In western Kenya, access to effective education is limited, leaving many children with little or no hope for a future. Millions live in homes with family members who are ill or dying, and have no resources for school fees or supplies and no access to education, the only route out of their impoverished existence. Support services for AIDS orphans are virtually non-existent. Their desperation is overwhelming. While economic growth in Kenya is improving, poverty alleviation remains a challenge; the problem is especially acute in rural Kenya where most of the country's people live.
The Nambale Magnet School is the first residential and educational facility of its kind to address these issues in the Nambale District, where an estimated 10,000 children have been orphaned by the AIDS crisis. The school helps children who have at least modest extended family support; it offers a model of effective intervention and frees up civic resources to address the systemic issues.
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. Seventy percent 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.
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.
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. Forty two percent of the Kenyan population is under the age of 15, as compared to 20% in the U.S.
Evalyn Wakhusama 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:
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.
Cornerstone Project, Inc.
The Cornerstone Project is a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation that transforms and sustains marginalized communities by educating, nurturing, and empowering their most vulnerable members. Founded in 2008, the foundation is a primary benefactor the Nambale Magnet School in Western Kenya which provides education, shelter, and support for AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children.
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Cornerstone Project, Inc.