud of their tribes and traditions but also seek new ways of thinking and doing.

The January event marks the completion of high school for 28 young people from Samburu supported by SYEF. Fifty-two (52) more are currently enrolled in high school. With five years under our belt, the start-up years are behind us, our numbers are growing, and most importantly, lives are changing that will bring positive change to Samburu.

Prior to Fall 2015, SYEF worked together with a group of Samburu women from Unity Village to sell their beaded work now and then at a few locations and events in the United States when a decent opportunity emerged to do so.  Unity Village is located in the same community where all of SYEF’s scholarship recipients — including two girls from Unity Village – and SYEF’s co-founders’ relationship with the village predates when SYEF was founded in 2010.  Starting Summer 2015, we launched a more ambitious and methodical approach to this partnership, and attended a dozen events and sold upwards of $7,000 in merchandise, much of it in the months leading up to the holiday season.

beads3SYEF purchases the items from the women at a price agreed to by everyone. The women are paid directly at the time they hand the goods over for shipment to the U.S.  SYEF, in turn, marks the items up and the profit supports our scholarships.  The women at Unity are strong supporters of SYEF, and sometimes they even pass along an unsolicited discount or include extra items in our orders to help support our cause.

With this partnership we are supporting women’s empowerment and independence in a region where rights for women have traditionally been very, very limited. We’re also supporting our scholarship program, of course.  Women’s rights and education are investments that will change this world if it catches on in enough places.

With the funds the Unity women earned this year, they have made upgrades to their homes to provide greater security, purchased livestock, afforded visits to a clinic for themselves or  their children, and are able to fill their water tank (pictured here) with treated water rather than walking to the river to collect water that is not often safe for drinking.

If you have an event or idea on where there may be a market for beaded goods, please let us know!

Many of SYEF’s scholarship recipients spent two days during their December holiday break improving the home of a local elderly woman whose hut was literally falling apart.  The students spent the first day deconstructing her current hut and salvaging parts that could be reused in the new structure. The ensuing hours and day involved digging holes to set new poles, weaving the walls made from local branches, constructing a roof from local lumber and thatch, and gathering many wheelbarrows full of soil to make the material needed to complete the walls.  All of the efforts were co-led by SYEF’s local advisors and a Turkana woman with great skills and leadership in how to construct this traditional structure.  A few SYEF alumni from last year got wind of what the students were up to, and brought them water and snacks.  The assessment of the effort by our local advisors was full of warmth and praise about the attitude and effort of the SYEF youth.  They smiled and laughed, they shared the responsibilities, they treated each other equally as humans capable of contributing to this effort. They are learning that aspects such as tribe and gender do not matter when it comes to working together and improving a community. These students make us so proud!

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SYEF’s local advisory consists of five members from the local community who give tirelessly and with tremendous hope and care for our youth.  They’ve come a long ways from where we started in December 2010. For decades, non-profits in the Samburu region approached their development work with a “we know best” strategy, a strategy that has tremendous short-comings when decisions are made by outsiders with peripheral knowledge of the area and little at stake, in the big picture of things. In the beginning, our local advisory board understandably defaulted to aspects of this model. SYEF’s USA-based co-founders were called upon to weigh in on and approve decisions from 9,000 miles away.   But today, our five member team embraces the SYEF mission as passionately as anyone, and are empowered to make all local programmatic decisions for SYEF.  The organization belongs to them as much as it does to anyone else. With their input and guidance, SYEF has become a highly reputable organization in their community who goes about their work differently – programmatic decisions are made by the local advisory group only, no money is mysteriously lost via corruption, and youth are selected objectively with no basis of tribe, clan, family affiliation or similar aspects. 

Isigi, Issak, Apin and Madams Priscilla and Anastasia: they are rock stars. We thank them for the tireless efforts to lead all of SYEF’s activities in Samburu, which ultimately makes our youth feel valued and nurtures the seeds for long-term change!

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