Blog Archives

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!

Our fourth cohort of students completed high school in November, and once again, SYEF hosted a great reception to recognize the achievements of our students, and celebrate education in the Archers Post community. With this group of seven girls and five boys, we have 53 youth who have completed high school since we started. We also selected 12 new scholarship recipients for the class of 2021, and we introduced these young and aspirational minds to our room full of SYEF students, donors and community leaders. Once again, it was a day full of great moments, punctuated by traditional songs and dances, and moments in which many of our current students demonstrated their new knowledge, such as second-year student Almond, who spoke to the crowd in Chinese (the fourth language he is learning to speak). A few days later, our graduates provided advice and encouragement to our new students in a forum co-hosted by students from Colorado State University.




Our 52 youth returned home for their three week break from high school in August/September, and that means it was time for workshops and service.  Our partners at Daraja Academy, located about 60 miles north of Samburu, again made the trip down the hill to facilitate a leadership-focused workshop over a few days’ time.  Our students revisited goals they set for themselves in April, reflected on success in reaching those goals, and then transitioned the conversation toward the future. Our students discussed big visions for the future of their community, and considered how to translate dreams into day-to-day decisions.

The service project for the break included assistance at a local primary school with their trash disposal options.  There is no solid waste management system in Samburu; every household, school and business must deal with trash on their own.  The most common and practical option is burning trash. Our students helped dig a bigger, deeper hole for trash burning, which is no small task in this region and its dense, dry and rocky soil!

Our primary women’s group partner for our beading program, the Unity Women’s Group, recently completed construction of a tourist hut for adventure-seeking travelers to Samburu. The women charge the equivalent of about $21 per person per night, and have had a modest but steady flow of visitors for a few months now.

The women built the tourist hut with funds generated primarily through the income they earned via their beading program with SYEF.  It was their own group decision-making that led to this reinvestment of a portion of the income into a venture that would generate additional revenue, and they are close to recouping their initial start-up costs already.  None of this should be surprising; researchers have long shown that investment in women in the developing world often leads to sustainable and positive outcomes. It’s wonderful to see that hold true for the women of Unity, as well.

As Unity continues to transition to a more consistent income, and one that is also less dependent on SYEF bead sales, we will bring additional women into our beading program, and hopefully have a similar effect elsewhere.  In the meantime, you can go to our Etsy site to purchase some of the items we sell, or visit one of our upcoming holiday events if you’re in Colorado.


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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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.

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.