Evalyn Wakhusama, a native Kenyan, came to the US in 1999, under scholarship to obtain her masters degree at Yale University in New Haven, CT. While at Yale, the Cornerstone Project founders met Evalyn and developed a very close relationship with her during the three years she was in Connecticut.
The integrity of her intention to use her education to empower the people of her Kenyan hometown was deeply moving. She wanted to promote self-sufficiency for those in her community who are living at extreme poverty levels -- a significant undertaking in light of current poverty level and the AIDS pandemic.
We were struck by Evalyn’s innate leadership skills and recognized that her strength and courage would create significant changes in this impoverished region of Western Kenya. It was during her stay in Connecticut the concept of the Nambale Magnet School was born.
In 2011 Evalyn was awarded Yale University’s highest honor, the Lux et Veritas award for her charitable service as a not for profit to her community. In 2015 she was also invited to a Ford Foundation fellowship international conference where 24 were chosen out of 40,000 candidates.
Her dedication is impressive and her efficiency as a manager is unparalleled.
The Kenyan Charity
Evalyn left the US in 2002, and the following year she established “WIKS,” a charitable organization which would endeavor to build the Nambale Magnet school. WIKS is an acronym for Women’s Initiative for Knowledge and Survival in Kenya. WIKS is currently dedicated to the creation of the Nambale Magnet School and has the full support of the Cornerstone Project Inc.
Education and the empowerment of women are at the crux of WIKS-Kenya’s mission, which is to empower historically disadvantaged populations, particularly impoverished women and children.
The following UN Statistics validate the tangible benefits of such an empowerment initiative:
One study on women farmers in Kenya concluded that crop yields could be increased by 24 percent if all women farmers had a primary education.
37.7 percent of households are headed by women in the Western district of Kenya (highest of all provinces).
Only 41.6 percent of women in Kenya feel that they are the sole decision-maker when it comes to their own health care.
Cornerstone Project realized that Evalyn shared our charity’s commitment to self-sustainability, both financially and environmentally, and it became evident that our two charitable organizations could work in concert to make this school a reality for Nambale.
The AIDS Pandemic
In Sub-Saharan Africa
The AIDS pandemic has had a particularly harsh impact on the children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned in sub-Saharan Africa
One out of every 9 children, under the age of 15, has lost both parents to AIDS/HIV related diseases (2002 UN AIDS survey)
Kenya has begun addressing the AIDS pandemic and its impact, particularly in Nairobi and the eastern provinces, but very little exists in the Western Province. In Kenya’s Western Province, the AIDS pandemic is currently most rapidly expanding along the truck routes, leaving in its wake children who are in critical need of support.
Anti-viral medications are more readily available in more urban areas and yet the rural area of Northwestern Kenya have little access.
The impact of the AIDS pandemic in Kenya has been catastrophic.
Kenya’s average rate of HIV infection is 6.1% of the population.
In the Busia District of the Western Kenya Province, where the Nambale Magnet School is located, the HIV statistics are 30%; fives times more prevalent than the nation The astounding number of AIDS-related adult fatalities has had devastating consequences on the orphan population.
There are 2.4 million orphans in Kenya
Approximately half of these (1,149,000 children) are orphans as a result of the AIDS pandemic. Further, Kenya’s overall population has shifted in composition.
42 percent of the Kenyan population is under the age of 15, as compared to 20% in the U.S.
The resources to assist children orphaned by AIDS in the rural Western Province of Kenya are woefully inadequate supply, and virtually no residential school facilities exist for them.
As the AIDS pandemic continues to diminish the adult Kenyan population, life for the orphans is increasingly difficult. The fortunate ones are taken in by already impoverished, extended family members. Sadly, the less fortunate orphans are forced to live on the streets, resorting to theft or child prostitution in order to survive their every day life. Alternatively, these children may become involved in child labor. Most orphans are not able to attend school, thereby limiting their chance to become contributing citizens of their community. The youthful population must be educated and nurtured in order to survive and create the foundation for a stable Kenyan society.
Traditional Nambale Hut Home
A traditional Nambale home
The Nambale Area is Extremely Impoverished
The Nambale area is a rural region, nestled in lush rolling hills, 45 minutes north of Lake Victoria. Unfortunately, most Nambale residents lack the necessary agricultural skills to maximize their farming success. 70% of Busia District residents live on less than $1 per day. The majority of the population exists on subsistence farming.
The traditional Nambale home is a one-room hut with mud walls and a thatched roof and no windows. Nambale roads are mainly made of mud with the exception of a paved road that runs from the city of Kisumu, situated on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria, to Kakamega. Industry in the region revolves around Kenya’s natural resources, such as brickwork. The predominant crops are sugar cane, tea, and corn. The Mumias Sugar Company is the largest employer of the region.
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