Project Akilah

I pondered recently on this blog, about how to create change, where there was an opportunity to create educational opportunities to help young people to achieve their dreams. A team of Rwandans, Americans and Europeans is doing just this for young women in Rwanda and restoring an abandoned educational facility to create value for a new generation of young people.

The Akilah training and leadership institute will provide education and skills to young women to find meaningful employment in the Rwandan economy. The founders are working closely with the Ministry of Education, Workforce Development Authority, and private sector leaders to develop curriculum that provides the students with market-relevant skills. Read more at the blog.

How can you help?

Become a supporter (that means $). The funds will be used to equip the school with all the materials needed for their first class of young women in January 2010.

Here is to more initiatives like Project Akilah

From the Project Sunshine desk

Sunrise

I rarely get up before the crack of dawn, but today I got up and sat down to wait – for an hour, and another half hour, until the sun peered at me over the horizon. Isn’t it true that when you get up way too early you are probably meant to think and pray about someone who needs a prayer. This morning, as I was sitting and sipping my breakfast cup, I was struck by how fragile we are, and how much we depend on the sun for everything. I imagined the sun failing to rise and what confusion that would throw to the world. I thought about the people who were thinking that they might not have a scrap in the world, but if they had a sunrise, then everything they needed was in their hands. Sunshine, the focus of this blog, is the other thing that I considered.

It becomes difficult, three years into writing whatever you want on your blog, to start sharing with others that the blog is meant to illuminate, and share that with a wide audience, some of whom you know and others who you do not. Truth be told, if we were to share the news, most of the blogs would be about war and death and disease. In looking at yesterdays headlines, most of the coverage took on the shootings in the US and Germany, political conflict, the financial crisis, and other very newsy (read sobering) topics)

Where are the stories that you want to read, about the father who helped deliver his wife’s baby, or the child who finally learned how to walk on his own, or that homeless girl who everyone said would drop out. I understand that without the worst of the news we would have no news. So today, instead of cleaning my eyeglasses with the foam of decay, disaster and death, I decided to wait for the sun, and its rays (in winter, these do not mean heat) and the morning sounds, of the ducks quacking in the morning, of the construction workers moving machinery and of my own rumbling tummy calling my attention to the pantry yonder. The sunrise brought with it a new awareness of the fact that compassion needs to arise in the world that we live in – and that there needs to be storytelling once again about tall, strong and wise warriors of our communities, if we are to survive.

Last week, sunrise came in my mailbox. I used to be quite the letter writer when I was younger, and I submitted many a letter in high school. So it came as quite a surprise when a letter came stamped from miles and a country or two away. So, I slit the envelope open and out popped a letter requesting some advice to give to a girl who lives in western Kenya, who the donor supports, who needed to get encouragement. See, this high school girl, who shares a name with one of my favorite gal pals from high school, and her younger sister, both want to be doctors, however, it is difficult to imagine how they will surmount the obstacles and become more than subsistence crop farmers as their kin. It brought me to the question – how does PS blog change perceptions, is it merely talk, or is there action. And, if I wax on about Kenya and Africa, what steps am I taking to concretely address the question of tangible action. What are some viable options for a girl who dreams, when she does not have a rich pocket to sustain her?

Sun rising – dreams that cannot be deferred – a challenge and a call to action – post International Women’s Day how can I stand by and just watch? Words are powerful and mine have travelled as far as I can imagine, so how is it that we can change lives with education particularly for these two girls ?

Beat Me A Picture: African Kids on TV

Media in Africa has always had a mix of pretty standard images, and the most common of these is the children waving at the camera, and running after the car where the camera is. I love media and entertainment, and I can name a whole lot of people who graced African TV when I was younger. I only became camera shy only as a young adult. As I spend more and more of my time out here, I take in all the images of Africa that the mainstream media and others as well, through blogs by people in Kenya and other Africans at home and in the rest of the world. There are still kids running after the camera, and I recognize the need that the children have to be placed in the map somewhere. I still want to be on TV, as most every African child does. Its fun. It is alluring, to know that you will not be one of who lived in obscurity.

Growing up in Kenya, there were a number of ways to get on TV, one was the birthday greetings message on the national broadcaster, one could be part of the Junior and Senior Quiz shows for school children, part of Debate and Poetry recital teams, be part of the annual International Children’s Day of Broadcasting( where children hosted an afternoon of shows on TV) or even have your school sports day covered in the Sports Round up when the news in sports had a few clips of air time to fill. More recently, however, there have been a number of opportunities to audition for children’s television programs on the cable channel provider DSTV and the PopStars/Idol genre of reality TV. I always thought I would be in front of a camera, and still ponder the irony that I have become a media watcher and budding critic like no other, and not really a presenter. It is so important to let kids dream, but that is another post altogether.

Here is a running interplay of how the child gets discovered. The child must find a student/aid worker/development worker with a camera and a cause. If the child is in an area where there is fresh conflict, even better, so that the story is hot enough to land a front page. If the child is striking, like the Afghani woman who was first photographed by NatGeo as a child, and later sought as an adult, then his or her face is guaranteed a place in history. If not, then the child better have a story that can tug at the hearts of the audience, and the more tragic, the better.

Every time a child features on a cover story, I know that the same script I have outlined above will prevail. Africa and its children will continue to be portrayed as victims of tragedy. No matter or mind the brilliant boy who went to a village high school and attained top marks in the national exam, or the girl whose Physics acumen has her already designing local village solutions, or the glass mosaic artist from the slum, who just turned eight. These stories never make it to the top, unless they are couched in familiar terms such as Civil War, tribal clashes, HIV/AIDS, malaria, death, done, finished. While there are legitimate reasons why Africa faces problems and stories have to be highlighted, this is one which strikes me as a re-run script. Where are the hopeful stories.

If you know of someone who deserves a special mention, kindly send me their story and I would be happy to feature them on this blog. Video clips are also welcome.