Bondo Town is located near Lake Victoria in Nyanza Province, Kenya, about 50 kms northwest of Kisumu. Located in an agricultural area, the town was established as a market centre in the early 1920’s and has a current population of approximately 30,000, with more spread out over a large area in many communities around the town. HIV/AIDS orphans are one of the most vulnerable groups in the area, and are represented in almost 50% of the school population. This high number is attributed to the major health issues in the region, including 23% HIV/AIDS (2011, approximately 3-4 times the national HIV/AIDS rate), and high rates of malaria, TB, and maternal mortality. The orphans face numerous hardships resulting from poverty, insufficient food, low nutritional standards, poor housing and lack of access to basic services, such as water and sanitation. Other challenges faced by the Bondo Community include inadequate school infrastructures (substandard buildings, no water, minimal sanitary facilities), and the inability to pay school fees.
ICO Foundation has been establishing initiatives with this community since February 2012, when two ICO Team Members lived there for the better part of 2 years. The initial goals were to improve school infrastructure, assist women in generating income and becoming self-sufficient (eco-stove project, African Angels), assist with local water projects, and build proper homes for a couple of widows and their children in desperate need. ICO also built one of the first school libraries in the area, which could house up to 120 children. From 2014 to present the focus has been the sustainment of the Bondo School Sponsorship Initiative which supports approximately 30 underprivileged children in over 14 different schools, from Kindergarten to first year university. The goal is to provide the children with a better education and for those in boarding school a steady diet and shelter.
Due to the high rate of HIV/AIDS approximately 6 out of 10 persons are affected, and as a result many orphans are left behind to be cared for by mothers or grandmothers. Although Kenya now has a free education system, due to lack of proper funding the public schools often have class sizes of 80-100 children, and are taught by teachers with only high school and then 2 years teacher’s training. Every 3 students share books. Even though education is “free”, the uniforms and shoes are not. Mothers or grandmothers caring for 4-6 children may be able to provide uniforms but these will also serve as their clothing for everything else, such as hauling water, gathering firewood, etc. Shoes are often only cheap flip flops or even just barefeet.
The mothers that ICO are working with live in a row of mud rooms, along with rats and cockroaches. There is no electricity and 12 families share 1 dug hole for a latrine, with poles and plastic around it for privacy. There is no running water. Half of the children that have been sponsored since 2012 have been taken from this environment and placed in boarding schools, demoted several classes as they learned minimally while going to public school. Other children that had a mother that could read or write were placed in a private day school. Nine of these children came from the two mothers for whom ICO secured a piece of land with title deed (only 5% of land in Kenya is owned by women) on which a modest home was built complete with water catchment and a small solar lamp. Eight of the children came from the poorest performing school in the entire region and had nowhere to go to when they completed Class 8. Some were sponsored by ICO for 4 years of high school. Two went to 4 years of trade school, one a deaf boy who is now finished and is a welder. The other has completed 4 years of apprentice electrician training and is starting 2 years of journeyman training.
In 2017 ICO sponsors 2 children in kindergarten, 16 children in primary (grade) school, and 8 children in secondary (high) school.
We have one girl (total orphan) now in university after 4 years in boarding high school. She is now being sponsored by another sponsor who has taken over ☺.
Two students are pending/waiting to go to university also after having been sponsored in boarding high school for 4 years. They were among the very top of high school students from all over Kenya. Because of these results the government will now give them a subsidy/loan to go to university. We are hoping to find sponsors to support them with room and board ($800 CAN per term per student).
Please contact ICO if you wish to be part of this transformative initiative, changing the lives of the underprivileged through education so that they can uplift their families and their country.