THIS IS THE STORY OF TUMAINI, AS TOLD BY ROSE, THE FOUNDER:
The desire to help orphans and poor in rural areas came into my heart at the age of 15 when I was joining high school. I am the youngest of a family of six and my parents were peasant farmers in the village. We were all born in the village and our lives were not easy. I started working in people’s farms at the age of 10 years. The money I earned helped to buy school supplies and uniforms while in primary school. I only had my school uniform and one dress to change, I never had shoes nor flip-flops in my tender age. During the dry season there were no jobs in the farms and it was not easy to have food on our table. My dad would make brew and sell for us to have food and sometimes he would be arrested. I was born when my dad was in jail, I thank God he accepted Christ and quit drinking and brewing. I discovered through an old man in the village because he had nicknamed me the name of the jail where my dad was jailed. When I asked my mother about it, we cried together because of what she went through during that time. Some of the things made me laugh in pain, that I was bathed in a cooking bowl as my mother couldn’t to buy a basin, my towels were the back of tone shirts! The poverty in our family didn’t allow my siblings to join high school after their primary schools. They decided to go to the city to work as house helps.
When it was time for me to join high school the situation was still the same, my parents were not able. One of my sisters had visited us and I requested her if I would accompany her to Nairobi to work as a house help. My sister was sad and she told me “You are our youngest sister, if you won’t join high school, then we won’t have any other person with a high school education.” She asked me to be patient and wait for her letter.
After two weeks, I received a letter, my sister had invited me to live with her in Nairobi not to work as a house help but to go to school. My mother organized and borrowed some money for my transport and I left for the city. I had no shoes and I was in my school uniform. My sister knew and when she came to pick me up, she had flip-flops in her hands. After a week’s orientation I started schooling. I had to walk for an hour to and from the school but I was so excited and for sure I didn’t mind walking.
I had no uniform and I was given only one month to be in school uniform. My sister worked for an Indian lady and she had given her some pants, one happened to be light blue which was the colour of our school skirts. I was happy to get a tailor to change the pants into a skirt. I knitted some scarves and my sister’s boss gave me money for the scarves, this enabled me to buy a white blouse, white socks and plastic black shoes. I was done with my uniform, I didn’t have more money to buy a school sweater and I finished my high school without a school sweater.
WHY I STARTED TUMAINI MILES OF SMILES CENTRE
After one year of school, my sister and I traveled home to the village over Christmas to visit my parents. When I arrived home, I was very eager to visit my close friend whom I went to school with and we worked together in the farms. I was with my parents for a few minutes and I left to visit my friend. When I arrived at her home my HEART BROKE! My friend had no one to support her to join high school. Being the first born in her family and from a poor family, there was no one to pay her school fees. She became pregnant and she had to continue working in the farms to feed herself and her baby. THIS IS THE TIME I REALISED THE SACRIFICE MY SISTER HAD MADE TO PAY MY SCHOOL FEES FROM THE LITTLE MONEY SHE EARNED FROM HER HOUSEHELP JOB.
When I went back to my parents I told my mom what I had seen and the different life I had seen in the city. Many students in my school were sponsored to join high school but no one was willing to come to the rural areas to help the poor. IT IS FROM THIS I TOLD MY MOM THAT ONE DAY I WOULD COME BACK TO THE VILLAGE AND HELP THE POOR. My mother laughed and wondered how a poor girl from the village would come back to help. Being a Christian she later encouraged me and promised to pray for me.
After my high school my sister didn’t have any money to pay for my college. I was later supported and I joined seminary. When I finished I went back to the city and I went for secretarial training. I later on started working with an audit firm and the journey of Tumaini started after seven years.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
I started sharing this idea with friends in 2004 and it was just uncovering what was on my heart. I was also supporting a few children however I could with school supplies to enable them go to school. To get started I begun with a feeding programme in Kawangware slum in Nairobi and in 2005 I started visits on the weekends in the rural areas near the town of Malava (Kakamega Province) where my heart was. (Malava is ten hours by bus from Nairobi.) I shared my vision with the elders, Pastors, teachers and other members of the community. They were happy to hear what was on my heart but their enthusiasm went down after realizing that I had no donors behind me. They opted to pray for me and wished me well which became a burden on my heart. Towards the end of 2005, I leased a house at Kakoi corner market, a 40 minutes walk from Malava, to start a primary school. The money for the first installment of the lease was a problem because I was earning very little and had no one to support me. My sister in-law wanted her daughter to join a hairdressing course in the city and had requested her to stay with me. When the time came for her to join she was pregnant. Her mother did not give up she told me once the girl gives birth she will still come to stay with me as she goes to college. She made a request that I keep for her the money which was meant to pay her fees because she didn’t want to spend the money on other things. This is the money I used to pay for the house as the first installment. I was so happy and thought it was a God answered prayer though it was a debt to paid later.
I started saving little by little to enable me equip the classrooms with desks, tables and blackboards. I shared with friends and they gave me some old course books and the school took off in the beginning of 2006. On admission day I expected less than 30 pupils but to my surprise I had 80 children who came for admission. I was still working in Nairobi but I found a friend to help me with the school and I visited on the weekends. After six month I was on leave and I decided to come to the village to spend more time with the children and teachers, just to get to know them well. This is the time I discovered that one of our pupils came to school but she spent her nights in sugarcane fields. It was to my surprise that it was not only this girl but we had more in school facing the same problem. I had to take these children into my home and after sometime I leased another house which became our home. We had 7 children in this house who slept on I inch mattress on the floor. This is how I started the children’s home.
