Blog Archives

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!

Our second-ever cohort of students completed high school in mid-November and are now among the small percentage of people in their community with a secondary school education. Congratulations to these 7 girls and 7 boys for this BIG achievement.  Among this group are students who were regularly ranked in the top five of their class throughout high school, some who learned a fourth language (in addition to the three most young people have acquired by the end of 8th grade), and those that were turned on to poetry, science, drama and athletics during their four years in high school.

What’s next for the graduates? Well, they all await the results of a national exam they took in November, for which their individual results have implications for government subsidies and scholarships to public colleges and universities. SYEF students have earned those scholarships in the past, and we are hopeful for this group as well.  With a high school education, they also become competitive for jobs in their community. Our previous graduates work in restaurants, military training bases, as research assistants for NGOs, and more. Although unemployment in Samburu is high, the graduates’ level of education places them at an advantage.

But, our goal is larger than enhancing our students’ chances for university scholarship and jobs. With a high school education comes skills to evaluate both short and long term implications of decisions, to more accurately see cause and effect relationships, to understand the importance of extending rights and respect to people from all tribes, genders and religious affiliations.  In short, to become leaders.

Congratulations to our graduates. You make us proud!

We have holiday events on the calendar this season to sell Samburu beaded items that support SYEF’s scholarship program as well as the women artisans at Unity Village in Samburu, where two of our students come from.  Unity Village is a group of women we know well, and they are proud to be able to contribute to SYEF efforts.  SYEF purchases the items directly from the women at a price agreed to by both parties, and after splitting shipping and event costs, SYEF retains the profits from sales.  Everything is transparent and open between both groups.  Do some holiday shopping with us this season; We have necklaces, bracelets, baskets, and more!

November 21/22 at the World Gift Market in Denver.

November 27/28 at the Holiday Artisan Market in Fort Collins, Colorado

December 5: Steamboat Holiday in the Rockies

December 6, Gingerbread Gift Gala in Boulder, Colorado.

December 12: Gallery 970 Holiday Market – Loveland

Our annual Harambee fundraiser is scheduled for Thursday, October 29, once again at the Agave Room above the Rio in Fort Collins (143 West Mountain).  Join us from 7-10pm for celebrating successes of the past year and raising the funds for the next!  Silent auction, food, no-host bar, and all of the good vibes of being with a group of like-minded people who value education and philanthropy!  No RSVP needed. Just show up and join us!

In January 2016 we plan to celebrate the 16 SYEF scholarship recipients who will complete high school in December 2015. The festivities include a formal ceremony followed by a reception with SYEF families and students, and a day of outdoor fun with our graduating students the following day. In partnership with Uso Africa Safaris, the trip includes the SYEF festivities along with 10 additional days of safari experiences in other regions of Kenya (including the renowned Masai Mara). Go to http://www.usoafrica.com/syef2016/ for more details and to let us know you’re interested.

The first group of SYEF recipients – 10 youth who received their scholarships in January 2011 – completed high school and received their diplomas in December 2014.   On January 4, SYEF sponsored a ceremony and reception with our 63 SYEF recipients to-date, family members, community elders and more than a dozen SYEF donors who traveled to be part of the festivities.  The morning ceremony featured remarks by a number of individuals, introductions of the graduates, traditional celebratory songs and dances by the SYEF students and more.  It was a heart-warming and fulfilling day for everyone!

The latest cohort of scholarship recipients was selected in early January. The group of 8 girls and 5 boys were informed about their full scholarship on January 3, and on the 4th they were introduced at the first-ever SYEF celebration to recognize the first graduating cohort (selected in 2010).  The students were selected by SYEF’s local advisory committee based on academic achievement, character, and leadership potential.  Welcome to the SYEF community to Tabau, Jackson, Elisabeth, Sandra, Julietta, Diana, Martin, Dida, Jane, Nasieku, Musa, Juliet and Bukayo!

In November, SYEF alumnus Gabriel Lengamunyak kicked off the Samburu Moran Education Programme (SAMEP) to increase literacy among his peers with minimal formal education.  “Moran” is a term to describe young (and usually unmarried) adolescent men in Samburu, and they have traditionally had primary responsibility for herding livestock and providing security to their community.  Nowadays, individuals like Gabriel might choose to pursue a formal education in lieu of those traditional roles. In the case of Gabriel, he chose school in order to acquire skills and strategies for community development  and poverty alleviation.  He is now a student at University of Nairobi seeking a degree in project management and planning. SEMAP is entirely his vision and initiative, and his efforts illustrate the positive outcomes of an investment in education.

Andrew, one of SYEF’s first-ever scholarship recipients, recently started his first term of college at Eldoret University in western Kenya.   Many years ago, Andrew was one of a cadre of young people in Samburu who inspired SYEF founders to start the organization. He would work tirelessly on homework, and after completing his homework, asked for more story problems, multiplication worksheets and other homework so he could continue learning. He was around 11-12 years old at the time.  Following his completion of secondary school in November 2013, he was awarded a government scholarship to college for his high marks on Kenya’s required national secondary school exam.  In early September, he made the 15 hour journey to Eldoret and began classes, with an intent to major in a science discipline.  Congratulations, Andrew!

As part of their scholarship requirements, SYEF recipients participate in service projects during each of the three annual school breaks.  In April, the students pooled their energy and time to rebuild the failing hut of an elderly Samburu man.  They repaired the mud walls, weaved new thatched pieces for the roof, replaced broken beams, shook out the animals hides and picked up trash around the place.  Little kids stood by and watched what was going on; passers-by gave our SYEF youth kudos for their humanitarian work. This is what SYEF is all about: nurturing leaders, helping each other, and building a community norm that values investment in youth.

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