I met Phil at the Jambo Jipya orphanage in 2015 during my annual visit to Kenya. He is a member of Christine Mwende’s Jambo Jipya Board of Directors and visits the school and orphanage two to three times a year. We stay in touch through phone, email and social media and might see each this summer when we both plan on returning to Mtwapa at the end of July.
Here is a little about him in his own words:
I was lucky enough to be able to retire early from a high pressure sales job working with a US based multi-national Company. I decided to do an African safari in Kenya which was extremely incredible but it gave me a firsthand look at the difficulties and hardships that is prevalent in Kenya.
When I came home my only job was some local community work. I searched the web to see if there were opportunities for me work for a few weeks in hospitals, schools, relief centers and one morning I found the contact information for the Jambo Jipya school. After a few attempts I finallyreached Christine Mwende and told her that I wanted to do volunteer work at the school. So I booked a plane ticket for Mtwapa. My family thought I was crazy and after a few days in Mtwapa I thought maybe they were right! Christine was very distrustful of me and my motives and it took me a few days to prove to her that I genuinely wanted to help. I realized how naive I had been but it was a good lesson and the end result was that Christine and I learned to trust each other. Shortly after Christine asked if I would go with her to help sort out a boundary issue with the Land Registry in Kilifi and Mombasa. I said yes providing the discussions would be in English.
At the meeting, I was shocked at the overall lack of respect and blatant sexism that was displayed. I realized the difficulties Christine faced on a daily basis as a woman and the director of a school. I believe my being there that day helped to resolve a problematic issue and solidified our relationship.
Whenever I travel to Mtwapa, Christine will often ask me to go with her to meetings or sometimes saves up issues for my visit. Not only do I bring donations but try to assist financially by funding special projects. I am grateful for the opportunity to help in whatever way I can. We both know that JJ is just one of hundreds of schools in Africa doing what they are doing, but for me Christine has created something special at the Jambo Jipya school and orphanage. I’m not a religious person but I have to respect the strong Christian values she has infused by her leadership and the good vibes there as well. The children seem to enjoy their life without material trappings and have many reasons to smile. My next trip to Mtwapa will be end July and as always I look forward to my visits
On April 6th 2017, The Sanford H Calhoun Senior Experience class from Merrick, NY held its annual Fashion Show and donated its proceeds to Reason2Smile. This program is an interdisciplinary humanities program that incorporates English and social studies lessons coupled with an out of school internship experience. A major component of the Senior Experience program is community service and developing leadership skills. The Fashion Show is a culmination of the students’ hard work and dedication.
100% of the proceeds are donated to an organization of their choice and Reason2Smile won 70% of the class vote this year. Myself, my son Ryan along with fellow classmate Olivia DelGandio left for Mtwapa, Kenya on April 7th for a two-week trip where we stayed at the Jambo Jipya orphanage. It was a fantastic trip full of special memories, friendships and eye-opening experiences about life in another part of the world. My family has been so supported of my work with Reason2Smile and I love when they travel with me to share my experiences. This was Ryan’s third trip to Kenya and I enjoy watching his interactions with the children and how they consider him their brother from America. Olivia also was fully accepted into the Jambo Jipya family and I know she will return in the years to come.
There were many highlights on this trip but one very special one was Ryan and Olivia’s meeting with Maureen Wairimu. Maureen’s education has been sponsored since she began attending Jambo Jipya in second grade. Her excellent grades granted her admission to the nationally recognized Bahari Secondary Boarding school for girls in Kilifi County which was also funded by a generous donor with Reason2Smile. Now Maureen has graduated and is seeking admission to university to study economics. That is where Calhoun’s Senior Experience comes in. When Ryan and I presented to the class we spoke of Maureen and her dreams of attending university as well as how Reason2Smile tries to support Jambo Jipya graduates to attend trade schools or certificate post-secondary programs. The students embraced the idea that they could make a difference in Maureen’s life by financing her university expenses. This way “seniors are supporting another senior.” The Senior X class raised 10,000USD with the Fashion Show and Olivia and Ryan got to tell Maureen the big news in person. To say she was speechless doesn’t even come close. Maureen was so overcome with emotion that we all got tears in our eyes. She is so appreciative and wants everyone to know how thankful she is. I will update you all on her acceptances as we will know shortly what university she will be attending. She is presently in Mombasa taking computer classes in preparation for college in September.
Mr. Wilson is the teacher in charge at the Jambo Jipya primary school (preK-grade8). He is a dedicated individual who motivates his fellow teachers by example. His leadership abilities strengthen the educational program at Jambo Jipya fostering student achievement.
Mr. Wilson has been working at the school for quite a while and has been instrumental is the creation of extracurricular programing at Jambo Jipya. He believes that learning occurs inside and outside of the classroom and supports a well-rounded educational experience for students. Reason2Smile is very happy to report that Jambo Jipya has many extracurricular programs for the students to choose from. Sports clubs meet on Mondays and Fridays while academic clubs meet on Tuesday and Thursdays. All clubs meet at the end of the day and on Wednesday morning there is school assembly where students report back on their activities and accomplishments.
Here is a sampling of some of the clubs at the Jambo Jipya school:
Recreational Games Club
Mourine W is a former Jambo Jipya student who received top scores on the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education Exam. This gained her admission to the Bahari Girls Secondary school in Kilifi County, Kenya. Bahari Girls Secondary School is a nationally recognized girls boarding school by the Kenyan government and has a total enrollment of 363 students and 20 teaching staff members. Mourine began attending Bahari in 2013 thanks to Reason2Smile and the support of a US sponsor. Mourine is now in Form 4 (12th grade) and will be graduating at the end of November after taking rigorous Form 4 examinations. In December, Mourine will begin the application process to University. After the results ofher examinations are released in February, the decision about where to attend university will begin.
What is Giving Tuesday? For the purposes of activism #GivingTuesday refers the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It is a movement to create an international day of giving at the beginning of the holiday season and a response to the commercialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This will be Reason2Smile’s third year participating in the #Giving Tuesday campaign which falls on November 29th 2016.
This year Reason2Smile would like to raise a minimum of 5,000 dollars and if we meet this goal we will have an additional matching donation of 5,000 from a very generous sponsor.
Reason2Smile is using the money for specific capital improvement projects at the Jambo Jipya School. We have three projects that the money will be allocated for:
New bathrooms = $2,000
Perimeter wall repair with paint job = $1,000
45 New metal desks and chairs = $2,025
Reason2Smile will be asking for donations of different pledge amounts corresponding to different pledge levels.
Bronze Level = $25 – $150
Silver Level = $151 – $350
Gold Level = $351 – $600
Platinum Level = $600 – $1,000
Diamond Level = $1,001 – $2,000
Double Diamond Level = $2,001 & up