BY ALEX BREININ, Wema Children President
Wema Children’s Centre is a school and orphanage located in Western Kenya that educates 532 children in primary and secondary school. Seventy-two of these students are currently featured on The School Fund, and with the generosity and support of donors, we have the opportunity to fund their educations and board at Wema. The majority of these students are orphans and without Wema would not be able to attend school. With Wema, these students will be the first people in their families to attend university, enabling them to obtain good paying jobs and thereby help their community.
Teresa Wati and Stephen Juma, who grew up in the village surrounding Wema, co-founded it under the name meaning “goodness.” Teresa started her career as a public school teacher and wanted to uplift her community through education.
Teresa and Stephen began Wema’s primary school in 1999 under the name Highway Academy at the peak of the HIV/AIDS crisis when their village had an estimated adult HIV/AIDS rate of 30 percent. More than half of the community was also illiterate. Each class in the community’s public school contained 150 students or more in an open-air classroom with no learning materials. Despite the best efforts of teachers, learning was difficult if not impossible. Wema was desperately needed.
In 2008, Wema was started with the goal of providing an education to all deserving students, whether or not they could afford the tuition price. It was an alternative to the overcrowded, under-resourced public school. Students who showed potential in public school were offered admission.
While Wema continued to thrive in delivering the same high quality education that Highway Academy did before and the school maintained its ranking in the top 100 primary schools in Kenya, it had no way of continuing the massive financial investment in students’ educations. Funds from paying students and additional donations from the community were not enough to balance its budget.
By chance, I was fortunate to learn about Wema and volunteer there. My friend Laura D’Asaro was studying abroad in Kenya and found out about Wema through a security guard on her street. Though she was an 18-hour bus trip away, Stephen and Teresa traveled to her asking Laura to invite friends to visit and volunteer. The following January, Laura and I, along with three other friends, traveled to Wema to see how we could help. When we arrived in 2011, we saw the wonderful opportunity to help uplift and change a community for the better. Everything at Wema was working. Students were receiving an excellent education thanks to their 30 dedicated teachers. They also worked extremely hard and valued their educations greatly. When I asked the students what they wanted to be, almost all said, a doctor, teacher, lawyer, engineer, or pilot. They knew that education is a privilege and wanted to take full advantage of it.
Prepared for University
Over the last five years with the help of The School Fund, we have been able to make Wema’s budget fiscally sustainable while increasing the number of Wema students by approximately 150 and building a secondary school so that all students who cannot afford school fees can receive a free education until they attend university.
The majority of Wema students attend university on a scholarship due to their high exam scores on the national standardized test and almost all pursue additional post-secondary school education opportunities. Without the support of donors through The School Fund, this would not have been possible. All donors are welcomed to connect with the students they sponsor, and I’m proud that several have traveled to Wema to meet the students and volunteer.
You Can Make the Difference
During the next two weeks, I hope you consider joining The School Fund’s campaign for Wema Children’s Centre to support the hardworking, talented, and caring students in Bukembe, Kenya. One-hundred percent of the donations raised will be spent on the students’ educations.
Since my initial trip, I have visited several more times and continue to volunteer from the U.S. because I believe Wema is an incredible organization that is not only changing the lives of hundreds of students, but also is empowering a community to uplift itself.
For only $500 a year, you can change a student’s life and help the Wema community continue to flourish. And by crowdfunding through The School Fund, we can all be part of reaching that goal for every student.