Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Helen's Story

"This is why we do what we do at Kibera Pride."

Helen was a struggling student at the Brothers of Mother Teresa free school in the slum of Kibera. Though in grade 4 (and already 12 years old) she couldn’t even write her name. Her home life was partly to blame; she was just a child and yet caring for her ill mother. It’s very common in the slum of Kibera for children who get the chance to attend school to fail because the home life presents challenges that make keeping up with studies impossible.

In the last term of Grade 4, Helen scored a 90 (that’s out of 500). Brother Silas of the Brothers of Mother Teresa “we gave Helen a 90 out of pity, she scored 0”. One day in class Helen was asked by the teacher to stand and answer one of the class problems - she didn’t have the answer. The teacher begins to attack, telling her she was stupid and worse still told the other children she was a witch, that her family was a family of witches, “even look at her she shakes like a witch.”  

Helen ran back to Kibera Pride crying and met with Irene. “Teacher Irene I’m so stupid I can’t do anything and today the teacher called me a witch. I just can’t do anything". Then the other children of Kibera Pride also started crying “yes Teacher Irene even the other students now they beat Helen”.

Irene Kasandi - Director at Kibera Pride “I felt to cry but I couldn’t, I was sure it would only make the situation worse”. Irene stood up and headed to the Brothers of Mother Teresa’s compound to complain about how Hellen was being treated, as she left Helen, and a large group of our Kibera Pride kids followed her all crying for how Hellen has been mistreated. 

“It was an odd scene walking through the slum with these kids following me and all crying so loud - when I arrived at the brothers we all entered together,” Irene told the Brothers what was happening to Helen, and they were shocked and fired the teacher.

Irene then decided to do two things - she spoke with Helen and her Mom about having Helen move from her home into the Kibera Pride compound. The second was to shift Helen to a new school. Irene met with Helen’s new teacher and said “Helen has been struggling to learn, but she has been mistreated and given too many challenges in her home life. We have changed this, and I want to see if you will work with Helen and us at Kibera Pride to see if we can make a difference”. The teacher agreed. Helen started 5th grade at a new school Olympic Primary.

When Helen got home from the new school on that first day, she was excited “Teacher Irene, imagine today the teacher had me sit between the two smartest kids in the class and even they were helping me”. Irene: “Helen had such low self-esteem, she never played or could speak,  just kept quiet. We hoped by moving Helen into Kibera Pride she might at least discover a talent for the dance or art or poetry”.

By the end of the first term, Irene’s brother Milton (he works at Kibera Pride) was walking on the roadside, Helen (who had her tests scores in hand) was walking towards him. Helen started jumping up and down “I got 226! 226! 226!” Milton told her to show Irene, which she did. He was puzzled by her happiness as this is still a relatively low score. But for Helen, this was an amazing accomplishment, and we were all so thrilled. More important than the score itself was the progress she made - it seemed a miracle.

In April of 2016, Irene and I were together in the US when the 1st term scores came out - Hellen (now in 6th grade) got a 377!!! She was the 10th highest score in her class. Irene and I cried, for us, this meant any child who is struggling could indeed achieve great things under the right circumstances! It was hard to believe - we rejoiced.

So today the 2nd term test scores were announced - Helen is now #1 in her class - she scored a 433 out of 500. She had the highest score in her class of 98 students. Daniel Brevick: “We hoped there would be improvement, we hoped she might find a talent or something to compensate for low studies. Instead, she went to the very top of her class with the highest score".

Our vision is to break the cycle of poverty for all we can. Helen was on a dangerous path. This is why we do what we do at Kibera Pride. Every shilling spent, every hour of hard work, every hard time we feel we can’t afford to keep Kibera Pride going - this makes it all worthwhile. More than anything else this proves that any child can achieve greatness if given the right resources. 

Congratulations to Helen and thanks to Irene for being a champion to these kids. Thanks to Helen’s sponsor Nekane Santos & Friends of Spain, to her teachers Ms. Mohammed and Ms. Makori and her school, Olympic Primary. Thanks to Andrea Irisarri who has connected so many kids from Kibera to sponsors in Spain. Thanks to the great staff at Kibera Pride. Finally thanks to all who support Kibera Pride, you are changing lives in amazing ways, God Bless!


Helen and her proud Mom!

Irene Kasandi handing Helen school materials for the 2015 school year.