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The 13 students that comprise our sixth cohort of students completed high school in November 2019. They join our other 64 alumni to be among a small percentage of individuals in their community to complete a high school education. Following receipt of their national exam results early in 2020, they will be equipped to pursue post-secondary education, employment, as well as other necessities for transitioning to adulthood, such as a national identification card and similar country requirements.

Our students attended schools throughout Kenya, and as a result, experienced people and places that were novel, eye-opening and broadened their horizons. Some of our students had never traveled further than a few kilometers from their home community before attending high school hundreds of kilometers away, in areas with different climates, tribes and customs. While unfamiliar environments can initially feel unnerving, they also facilitate personal growth, adaptability and the value of diversity.

We have high hopes for our new alumni as they determine their next steps and face a new set of opportunities and challenges while pursuing their life goals. Congratulations to this group!

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SYEF was hugely fortunate to have an evaluator, Alex McHenry, donate time to the organization this year, to assess the impact of our programming and scholarships on our alumni. Over the course of multiple months, Alex conducted interviews with nearly every one of our 60+ alumni, and from her transcribed notes of interviews, she established a framework of inputs, outputs, outcomes and impacts of our programs. Using a method labeled Most Significant Change, each alumni’s story was compiled, and then reviewed by the Samburu-based SYEF board, from which the most compelling stories were selected, and to be shared with other members of the community to illustrate the impact of SYEF’s work.
Alex’s work showed that scholarships, mentoring and helping students navigate school policies as among the most valuable activities by the organization. Since most of our alumni completed high school prior to the launch of programming we do today, those programs were not represented in the stories, but we expect they will ‘show up’ when we replicate an evaluation later down the road.

In terms of outcomes, the results are inspiring and promising. Our students gain confidence in pursuing their goals, broaden their perspectives and worldviews as they gain exposure to other people and parts of the country during high school, and acquire problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Overall, Alex’ evaluation confirmed that much of what we hope for in terms of our impact is coming to fruition, while also revealing areas we can strengthen. This information will help fine-tune our programs and efforts, and result in a better, stronger organization as a result.

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We recently completed our annual IRS reporting paperwork, which always catalyzes some thinking and reflecting about our achievements of the past year. 

We are in our ninth year of existence as one of the only organizations in Samburu focused exclusively on supporting youth through educational scholarships and supplementary training.  Supporting education is repeatedly shown in research to be the single greatest action for addressing poverty in the developing world, and all of the related challenges that come with it.

We keep an active tally of what our graduates are up to since finishing high school.  Consider these numbers:

  • 60 graduates since we started in December 2010: 31 young women and 29 young men.
  • 22 of our graduates are in a position to support other family members for their education, resulting in an additional 30 youth attending school from the support of our graduates.
  • As of this writing, 24 of our graduates are employed and 27 are either enrolled or completed post-secondary training.  SYEF does not provide support for post-secondary; these graduates have the ambition and problem-solving skills to seek and arrange funding for additional education.
  • Of our 60 graduates, 11 have children of their own  That is a remarkable number considering that in this part of the world most young people have at least one child prior to the age of most of our graduates.  Even more remarkable is that included in those 11 are a few young women who had children prior to even starting high school from forced marriage circumstances or similarly troubling situations. 
  • Our expense allocations are solid: 93% to programs, 6% to fundraising, and 1% to administration.

We definitely feel satisfied with these numeric outcomes, though we also are curious how formal education and our trainings influence these decisions, which is on our horizon for future evaluation work.

 

SYEF partners with women in Samburu to sell their beadwork online and at events in the United States. The organization purchases the items from the women based on labor and supplies, and then sells the items at a profit to raise money for our youth scholarships and leadership programming.  It’s a strategy by which we can invest in women’s income-generation and youth education, which are the two most important activities for achieving prosperity and alleviating poverty.

Based on follow-up evaluation with the women, the beadwork income helps with food and housing security, and at times provides opportunities for the women to invest in items that are beyond the basics of a household. Our primary women’s group partner for our beading program, the Unity Women’s Village, 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 have recouped their initial start-up costs already.

As Unity Womens Village continues to pursue 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 with more individuals. We’ve added five additional women to the program, and will incrementally add more as we have the capacity and opportunities to sell more beadwork.  In the meantime, you can go to our Etsy site to purchase some of the items we sell.

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