It was clear it was some sort of celebration. Chairs were set out in rows underneath large tents shielding onlookers from the hot Kenyan sun. Colourful paper garlands were strewn about and a small stage with a microphone was placed in the center of it all. A few small children started dancing and in the distance, a cluster of brightly dressed women slowly approached, joyously singing at the top of their lungs. Behind the procession were the beaming faces of girls cloaked in black robes and hats. Today, they were graduating. Today, they were the community’s greatest symbols of hope, a brighter future and transformation.
This was also the first graduating class from the Kisaruni Girls Secondary School—making their accomplishment that much more significant. Waking up each dayat 5 a.m. and studying most evenings until 10 p.m., the girls also completed weeks of rigorous examinations to receive their diplomas.
Building of the school was not only a community effort, but an international one. Breaking ground in 2009, ME to WE Trips participants helped with its construction, digging the foundation, laying bricks and working on floors for the classrooms, dorm rooms and the administrative building. In these communities, schooling ends after Grade 8, especially for girls. The chance to go to high school is limited based on home responsibilities, family finances, early marriage and access to schools. With the positive impact of education, these girls are empowered to become community leaders with the knowledge and tools to break the cycle of poverty.
As the girls filed in and took their seats, they scanned the crowd of familiar faces: parents, teachers, families, friends and neighbours had all gathered to honour them. The entire community was present, with some taking refuge from the sun under a lone-standing acacia tree. Over 120 WE staff from around the world also ventured to Kenya to be part of the celebration.
As the ceremony continued with Mrs. Mora, the principal, spoke fondly of each girl’s academic success. Her final words to the girls were simple and inspiring: “We have given you wings to fly. Go out there and fly!”
Each graduate was given a special Rafiki Bracelet in addition to a diploma. WE ambassadors Nelly Furtado and Hannah Simone were present to adorn the grads with these Rafikis and congratulate them. The mamas of the girls sang a beautiful song, wishing them many blessings and a bright future ahead.
Community members applauded loudly, yelling congratulatory cheers to the girls who aspired to become journalists, teachers, nurses, doctors or veterinarians, giving back to the community that had supported their growth. Now with an education, they could pay it forward and improve the livelihoods of other community members, sharing their knowledge and skills. The graduation was a school event, but most importantly, a community celebration.
“It has been a journey of four years. During this journey, we have had a total transformation to who we are today—my fellow learners and I are ready to lead today.” –Grace Pere, Class Valedictorian
If you’d like to learn more about the foundation on which Kisaruni was built, click here.