Kipepeo Spotlight: Ann Wanjiku

Ann Wanjiku is a 15 year old girl in our Kipepeo program. She’s had a lot of ups and downs, but thanks to the Kipepeo sponsorship, things are definitely on the upswing.

In early 2007, Ann became a sponsored child while her family lived in the slums near Eldoret.

Ann Wanjiku

Ann Wanjiku

Like so many young people in our programs, the post-election riots of 2008 had a huge impact on Ann — perhaps more of an impact than any other child in the Tenderfeet family.

Ann’s mother decided early on to live in the IDP camps provided by the UN.  IDP is a term meaning ‘Internally Displaced Person’, similar to a refugee within one’s own country.

Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were strongly affected by the post-election riots, including tens of thousands who lost their homes completely and everything they owned.

Ann’s family lost everything, and ended up in the IDP camp tents near Eldoret.  However, the difference is that after peace was restored, the majority chose to eventually return to their communities, or move to another community near relatives.

Instead of getting on with her life, Ann’s mom decided that she and her children should wait for the compensation (a few hundred dollars) that was promised those who could prove they were genuine IDPs.

The process of proving one’s family is an IDP family turned out to be absolutely ridiculous, and yet Ann’s mom (and those like her) stuck with it.

Ann Wanjiku's home

The compound which included Ann Wanjiku's one-room home

In the end, it meant living in a tent for over two years, and moving to a remote IDP camp near the city of Nyahururu.  These IDP camps could be a very unsafe environment for young children, girls especially.

After Ann moved to the IDP camp near Nyahururu, she dropped out of school entirely.  At the time, she was in 6th grade.

Fortunately, our wonderful friend and helper Jennifer Cheserek came to the rescue.  She had stayed in touch with Ann’s mom and we were able to get Ann enrolled in an excellent school.

The downside was that the school was over an hour walk away (both coming and going).

After a few months, we decided to remedy the situation by renting a small 10 by 10 ft room near the school.  The rent was 700 shillings per month (about $10), which was paid for by Tenderfeet funds.

Because Ann’s mom was too stubborn to leave the camp (she still wanted to get the IDP compensation despite the negative impact on her children), Ann and her two brothers lived in room by themselves.

Ann did all the cooking and cleaning for herself and her two brothers at the same time she was doing all her schoolwork.  The family also had very little money for food and supplies.  This was in a small room that had no electricity or running water.

The situation became unbearable for Ann, and she ran away to live as a housegirl in Nairobi.  We feared we would lose all contact with her and her education would be over.  Maybe she would even end up pregnant and HIV positive like so many teenage girls in Kenya.

Maryland Academy

The Maryland school, where Ann is now a boarding school student

In fact, we lost touch with her for several months through mid 2010 and we were all very concerned for her wellbeing.  We even filed reports with the media and police.

Apparently, she heard that I was visiting in October 2010, because on the day I was visiting Nyahururu, she returned home.  I didn’t expect to see her at all, and you can never imagine how relieved I was.  It was like a miracle to me.

A group of us led by Margaret counseled Ann for what seemed like forever.  We encouraged her to return to school, even though she was ashamed because she had run away.

At that moment, it didn’t seem  like we could get through to her.  But as I said goodbye and got on the bus, she told me quietly she would return to school and wouldn’t let me down.

Indeed, Ann returned to school and was welcomed back happily by teachers and students alike.

Just a few months later, Craig Garratt began the process of creating the Kipepeo program.

We discussed different teenage girls within the Tenderfeet family who were at-risk and would benefit from the safe and positive boarding school environment.  Ann Wanjiku came to mind immediately, and she became one of our Kipepeo girls.

Since January, Ann has been in boarding school at the outstanding Maryland school.  She is excelling in her subjects and I’m told she is very happy now that she is out of the negative environment she had to deal with before.

We are grateful to the generous Kipepeo sponsors who have made it possible for Ann — and other girls like her — to flourish in a top-notch boarding school setting.

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