What We Do
AmericaShare’s mission is to provide the disadvantaged children, women, and men of Nairobi’s Mukuru slum with access to basic services and enriching programmes.
Located on the site of an old garbage dump, Mukuru is home to more than 500,000 people, many of whom work at nearby factories, earning about $2 a day. Because they aren’t permitted to build permanent structures, most live in metal or cardboard shacks.
Mukuru is an endlessly busy place where the striving human spirit is everywhere to be seen; its people are vital and courageous. But it’s a massive, desperately overcrowded slum, and the lack of basic services and infrastructure–roads, sewer systems, playgrounds, schools, hospitals and clinics, even such basics as water–make daily life a constant struggle.
AmericaShare has developed its programmes to address root problems and facilitate sustainable change in Mukuru. Our efforts fall into three distinct but interconnected categories:
Sponsoring a Child
Bighearted sponsors, working through AmericaShare’s School Sponsorship Programme, provide orphaned and vulnerable children with a life-expanding education in a carefully vetted Kenyan boarding school.
Sponsored students receive full tuition, books, uniforms, room and board…all the basics a student needs. Once you have committed to sponsorship, AmericaShare will match you with a child from our waiting list, which is prioritized by need. Throughout the school year, you’ll receive letters and progress updates from your child. If you wish, you can write back to your sponsee–this exchange is often joyous and meaningful, deepening over time. At present the cost of sponsoring a child is $1,650 (all of which benefits the child; AmericaShare’s administrative costs, in this and all our programmes, are paid by our founding partner, Micato Safaris).
We’ve found that knowing someone cares about her or him gives a sponsored child an emotional boost, a sense of hope and inspiration. Sponsoring a child has a direct and powerful impact (on both parties), providing bright young people with what is almost certainly their best opportunity to unshackle from poverty and stride confidently into a better life.
Please help change a life by sponsoring a child’s education.
If you have questions, please visit our FAQ page on the School Sponsorship Programme.
One for One
In 2009, AmericaShare’s partner, Micato Safaris, launched its One for One Commitment, which sends a child to school for every safari Micato sells.
In principle, primary education is free in Kenya, but in reality burdensome fees–for school desks, uniforms, books, supplies, and term exams, as well as money to help cover things like firewood and salaries for lunch cooks–make it impossible for poor children to get an education. In Mukuru alone, 62,000 children stay at home because of these onerous costs.
Thanks to Micato’s One for One Commitment, many thousands of these children are able to attend government schools. This highly successful program has enriched countless lives, of the children, their families, and in the community at large.
For more about the One for One Commitment, see Micato Safaris.
Special Care for Special Needs
In 2013 AmericaShare inaugurated its Virtuoso-Upchurch Learning Centre, dedicated to special needs children, gratefully named for the Virtuoso travel network and its CEO, Matthew Upchurch and his wife Jessica. The professionally staffed VULC replaces a brave but hot and overcrowded classroom with an airy, modern new building with bright wall murals, tiled floors, new desks and chairs, separate boys and girls bathrooms, specialized learning materials, and a small fenced courtyard which gives the children a pleasant and safe place to play and enjoy their lunch.
It almost–but not quite–goes without saying that special needs children have a terribly difficult time in an up-and-coming, but still poor country like Kenya. The VULC is a refuge, a solace, a helping hand, a beacon of hope for these children.
Harambee Community Centre
This multi-purpose facility – built by Micato Safaris and AmericaShare with the generous donation of Micato travellers Bernard Wharton and Jennifer Walsh – is a bright and beautiful oasis of hope in the middle of the Mukuru slum. Harambee is a vital community centre, allowing residents to gather for lectures, educational sessions, and meetings. But there is much else.
Mukuru is a loud, muddy, incredibly cramped, constantly challenging place, a place where serenity is rare. Harambee Centre provides the people of Mukuru with green lawns and well-kept, neatly painted buildings, with quiet and calm, with room for the heart to open, the mind to roam, and the sprit to grow. This is a subtle thing, but it’s not a small one.
The Harambee Centre Library
Dramatically expanded thanks to the generosity of Suzie and Bruce Kovner of The Kovner Foundation, Harambee’s library is a crucial community resource. For more, see Library and Resource Centre.
The Learning Resource Centre
Education inspires ambition, and Harambee’s expertly staffed, well-equipped learning resource centre offers students a window and a bridge to the greater world. For more, see Library and Resource Centre.
The Gorretti Nursery School
Harambee Centre is home to the Gorretti Nursery School which provides care for upwards of 250 children aged three to five. Micato-AmericaShare contributes to the students’ daily meals for these children, which is often their only meal for the day. Gorretti’s playground, the Baba Roland Celebratory Playground, was built in memory of a longtime AmericaShare sponsor, the late and cherished Roland Largay.
Daniel Adongo is the first Kenyan to play in America’s National Football League, and the great basketball star Dirk Nowitzki’s wife, Jessica Olsson, proudly hails from Kenya, but the country has yet to supply the NBA with a player. That just might change with the dedication of Harambee Centre’s full size basketball court, complete with spectators benches on the sidelines. Most of the shillings for the new court were supplied by young Micato travellers using funds they received or raised at their bar mitzvahs.
Sorely needed, if not terribly glamorous, a borehole next to Harambee Centre was dug, giving Mukuru one of its only sources of fresh water. Such are the small and day-to-day things that, along with libraries and computers and loving care, go into vitalizing and empowering a community.
Until 2014, Lacrosse was not played in Kenya. That changed when the game was introduced to the Mukuru community by Ian Macleod, and funded by private donors, businesses, and the International Lacrosse Federation. To date, over 200 students from local schools participate. An AmericaShare School Sponsorship graduate student coaches students every day after school and coordinates matches every week. In December 2015, the Kenya Lacrosse Association was given the distinction of becoming the 54th member of the Federation of International Lacrosse.
Huru International, which we talk about just below, offers employment to scores of local residents at its production workshop in Harambee. The fellowship here is strong and spirits are high: the workers know they’re engaged in a worthy cause.
In 2008, AmericaShare’s Lorna Macleod founded Huru International to address a little-thought-of, but major (and, happily, quite fixable) social problem in Kenya (and around the world).
The problem: Kenyan girls who can’t afford sanitary pads very often avoid school during their periods–the average loss is 4-5 days a month, as much as an entire month each school year.
The solution: Since its founding, Huru has supplied more than 140,000 girls from all regions of Kenya with locally made Huru Kits, consisting of a colorful drawstring backpack containing eight reusable pads (each pad lasts more than 18 months if properly maintained); three pairs of underwear; detergent-grade soap for washing pads; a resealable waterproof bag for the safe storage of used pads; and educational materials focused on HIV prevention and reproductive and sexual health.
The results are deeply gratifying. Girls have been able to stay in school, saving an astounding 3.5 million lost school days. Dropout rates have dramatically decreased. Young women’s lives have been empowered…and saved.
To learn more about this ongoing success story and how you can help young women thrive, visit www.HuruInternational.org.