Chwele Community Center Joins East and West
The last two weeks of June the Chwele Community Resource and Peace Center became the hub of an amazing cultural exchange. The finishing touches were put on the place just in time, as both U.S. and Kenyan visitors from Kenya Keys, a non-profit focusing on education, came to teach and to learn. Thanks to the warm invitation and gracious hospitality of Paul and Grace Kuto, the expedition took shape as an opportunity for unprecedented cultural exchange and exploration.
The Center was teeming with life, as the group of visitors swelled to as many as thirty. Every guest felt welcomed and every meal was delicious, thanks to Grace’s outstanding planning and unlimited ability to share and include.
The Kenyan team traveled over twenty hours, traversing all of Kenya, to come and share the foundation of their remarkably strong sponsorship program. Along with the U.S. Kenya Keys team, they had worked on perfecting this model for ten years, and had successfully watched over 400 students not just be able to remain in school, but thrive under the Kenya Keys educational umbrella, which includes mentorship, leadership training, career counseling and volunteer work experience.
Paul and Grace Kuto have long wanted to develop a sponsorship program in Chwele, and the Kenya Keys model had impressed them deeply. Starting with two students in the Chwele area, Kenya Keys and the Kutos had begun their partnership. With the hub of Kenya Keys being in Taru, in the coastal area near Voi, it seemed unlikely trainers could come so far. But the impossible was made possible, as the U.S. Kenya Keys team traveled through Uganda to get to Chwele, and the Taru team filled their two vans with trainers and traveled the many miles. Undoubtedly, it was something to behold, as the Taru team, coming from the arid desert of Kenya, arrived in the lush, cool, verdant Chwele beauty. With heavy coats and warm hats they arrived to an unprecedented welcome.
What else happened when these two teams joined forces? A dedicated Kenya Keys family from the States, the Parkin family, taught in schools, distributed learning supplies from Eagle Scout projects, gave motivation talks to students and inspired all with their love of service. Sharron Reichle, who specializes in global menstrual hygiene management, taught both the girls and the women about options for using and sewing reusable pads, an asset that has changed life for many girls that struggle with poverty.
The Taru team included three girls and their mentors who had come to share with the 1,000 girls at Chwele secondary school, their model for an SOS (Save Our Sisters) club. This girl advocacy group started in Taru in 2010, had proven to be an amazing model for providing a framework for girls to mentor, teach and empower other girls. Teaming up with the Chwele Peace Ambassadors, these girls showed everyone that they are capable of conquering any problem!
In short, the experience was unforgettable for all those who participated, as well as for the community of Chwele. As the community at large, as well as government leaders and business leaders gathered to welcome the Kenya Keys team and celebrate the opening of the magnificent community center, there was a beautiful spirit of exchange and hope. Music, dancing, sharing ideas – a grand launching of what the world needs more of.