I trusted God in everything because my salary was not enough to take care of the school and the children in the children’s home. God was faithful for the 2 years that I ran Tumaini depending on the little salary, borrowing money from friends, and we lived a life where a debt was paying another debt.
HOW I FOUND SUPPORTERS
Life was not easy, I wondered if I was doing the right thing but God confirmed that I was doing what he wanted me to do. This made it more difficult because I didn’t know if he was genuine as I was in debts and was still borrowing, as I said debts paying debts. One day my boss came in the office and told us that we were supposed to move in one week’s time, reason being our clients had changed the mode of communication, they insisted we communicate through emails and not sending messengers all the time. This was exciting as internet was very expensive in cyber cafes. We started packing and we finally moved. We got new computers and we were connected. He then hired someone to come and take us through several things on the internet and this was what God used to open ways.
When I shared with this I.T. man about Tumaini, he was so excited and he asked who my donors were. I told him I was the donor which amazed him because he knew how much I earned since he prepared our payroll. The conversation started from there and when I traveled to the village he gave me a camera to take pictures. He told me he wanted to confirm if I was telling the truth. I brought the camera back to him and he was surprised. He promised to help me and requested me to stay behind after work. He told me about search engines and the organizations sending volunteers. We started sending emails to these organizations and I received response from one of the organizations. I filled in the questionnaire and they sent me a volunteer. When this happened I started the child sponsorship program and my seven children in the home had sponsors. I resigned from my job in 2008 and with the benefits and the help of a women’s microfinance group I bought land in the village. We built classrooms every year, when volunteers came they went home and fundraised for us and that is how we had our own classrooms and children’s home, slowly by slowly. We didn’t have a lot so we were doing what we could because the children needed shelter and classrooms. Since then Tumaini has become a home for a child every year. We now have 76 children in the children’s home, including 7 infants 18 have joined high school and 10 have joined university and other colleges. We also have children from the community who attend school, some live with guardians and others are from poor families. The total number of children in our school is currently 270 and 69 have gone on to join high school. We still depend on well-wishers who are willing to sponsor a child and this money helps us provide basic needs for the children and pay wages to those who are working to help the children.
WHY WE NEED A NEW SCHOOL
Tumaini miles of smiles has 8 classrooms each accommodates 30 pupils. Our pre-primary classes are mud walled and mud floored. We use cow dung to smear the floor to avoid dust when the children are learning. Last year our government changed the primary schools curriculum and it is a whole new system of education. More classrooms are needed also they have threatened to close down the pre primary classes because they are not conducive for the young ones. They are small, ventilation is not enough and every where there is dust since the floors and walls are mud built. It is in this regard that we are in need of the new building to give the children an opportunity in the new curriculum. We are hoping that and praying that this will happen so that our children are not locked outside.
OTHER PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS
Sports motivate our children and the biggest sport is soccer. Our physical education lesson cannot end without soccer. When our children are asked to go out for physical education the first thing is to go and collect the soccer balls. Sometimes when we don’t have soccer balls they put together papers and rugs tie them together with a string and it will be a soccer ball. Soccer motivates them, gives them an opportunity to compete with other schools and keeps them active in class. Since we don’t have other equipments for the children to play soccer has worked for us. The children enjoy playing soccer every time they are outside and they play bear feet. Playing soccer also instills in them discipline, as a player there are certain disciplines to be followed and it helps our children very much.
We realized that there are children who are talented and are not very good in their academics. We thought it would be good for them to enhance their talents and therefore we came up with the trade school. Our well-wishers supported us to buy land, build the classrooms and equipments for various trades. We are offering Motor Vehicle Mechanic, Building and construction, Tailoring and Dressmaking, Welding, Hairdressing and we will be starting carpentry soon. We have 36 students now and 15 have done their certificate and proceeded to diploma in a technical school. We are also offering sponsorship to the youth who were orphaned when they were young and didn’t have an opportunity to join high school.
COW PROGRAM FOR HIGH SCHOOL FEES
When our children started joining high school things started tightening because the sponsorship money is not enough to cover the fees. The high school fees ranges between $650 and $900 depending on the school. Our schools admit students according to their performance in their eighth grade exams. We have three categories, National school, County and subcounty, the scores will tell which school a student will join. We also have a list of supplies and beddings when they are joining. This became very expensive to us and it reached a time when our children would be sent back home because of lack of school fees. This is why we came up with the cow program as an income generating to help with the paying of school fees. We agreed with guardians that they will take care of the cows bought for them but the cow remains ours until the students are through with school. When the cow calves, three litres of the milk will be sold and the money saved towards the school fees. The rest of the milk is for the guardians/families to sell to enable them buy food or use the milk for tea. The money saved from milk will then enable us to pay the school fees when the children get to join high school and one of the calves will be given to a different family for the program sustainability.
We have also started a dairy farm at the children’s home to have the same program for the children in the children home. We have two pure breed cows and they are doing well. We are hoping to expand and have a total of 10 pure breed cows then we start breeding our own cows which will help us with the payment of high school fees.