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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Kenya Connect Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: International, International Relief

Mission: Supporting education in rural kenya

Target demographics: break down barriers to education while providing enrichment programs to 55 partner schools

Direct beneficiaries per year: 17,000 students and 500 teachers.

Geographic areas served: Rural Kenya

Programs: library and literacy, technology classes, teacher professional development, health and hygiene including hand washing stations, water tanks, Wings Poa Reusable Sanitary Pad kits, deworming, eyeglasses and composting toilets

Community Stories

16 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Working with Kenya Connect was an incredible experience. Everyone we worked with while in Kenya was professional, friendly and supportive. They demonstrated a high level of care and concern for both the local teachers and the visiting teachers from Canada. They also demonstrated an exceptional level of commitment to all of the projects that they were working on and did an amazing job balancing all the needs of individuals and coordinating major projects that were running simultaneously. I noticed that their organization was highly respected in the local area, as well as by major international organizations such as The Rotary Club International. They work hard to make a difference in their local community and choose projects wisely so that they are sustainable and make a significant impact by improving the quality of life for the individuals involved. This is an organization that I am looking forward to continuing to work with.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the pleasure to learn alongside the Kenya Connect staff and Wamunyu community, and was elated to see the sustainability and resources that Kenya Connect fosters. The teacher development resources that Kenya Connect provides, allows teachers to learn and develop useful techniques and resources to bring into the classroom. Literacy, collaboration, critical thinking, and STEAM is emphasizes through various teacher development and community outreach programs. In addition, Kenya Connect provides opportunities for safe sanitation through compost toilet programs, de-worming, and reproductive health workshops. What a joy it was to see the sustainability of the resources Kenya Connect provides, flourishing in the communities and schools.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

For me personally, my experience working with Kenya Connect was lifechanging. I was fortunate to travel to Kenya with seven other teachers from Punahou School (Honolulu, Hawaii). Our time in Kenya involved school visits where we taught lessons connected to literacy. In addition, we participated in a professional development day where we taught the steps of a writer's workshop. What really stood out to me was the fact that a very small, grass-roots organization is positively affecting their community in numerous ways. The initiatives that are currently underway (educational outreach, teacher professional development, solar lights for homes, compost toilets, sewing machines for a woman's group, reusable sanitary pads for young girls...) are all meaningful and cutting edge. James and his colleagues at Kenya Connect are humble, professional, action-oriented while at the same time being joyous and exuding positive energy. It may sound strange to say we really connected with the folks at Kenya Connect, but it is true! They became like family. With all that is happening in the world, this small organization is a bright spot and a model that I would encourage others to learn from.

Aloha,
John Melton

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is one of the most amazing nonprofits that I have ever worked with. They are doing extremely innovative work with their communities. It is clear that their partner schools and community organizations have tremendous respect for KenyaConnect and are always eager to partner in any way. A woman from the local cooperative said "if KenyaConnect is doing it, it has to be good and I want to try it too."

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been lucky enough to go to Kenya twice with Kenya Connect. Each time was a wonderful experience filled with opportunities to serve and be served in so many ways. As a physical therapist who works with children with disabilities I spent several days at the special education school. Students live at the school for 3 month sessions and then go home for a month. The loving care I saw provided by staff was remarkable. The challenges of providing care for children with all levels of developmental disabilities with little electricity and no running water was very evident, and Kenya Connect is working hard to improve conditions for these students. I was proud to be a part of this.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

On a trip to Wamunyu, Kenya in June 2019, I was able to see first-hand how Kenya Connect is engaging and empowering students and teachers in rural Kenya to succeed in the 21st Century. To help keep children healthy and present in school, they have implemented a variety of health programs including de-worming, hand washing stations, compost toilets, reusable sanitary pad program, and eye-screening. They provide programs to help enhance the education of the students including a library program, solar light program, Learning Resource Center (LRC), workshops for teachers, and computer labs. The staff at Kenya Connect is dedicated and committed to working to provide health and educational programs to the primary and secondary schools that they work with. Kenya Connect and every donation makes a huge difference in the lives of the students and community!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It is clear that Kenya Connect has the interest of the communities, schools, and, most importantly, the students they work with first and foremost. It was a privilege to spend 10 days working with Sharon and the Wamunyu crew of Kenya Connect. Although we were there as teacher trainers, we learned so much from them!! They have this knack for connecting people to make a difference in Kenya. Thank you Kenya Connect!!

Sam C.5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have seen Kenya Connect’s work first hand. They work very hard to help the students and teachers of their partner schools to improve their education. The resources they provide allow students access to a mobile library, computer classes, STEM classes, solar lamps, and wings poa program (reusable sanitary pads for female students). It is easy to see that the work of Kenya Connect does makes a difference in the lives of the students.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Incredibly nimble, effective, grassroots organization that thrives on high levels of engagement from the community they serve in public schools in rural Kenya. Innovative, energetic staff and board make a huge difference while keeping operating costs tremendously low.

