In Kenya, only 24% of youth attend secondary school, at the age they are supposed to. An alarming 75% of children who start high school do not complete it due to barriers related to poverty. The national prevalence of HIV/AIDS is 7.4% with the highest rates of new infections occurring among youth ages 15-25. Females of this demographic are four times more likely to be infected than their male age-mates, often the result of these survival-based practices like seeking out early marriage, dating older men or engaging in commercial sex work. It is estimated that 1 million children have been orphaned as a result of this disease. HIV/AIDS intensifies the cycle of economic and social vulnerability already posing Kenya’s poor, keeping this and the next generation in the same position of poverty and survival based living.
From its establishment in 2004 to date, the Jeremiah Scholarship Fund has formed SFH’s core programmatic response to this challenge. The Scholarship Fund identifies the most disadvantaged and vulnerable youth from around Kenya and affords them access to a formal education at the secondary school level or beyond. The program gives priority to orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS, young women, homeless youth and children with caregivers who are disabled or chronically ill.
Every year SFH provides full academic scholarships to up to 62 Kenyan youth! To date over 150 children have received SFH scholarships and graduated. These are 150 young people who would otherwise not have had access to and complete their studies! The program supports not only tuition fees but includes peripheral costs that could also pose a barrier to uninterrupted school attendance. SFH’s model of care provides one-on-one follow-up and mentorship in line with a student-identified career path. The mentorship empowers them to take ownership over their vision and to pursue it knowing that their future is fully within their hands, and not subject to circumstances around them. Their scholarship was not an act of charity rather an investment in a future that is fully attainable.
The results are powerful ad go well beyond a certificate of completion. 80% of SFH graduates are employed in career-oriented jobs, rather than manual or casual labor that are more oriented to daily survival. 20% of those graduates also feel the impact of this work and ask us if they can “pay it forward” by volunteering back with SFH in some capacity, mentoring and supporting other students in our programs.
Expanded Model for Integrated Household Vulnerability Reduction: Using the foundational model of SFH’s Scholarship program, we have launched an integrated model of care and support that goes beyond the scholars to the wider family members in Nairobi and Eastern provinces where we are currently serving communities. The objective of this expanded integrated model of care is mitigating the root causes of vulnerability caused or exacerbated by HIV/AIDS for children and youth by expanding their household’s ability to be self-sustaining units. Thus, our core model of academic scholarship becomes an entry point for working with the entire family with the following need-based support:
- Ongoing HIV-prevention support, HIV testing, care and treatment referrals and monitoring
- Other sexual and reproductive health education and services
- Income generating opportunities for caregivers and non-school aged youth in the form of skills development and entrepreneurship through community based micro-finance or seed loans
- Home based counseling and follow-up support for need-based tailored support from SFH
Through this expanded approach, we will be able to have long lasting impact on the wellbeing of the family as a whole. Caregivers will also be better placed to support the needs of other children in the household who are not enrolled in our program. The investments made by SFH will create a more sustainable model of support that mitigates the underlying vulnerabilities in the broader household, which created the need for our intervention in the first place, which will remain long after our sponsorship of an academic program.