From Newport to Nairobi

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A Newport Beach woman traveled to Nairobi to help pave the road to success for college girls in Kenya.

Jene Meece, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Agano with Kenya, is currently in Africa with other team members from the charity, visiting, documenting and encouraging the girls the organization has helped reach higher education.

“Ten young women who had no hope of continuing their education in Kenya are now attending five different universities,“ Meece wrote in an email.  “These young ladies epitomize the New Face of Kenya.”

Two of the organizations current Kenyan college students, Rose and Winfred, pose in front of their school’s sign. The two are determined to succeed, said Meece.— Photo courtesy Jene Meece

Agano with Kenya commits to a 10-year agreement with orphaned college-aged girls, sponsoring their education, offering internships and helping kick-start their careers. The organization’s leaders also offer encouragement and guidance. In return, the girls do community service and help “pay it forward” to the next generation of girls entering the program.

The word “agano” means covenant, pact or agreement in Swahili. The use of a Swahili word is significant because in 10 years, operations of Agano with Kenya will move to Kenya and be run by Kenyans, according to the organization’s website.

Here are some excerpts from Meece’s daily updates about her time in Africa:

Day 1 in Kenya: “Breanna and I were so touched when we met Brenda and Sylvia. Once they politely shake your hand they immediately touch their heart.

Brenda and Sylvia are living at the elementary school boarding room during their time off from high school. They will be applying to Agano with Kenya once they are accepted into college.”

Several children pose for a photo in a slum in Kibera, Africa. — Photo courtesy Jene Meece

Day 2 in Kenya: “We spent the day in the largest slum in Africa… We were in Kibera to observe a three week workshop given by University of British Columbia for young adults interested in developing a business plan for their own small businesses.”

Some Strathmore University juniors and girls from the program pose for a photo. The juniors agreed to mentor the younger girls.— Photo courtesy Jene Meece
As part of their community service, the girls are crocheting caps for Knots of Love, a Costa Mesa based charity that donates hand knitted and crocheted caps to cancer patients. — Photo courtesy Jene Meece

Day 3 in Kenya: “Six juniors from Strathmore University (top univ. in Kenya) agreed to mentor our six college girls. You would have thought they were long lost friends…

The girls are crocheting caps for Knots of Love as part of their community service. They learned so fast that the 40 skeins of yarn disappeared. They begged us to buy more before we leave.”

Some children laughing and having fun, Meece said she just couldn’t resist taking a photo of them.— Photo courtesy Jene Meece

Day 4 in Kenya: “I have no idea what these children [in the accompanying photo] were laughing at, but I couldn’t resist snapping a quick shot.

Day 5 in Kenya: “We stopped by Strathmore University to visit Rose and Winfred. Their ‘hostel’ (living quarters) is within walking distance from campus.

There is a consistent message from these two and others: “My friends who didn’t make it to college are already married and having a child.” These girls are determined to succeed and are eternally grateful to Agano with Kenya.”

Day 6 in Kenya: “Today we visited Catholic University. Janet, Miriam and Pascaline attend. I’ve spent most of the last three days interviewing and videoing each of the college girls.

Today Janet relayed a story that truly touched me. She said that before she returned to college the day before, she gathered with some other girls from Mt Olive and they decided when they finish college they would open “Girls with Kenya”, a sister organization to Agano with Kenya.

Girls with Kenya would sponsor primary and high school girls and pass them to Agano with Kenya for college.  She said they were all emotional and crying during the discussion.”

Day 7 in Kenya: “Pascaline and Miriam are in nursing school at Catholic University. It’s located on a its own beautiful campus.

Nothing, however, was as beautiful as Audrey, the plastic patient they practice their skills on. They told me I had to visit one more class and I jumped a mile when I saw Audrey laying there smiling.”

Read the Indy’s story about the rest of Meece’s trip here.

Read a more detailed follow-up article about the Agano with Kenya organization here. Visit www.aganowithkenya.org for more information.

Agano With Kenya Founder Jene Meece with Pascaline and Miriam and Audrey, the plastic patient they practice their skills on at Catholic University nursing school. — Photo courtesy Jene Meece


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