The initial inspiration to go to Nairobi came from The First Grader, a film based on the true story of Kimani Maruge, a Kenyan farmer who enrolled in elementary school at the age of 84, following the Kenyan government's announcement of free universal primary education in 2003. Kimani had fought during the Mau Mau Uprising and devoted his life to his country.
Working across the schools in Kenya was a privilege. It is a country with the most wonderful mountains, valleys and rich wildlife and a strong oral tradition, which contributed to the children’s stories and memories.
Ducere’s introduction to Nairobi was greatly encouraged and supported by the Australian High Commissioner at the time, His Excellency John Feakes. Staying in the Australian Embassy was a highlight, as it gave us first-hand experience of the interaction with the local community, while gaining a better understanding of the work of the High Commission across the international community.
Ducere worked in partnership with a number of wonderful schools and centres across Kenya, including Tenderfeet Education Centre under the extraordinary leadership of its Founder and Director, Mrs Margaret Nyabuto. A community-based organisation located west of Nairobi, Tenderfeet began with the sole objective of providing education for orphans and vulnerable children from the slums of Nairobi. Working with these children became a strong and ongoing focus for Ducere and its partners.
We also worked with the Mercy Main Flower Academy, located in Migori County in the Southern Lake Region of Kenya, which began as an Early Childhood Education Centre to cater for the educational needs of orphans and vulnerable children, and the Dagoretti Muslim Primary School in Kawangware, which is run by the local government authority.
Our success across Kenya was due to our relationship with Manasprings. The co-founders, Carey Westwood and Wanjiru Waithaka, are both born educators who worked closely with the teachers and students at Dagoretti Muslim Primary School, inspiring and mentoring the children to write many stories. A number of these stories are published in the Thirty-second Collection.
Manasprings introduced us to the Kivuli children – vulnerable or orphaned children in need of a home. Although Kivuli children come from many different backgrounds, they share the same need for love and care and many continue their education with the support they receive from the Kivuli Home.
The aspiration of Kenyan children was summed up by Irene Kimua when she wrote:
I know that everything is possible with a willing heart.