Blog Archives

In April we launched our Samburu Achieving with Aspirations (SAWA) program, a year-long social change program focused on identifying and prioritizing community issues, understanding root causes of the issues, and developing innovative and creative solutions. Our third- and fourth-year students work in teams of 6-8 to apply the program at a scale of one village within their community. In April, students acquire the basic understanding of how to go about social change. In August, they work with members of the community to identify high priority issues, and develop innovative solutions to one of those issues. In November, they implement the proposed solution, and evaluate for outcomes over the ensuing months. Our aim with SAWA is for our students to think differently about persistent challenges in their community, to ditch interventions that fail to address root causes, and feel confident in taking risks to develop new ideas. It’s an exciting proposition that we hope leads to long-term change as they become leaders in the community.


In Summer 2018 we conducted our first comprehensive evaluation of our SYEF graduates to-date, a total of 53 young men and women who completed high school since SYEF started in 2011. The results are extremely positive!

Nearly 100% of our graduates were either enrolled in post-secondary training or education, or employed, at the time of our evaluation. A number of them were in a position to support other family members’ education with their salaries; a total of 12 additional individuals were in school with support from our alumni. We expect this number will continue to grow as our alums finish the post-secondary training, and acquire jobs in the market. Finally, one of the most striking outcomes was that most of our alums had not yet started a family; among 53 alums there were less than 10 children.


The highlight of our year is always our annual celebration in early January when we acknowledge our most recent group of graduates, and introduce our new scholarship recipients to the Samburu community.  It’s a day of traditional songs and dances, a showcase of some of the talents of our students, and a wonderful traditional meal, shared with 150+ people from the community.  SYEF supporters are invited to join us for this annual event, and share their value on education and empowerment with the Samburu community.  You’ll also experience world class wildlife-viewing, inspiring visits to women’s villages, and Kenya’s wonderful hospitality.  See information here for more information about the January 2019 trip!


It was a double-header of Harambee events this season, with one in Fort Collins and a second in Denver a week later. This year the events were punctuated with attendance and presentation by Apin, our Samburu-based coordinator, as part of his once-in-a-lifetime visit to the U.S. As usual, the energy and good vibes were flowing, and we would expect nothing less when there’s a roomful of people who charitably support youth and education! Of course, we also raised funds to support our 2018 scholarships and programming, though our community-building goal is just as important as raising money at the Harambee events; it’s reassuring to bring hundreds of people together who share the same values about giving others an opportunity!







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

Posner Center
1031 – 33rd St


During the first school break of the year, our youth participated in a multi-day workshop facilitated by Stephen Muasya of Daraja Academy about conflict, gender-based violence and leadership. Employing a variety of activities and small group discussions, the students immersed themselves in discussing the source of conflict and the short and long term implications of how conflict is generally managed today.

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Conflict is common in Samburu, unfortunately. Conflict between tribes has persisted for hundreds of years, often in a context of livestock ownership and raiding. In addition, a traditional perspective by men in Samburu toward women has been one rooted in seeing women as property; only within the past 1-2 generations has a value on gender equity really taken hold.


We envision our students as individuals who not only contribute to emerging social norms about how Samburu think about conflict, tribal tension and gender, but who are at the forefront of creating solutions. Through communication and listening skills, innovative thinking and the courage and confidence that comes with education, we see our students in positions of leadership and social change, and our recent workshop is one of the incremental steps in making that vision come to fruition!

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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

First Presbyterian Church
531 South College
Fort Collins, Colorado

Saturday, November 5

HIghlands Ranch Holiday Gift Fair
Eastridge Recreation Center
9568 S University Blvd
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Saturday, November 12

Christmas Bazaar
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
2100 S. Pennsylvania St.
Denver, CO 80210

Market with a Mission
Everyday Joes Coffee House
144 South Mason St.
Fort Collins, Colorado

Holiday in the Rockies
Strawberry Park Elementary
39620 Amethyst Street
Steamboat Springs, Colorado