1 Laura Smith J.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Kenya Connect's work with schools in rural Kenya is exemplary in it's impact and reach. This organization makes a real difference in the lives of students and in the community.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Kenya Connect embodies asset-based community development. This nonprofit is staffed by community members working for their community and offer wrap-around services to ensure students have what they need to succeed. Kenya Connect's programs are designed to promote dignity and self efficacy for their clients by eliminating 'hand-out' models and implementing buy-in from community members. Their solar light program, compost toilets, and reusable sanitary pad program all promote sustainability as well as economic stability. Additionally, Kenya Connect offers a mobile library, de-worming pills, and eye screenings in an effort to improve local students academic success. All of these efforts ultimately promote empowering and engaging students to succeed in the 21st century.

1 Terry U.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Kenya Connect is a Kenya-based NGO, with excellent Kenyan staff working in Wamunyu (in eastern Kenya) to help improve the educational level of now over 17,000 students in some 45 primary and secondary schools. They are supported financially and with expert guidance by volunteers and a Board of Kenya Connect (a USA registered charity) head-quartered in the USA.

The head person in Kenya is James Musyoka, who co-founded the Kenya operation approximately in 2005.

I have personally known both James (and his Kenya staff) and Sharon Runge (Executive Director of the USA Kenya Connect organization) since 2015. I am a Rotarian who has been working in the Ndandini/Kyaithani area of eastern Kenya since 2007. This project work has involved implementing water/well, educational/scholarship, and solar light rent-to-own programs.

In 2015 Kenya Connect and our Rotary Projects partnered to informally work together as our two geographical areas are within about 1 hour of each other and the community needs are very similar. The benefits of this partnership have been beyond my wildest early expectations.

Kenya Connect provided invaluable technical and teacher training assistance to our Rotary Global Grant project which resulted in the installation of two major computer labs at out two secondary schools in the Ndandini/Kyaithani area. As part of their service to the area to improve education for children, they donated their services without compensation.

When our Rotary Global Grant project then moved to provide 1400 solar lights to the students in our 7 schools under a "rent-to-own" program, Kenya Connect decided to also implement a similar program for their schools. After discussion, we agreed to merge the two rent-to-own programs under Kenya Connect's administration. This self-sustaining rent-to-own program now has provided over 8,000 solar lights to students in the Wamunyu and Kyaithani Cluster of schools!

Recognizing the excellent track record that Kenya Connect has with providing teacher training and student reading programs to the now over 50 schools in both the Wamunyu and Kyaithani Cluster of schools, our Rotary Global Grant project provided funding to (1) train all primary school teachers in the Wamunyu and Kyaithani Cluster of schools in how to make productive use of the computer tablets and projectors which the government of Kenya provided to the schools (but with out any teacher training), and (2) to provide further training in 21st century teaching skills to the primary school teachers. Kenya Connect did an excellent job of this, working within budget, and receiving outstanding reviews from the teachers and most importantly from the administrators and headmasters of the schools.

Just this year, we were successful in starting another Rotary Global Grant project in which Kenya Connect has partnered significantly. This project, valued at over USD$100,000 , is intended to improve the training ability of secondary school teachers in 4 secondary schools (2 in the Kyaithani cluster and 2 in the Wamunyu cluster). Specifically, 7 professional teachers from British Columbia traveled to Kenya in April 2019 to spend 2 weeks working with 11 Kenyan educational people, and in November 2019 these 11 Kenyans will be visiting the schools of the 7 BC teachers to see first hand the methods and techniques taught during the Kenya visit. James and Sharon were a key part of the planning team and during the visit provided excellent project leadership and administration skills. The vocational training team visit would not have been anywhere as successful without the partnership with the Kenya Connect team!

As I have worked with Kenya Connect, I have learned much more about the partnerships that Kenya Connect has with other humanitarian organizations. Every one of these, whether bringing specific programs to the party or providing just financial support, has resulted in fantastic benefits to the schools. I can recommend Kenya Connect as trustworthy and a reliable organization for any donation or partnership!

We have sent many people to Kenya to visit our projects and who now also spend time visiting with Kenya Connect. Everyone comes back totally impressed with what they see and committed to future support. My neighbour went to volunteer for one month with Kenya Connect (to help implement Kenya Connect's book lending project) and ended up staying for three months because he was so impressed with the work that Kenya Connect is doing and the results that he saw.

Check out the Kenya Connect Facebook pages, which are updated almost every day, to see some of the fantastic results of their programs and the daily work of their staff and volunteers. https://www.facebook.com/KenyaConnect/

Terry Umbach
Rotary Project Manager
Sechelt, BC Canada

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Kenya Connect is making a big difference in the lives of children in rural Kenya. This organization works closely with the local community to improve education and prepare students for success in the 21st century. Every program is thoughtfully conceived and implemented, and every donation is carefully managed.

Janet Perkins W.

