The overall goal of the Umoja Project is to develop a coordinated community-based care system which responds to the multiple needs of vulnerable children in Kenya’s Maseno Division. Particular emphasis is given to educational support, food security, safe housing, and psychosocial development. The Umoja Project responds to the children’s needs through a balance of relief services which respond to immediate needs and community development services which increase the capacity of the local community to meet its own needs long-term.
Since the Umoja Project began work in 2007 we have focused our efforts upon the following:
- Creating a network of churches and schools through which children and households in need of support are identified. These institutional leaders have responded eagerly to the opportunity to work together to meet community needs. Participating schools have designated one teacher to serve as the child advocate who works with Umoja; over 20 congregations are working to identify children from within their congregations; and 10 representatives from congregations as well as other faith-based or community service organizations are meeting regularly to prioritize needs and approve service decisions.
- Building a network of mutual aid groups for the children’s guardians.
- Providing the support necessary to keep children enrolled in school. Services include:
- Uniforms and school exam fees for 600 primary school students
- Tuition, uniforms, and school supplies for 100 secondary school students
- Daily school lunch served to 2700 students in 15 primary schools, ensuring that children have at least one nutritious meal each day
- Sanitary towels for 420 adolescent girls, which allows them to attend school regularly
- Psychosocial support through peer support groups
- Supporting over 70 child-headed households in which children as young as 13 are running their own household for themselves and younger siblings:
- Food for non-school days
- Lamp kerosene for studying
- Household water purifiers
- Fuel-efficient stoves
- Providing relief services which respond to basic needs (e.g., bedding and home repair).