Blog Archives

We’ve been supporting Samburu youth for more than five years now. And we’re convinced that our place-specific, super grassroots approach is how to make a difference in the world. For this model to work, though, efficiency is critical.

We’re committed to running a lean organization, which is why we’re regularly above 90% on the portion of expenses allocated directly to the scholarship program. However, we aim to be efficient not just with our funds, but also with our time. The more time we can allocate to the aspects of SYEF that result in direct impact on youth, the better, of course.

This is where you can help. Our automatic donation program lessens the time needed to fundraise. You can enroll to donate once per month or once per year; it all happens automatically via your debit or credit card. When you do that, we spend less time analyzing donations, less time strategizing and re-strategizing, less time sending out emails and letters to donors. And as a result, we have more time to strategize about how SYEF can be even better and stronger in terms of its impact on Samburu youth.

Please, go to, click and make it easy. Our goal is to receive 50% of our annual budget via the automatic donation program. When you enroll, you give time back to SYEF to focus on what we’re all in this for to begin with: empowering Samburu youth through education.

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 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!


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 for more details and to let us know you’re interested.