Donor

Rating: 5

Kenya Connect is as real as you can get for a nonprofit. It's a very committed group of volunteers putting everything into the kids and staying true to their mission without getting caught up in administrative costs. You know that when you give money, you are giving a kid a book, or a toilet or heartworm medicine. The team that runs Kenya Connect are like a family.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

After graduating from Arundel High School in May of 2015, unsure of what I wanted to do at University, I embarked on a year-long solo trip around the world. I had a plethora of incredible opportunities from living amongst the picturesque rolling hills of Sicily to learning how to scuba dive in the beautiful reefs of Southern Thailand. However, my absolute favorite experience that I had was volunteering in Wamunyu, a village in Central Kenya, with Kenya Connect for three weeks during January of 2016. The small on-site staff has some of the most genuine and dedicated people I've ever met. There was Patrick; he accompanied me on a trip to Nairobi with his wife. First, we stopped at what Kenyans refer to as a 'muzungu' restaurant; Muzungu being a Swahili word, roughly translating to "white foreigner." They both ordered the chicken breast, but when they bit into the chicken fillet, they began yelling in the middle of the restaurant, 'Where are the bones?!?! This isn't chicken! It's got no bones!!!' and I could hardly contain myself. James was more reserved but hard-working and dedicated with a quiet, tender smile that makes it appear as if he knows something you don't, which he probably does. Then there was Cyrus, who chauffeured me on his motorbike to different schools every day, where we would set up new book clubs, or simply check in on existing ones. Everyday, and I mean every day, as we sped down the bumpy dirt roads he would turn to me and scream excitedly over the noise of the bike '100% free African Massage!'. It never got old. I will never forget the first school we visited. We were starting a new book club in Sofia Primary school, the students were all waiting outside in the dirt courtyard when we arrived, murmuring excitingly to each other as we got closer. The students performed a song and dance for the occasion, and I was able to meet all of the teachers and administrative staff at the school, there were roughly six of them. Once with the selected students, I introduced myself, and we read a children's book called 'We're going on a lion hunt', it is meant to be read as a kind of song and dance so we read it together. The students were shy at first, but once they understood the words, they really got into it! After we finished the book, we answered some questions about it together to be sure everyone understood the story and could discuss what they liked best about it. After I had said my farewells, I was followed out by a stampede of giggling Kamba children, who laughed and waved until we were out of sight. Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to repeat this incident with little variation as I traveled to a collection of primary and secondary schools throughout the rest of my time in Kenya. One of those secondary schools being Nyanni whose book club I had had the pleasure of skyping with throughout my Junior and Senior years at Arundel high. We were even able to hold a Skype session while I was there, on the Kenya side of the Skype, standing in the very resource center that we had fundraised at Arundel so much to help build, it was unreal. It's been ten months since I was in Kenya, and I still think about it, about them, every day.

Review from #MyGivingStory

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

With 80% of Kenyans living without electricity, most daily activities end with the setting sun. Living in darkness, not by choice, has a dramatic impact on the educational success of children in these rural areas. The simple luxury of reading or studying after dark is not a possibility, so how will these children compete in the 21st century? This is where my giving story comes in and involves Kenya Connect, a wonderful and selfless non-profit organization. My giving this year has resulted in increased access to solar lights for students in rural Kenya.

Public education became a reality in Kenya in 2003, however serious differences exist between urban and rural schools. Most rural schools are unable to provide technological and other resources that rely on electricity, and the students themselves lack electricity at home, which prohibits them from studying and reading at night. On a typical school day, the rural Kenyan children arrive home around 6:00 or later. They are expected to help with dinner and perform their required chores, after which the sun has long set. If their family can afford it, some children study with a primitive kerosene lamp (a can cut in half, filled with kerosene and lit with an open flame). In addition to the crippling expense associated with the home made 'kerosene lamps,' comes a health risk from the emission of caustic fumes and a fire hazard from the open flame. Clearly, this is not a level playing field for these students living in rural Kenya.

The mission of Kenya Connect is to engage and empower students and teachers in rural Kenya to succeed in the 21st Century. They use a holistic approach that includes various health initiatives, such as de-worming, clean drinking water and personal hygiene as well as technology and other educational initiatives. In 2012, Kenya Connect opened its Learning resource Center (LRC) in Wamunyu, Kenya, which provides local students with access to 30+ computers, the internet, a lending library and multiple STEM and technology classes. Access to the LRC and its resources is free to any of the 17,000+ rural students in our 55 partner public schools in Machakos County. It has become a beacon of hope to this remote community, and the students have thrived with their newly acquired skills. Kenya Connect is in the process of purchasing a bus so the distant students will have access to the center.

#MyGivingStory involves the newest effort by Kenya Connect, which is their solar light program. The program was born after a chance meeting with Greenlight planet and a demonstration of their SunKing solar lights. Their simplicity, durability, and affordability seemed to be designed specifically for families in rural Kenya. In talking with James Musyoka (field director of Kenya Connect) about the potential impact these lights could have on the students, my husband and I made our giving decision to help Kenya Connect establish the solar light program. The root of the program is providing affordable access to solar lights, which will enable rural students to develop good reading and studying habits. This is just one small step in leveling the playing field for rural Kenyan students.

Review from #MyGivingStory