By Ali Omar, YES 2010-2011, Kenya, hosted by AFS in Schererville, Indiana.
The YES Program totally transformed my life and brought out the better person in me. I was exposed to a new, diverse environment and lived with a host family who loved me and treated me as if I was their own son.
After the completion of our program year, members of the AFS-Kenya Mombasa Alumni Chapter felt the urge to give back to our beloved country, Kenya. We had different suggestions and opinions for how to do this, all of which had their own advantages and disadvantages, difficulties and benefits. But our coordinator, Zakia Mohammed, the head of Alumni Public Relations of the Mombasa Chapter AFS-Kenya, saw our efforts and determination to give back to the country. She led us to choose a project to help impoverished children by taking us on a visit to Muoroto, a slum area in the city of Mombasa.
On this visit, we saw that parents face challenges when raising their children and trying to provide them with basic needs under the harshness of poverty. We saw a lot of abilities and talents in these kids who face incredible challenges. After our visit, we agreed that we wanted to focus on improving these children’s lives. We believe that if these children can succeed in life, they will be able to then help their families and the entire country.
We decided to support the children in their academics and extracurricular activities and presented our idea to the chief of the local area, an important authority for the community. After gaining the chief’s support, we launched the Muoroto Children’s Support Project (MCSP) with 126 children, aged four to fifteen years old, who registered for the project.
We applied for a YES alumni grant, which allowed us to provide school uniforms, meals, school materials and sports equipment to these students. The funds also covered a P.A. system for the school and publicity from the local radio stations to assist with fundraising.
Since the start of our project, the children have showed drastic improvements in their academic performance. During the school holidays, we keep students busy by providing productive and fun activities at MCSP. The project keeps growing and further improving the children’s lives.
As the alumni of the AFS-Kenya Mombasa Chapter, we try to help the children of Muoroto in the best way we can so as to make them focused and determined to have a great future ahead of them. Sharing this story is a way of passing the experience we have gained from the exchange program and showing our appreciation for the help from AFS, the YES Program and its funder, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, American Councils for International Education and all the organizations sponsoring and tirelessly working to ensure the success of the exchange program. We also would like to thank Zakia Mohammed at AFS Kenya who has always encouraged and supported us on this amazing journey of changing children’s lives and making them have a better future.