Can you tell us more about the projects that youth want to develop after the program (what jobs? career? how many do want to start a business)?
Our students have passions and goals across the spectrum of both nonprofit and for profit endeavors. Most recently, our students expressed interest in careers such as aviation, pediatrics, journalism, astronaut/aeronautical engineering, architecture, cinematography, and entrepreneurship.
Monicah, a recent Form 4 graduate has dreamed of being a pediatric doctor for years. She has expressed her love for children, as well as her desire to help others. Monicah had the opportunity to volunteer at the New Life Home Trust in Nairobi during the August LaunchPad session. New Life provides holistic care to infants who have been abandoned upon birth, and finds local adoptive parents. The experience at New Life provided Monicah with an experience working one on one with young children, and deepened her passion and drive to pursue her career as a doctor.
Brian and Ken, our first ever high school graduates, had long standing dreams of pursuing careers in aviation and business respectively. Through LaunchPad’s career mentorship and exposure to Industry leaders component, the two are currently pursuing professional courses in two of the country’s most prestigious institutions: The Kenya School of Flying, and The Kenya Institute of Management respectively. James, who has just graduated Secondary School, is well on the path to starting a livestock project. Using lessons learned from Financial Management classes, he was able to use money saved up to purchase to sheep in August of this year which he intends to sell at a profit later on in the year and use proceeds to increase his stock.
The students enrolled in LaunchPad have felt the impact of poverty in Kenya- many experienced homelessness, food insecurity, lack of access to education or proper healthcare. For that reason, many of our students are determined to obtain employment as a means to support themselves and provide for their family. This drive sparks an interest in business for many of our students with ideas such as becoming a filmmaker, starting a DJ company, or creating and selling clothing. The ideas are cultivated through workshops, and taken seriously. We want to show our students that their dreams are attainable, and we want to be transparent with the amount of work needed to get there.
Brian’s story captures the essence of the movement we are creating through LaunchPad. Brian came to Flying Kites in 2013, having lived in a shelter since the age of 5, and never receiving formal education. His drive and commitment to education pushed him to excel in a public, and then private secondary school. Upon completion of Form 4, his hard work opened the opportunity to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot, and last month (November 2016) he began flight school.
Thank you for all of your questions-as they helped our team to refine the details and present the most comprehensive initiative! We've responded to your feedback within our program outline, as well as below:
What stage is Launchpad in currently? LaunchPad, as a program, is still in it’s start-up phase. We garnered enough support and collaboration to launch the initiative in April of 2015, however, the initial year and a half of the program has been coupled with experimental programming, and an effort to gather feedback from participants in order to develop the most effective program. At this point in our process we have been able to meet and collaborate with various organizations throughout Kenya, and cultivate relationships with entrepreneurs, business leaders, and social innovators who have become part of this initiative. Now, we are hoping to expand the reach of this program to impact even more youth living in Njabini.
How do you recruit strong mentors for the program? Flying Kites has been working in Njabini since 2007--in that time we have had the opportunity to cultivate relationships with many community members and organizations. We take pride in providing mentors and role models that are relatable to our students, and therefore reach out to that network of reliable community players to serve as long-term mentors for students.
Is there any stewardship involved with the graduates of your program? In line with our emphasis on family and community- graduates of LaunchPad often become the role models and mentors to younger classes of LaunchPad students. Program graduates share struggles and accomplishments of applying to university, working a full-time job, and everyday tasks such as getting to work on time and balancing their budget.
After students graduate from LaunchPad, Flying Kites ensures success. Students have access to guidance from our staff- and are eager to share about their new life experiences. Additionally, students have opportunities to receive small loans to help achieve their dreams of furthering their education or starting a business. Success doesn't start as soon as LaunchPad ends, and it is our goal and our responsibility to provide tools to help students navigate life.
What types of partnerships are you creating to strengthen the program's viability? When seeking out partnerships we look for individuals and organizations that embody the tenacity, innovation and “big picture” attitude that LaunchPad embraces. Rather than exhausting resources and recreating initiatives that Kenyan-based groups have mastered- we seek out partnerships that align with our vision and offer trainings, advocacy workshops, opportunities for student internships, and collaborations with youth across the country.
How does the project envision the different needs between boys and girls/ men and women? At Flying Kites we serve the most vulnerable students in rural Njabini. Working within the context of rural Kenya, our women and girls face a myriad of challenges. Through of Wasichana Pamoja initiative, we are working to protect and empower female students against child marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual and physical abuse while providing the opportunity to advocate within their community and connect with mentors. We envision a community where girls are able to attend school, obtain a higher education, work in any and all fields, and serve as leaders. Specific to LaunchPad, we enlist the stories and inspiration from groups like WomEng, an organization that started in South Africa, seeking to inspire and support women and girls interested in engineering, and other careers in the STEM field. Mentors like WomEng provide real insight into the struggles and triumphs of being a woman in the working world, and provide tools and strategies to navigate tough situations.
For the boys in the program, we have partnered with Kenya Community Development Fund who through their annual Mentennda (Men Take Action) initiative, provide guided and structured mentorship to our boys alongside teenage boys from Secondary schools across Kenya, in an attempt to nurture them into responsible men in society who strive to take action resulting in lasting social change.