When Kathy Cathey first began visiting the Kinyago-Dandora School 16 years ago in a slum of Nairobi, Kenya, the primary school was small and struggling.
Since then, the school operated by the Kenya Children's Fund has boosted its attendance to just less than 800, with 200 in secondary school, and 33 graduates in universities or other postsecondary training.
If you goWhat: Yard sale to support education in slum of Nairobi, Kenya
When: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. July 31 to Aug. 2
Where: All Souls Anglican Church, 25W741 Jewell Road, Wheaton
Info: firstname.lastname@example.org or (630) 580-9073
"It's been exciting to see," said Cathey, a music instructor in the Community School of the Arts at Wheaton College. "It really is life changing."
But the school can meet the needs of only a portion of the desperately poor population of Dandora, the chief dumping site for the city of Nairobi.
An estimated 6,000 people, many of them children, pick through the dump daily to find items to eat or sell. The average household income is less than $1 a day.
Children who are unable to go to school press their faces against the fence surrounding it. Students who do not pass Kenya's stringent national exams after the eighth grade may not continue their education and are left with few options to make a living.
All Souls Anglican Church in Wheaton has created Higher Ground: Raise Up Kenya to partner with Kenya Children's Fund to change the hopeless future those without a high school education face. KCF has started a vocational track for students unable to continue their academic education.
To support that effort, All Saints is holding a gigantic yard sale from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, July 31 to Aug. 2, at the church, 25W741 Jewell Road, Wheaton.
"Every penny will go directly to Kenya," said Carolyn Hart, the church member organizing the sale. "Donations are always welcome if people don't want to shop the garage sale."
Area residents with items they wish to donate to the sale may contact Hart at email@example.com or (630) 580-9073. Financial donations also are accepted and checks may be made out to Kenya Children's Fund.
Cathey and church member Elaine Powell Hooker, who both have visited Kinyago-Dandora School, have made the congregation aware of the needs.
"These children have absolutely nothing," Cathey said. "They are thrilled to be part of the school."
Kenya Children's Fund, a Christian organization with a mission to raise up servant leaders and to provide for basic necessities such as nutrition, medical care and education, has a committee to visit each applicant's family to make an evaluation of need and the willingness of the family to have the child faithfully attend school.
"It is an agonizing process to choose who can come to the school," Cathey said.
The students accepted into the school receive two meals a day and have their expenses paid. Kenya Children's Fund, which is funded by donations, seeks sponsors who pay $38 a month to see the child they sponsor provided with nutrition, medical care and an education. African professionals staff the school.
Ginger Palm, president and CEO of Kenya Children's Fund, said that although primary education is free in Kenya, it still is expensive for families in the slums because of fees, materials and uniforms. Secondary education is not free in Kenya, and is out of the question for most of the families.
In the Kinyago-Dandora area, 40 percent of the children who start school drop out and end up on the streets, Palm wrote in an email. About 30 percent of the students in Kinyago-Dandora School fail their eighth-grade exams and must discontinue their education, and the percentage of those failing is much higher in other schools in the area, she said.
To help those students who cannot continue beyond eighth grade, Kenya Children's Fund has started a vocational track to teach sewing and bead work, marketable trades in Kenya, and plans to add soap-making soon.
"In the future, we will offer accounting, computer and other courses," Palm wrote. "Our goal for creating the vocational courses is to equip the eighth-graders who cannot go into high school with a certificate in accounting, etc., and/or trade, which will allow them to earn a dignified living."
Palm added that Kenya Children's Fund plans to open the vocational center to the broader community so other young people, especially single mothers, have the opportunity to learn a marketable skill.
"The program is only just beginning, but partners like All Souls are extremely important to change the lives of those who have been living in hopelessness and destitution," Palm wrote.
Cathey, who has traveled to the Kinyago-Dandora area seven times since 1998 and plans to return in 2016, said other staff and students from Wheaton College have visited there as well. Although the Americans have gone to help, the giving isn't all one way, she said.
"They can teach us so much about making do with nothing, gratitude and joy," she said.