by Emily Townsend
On a late weekend afternoon, Cynthia Mumia, age 15, sits on a wooden bench in a warm classroom at Uweza Foundation. She is bashful to talk, but thankful and respectful to Uweza staff members as they give her free textbooks for all of her standard eight classes.
As of Sunday the Uweza Sponsorship Program now includes free books for supported students within the program. Currently there are 25 students participating, who attend either Ayany Public Primary or Olympic Primary. Last year two students continued onto secondary school.
Cynthia says she likes Uweza because they help her pay Saturday school ‘tuition’ classes and now they pay for her books. Last year she was forced to borrow books from a friend. She admits it was difficult to share the books between two different villages and her grades suffered as a consequence.
Aside from free schoolbooks, Uweza Sponsorship Program provides school fees, uniforms, and school supplies. Also if the child falls ill, Uweza uses a specific chemist for medicine and a hospital called Inshankai to treat the student.
Beatrice Njoki from Kianda Village is the mother of an 8-year-old attending Ayany Primary. She is grateful to Uweza and said, “They help children to learn and help parents enjoy life more.” Her daughter receives uniforms, books, and school tuition.
All 25 children visit Uweza every fourth Sunday to meet other kids, play games, and learn life skills. Students that receive a tuition scholarship may also choose an Uweza club and meet every weekend. There is an art, journalism, and football club. Mathew Muema, Sponsorship Coordinator, says, “Education comes first but then a supplement is important, too.” Njoki daughter chose to go to art club, because she likes to draw and paint.
First time volunteer, George Odhiambo, helped pass out books to children and talk to parents. He said the experience was, "positive. The parents are uplifting their children with books. Now they have the materials to succeed."
Muema says Uweza is planning to start a secondary school sponsorship in the next year.
Emily Townsend has been volunteering with the Uweza Journalism Club. She hails from Lansing, Michigan in the USA and majors in Journalism and Philosophy at Kalamazoo College. She is currently on Study Abroad at the University of Nairobi and interning at the Voice of Kibera, Pamoja FM. At Uweza she hopes to teach youth the importance of disseminating peace through community journalism.