Kenyan official shares stories of promise, patience in Kibera
It has been a decade in the making for the partnership infused between Northbrook School District 28 and the nonprofit organization Fred Outa Foundation, creating space for success through education in the slums of Kibera, Kenya. A lot can happen in ten years and one Kenyan official strives to be a living testament to it, paving a way for his native country and its people.
It was the best of both worlds on Jan. 14 at Northbrook Public Library, with Kenyan official Fred Outa sharing his account of progress made in Kibera over the last 10 years, touting a common value for education in the states and abroad.
With the help of the Fred Outa Foundation’s co-founder Susan Vaickauski, many dreams are being fulfilled, in part, because District 28 adopted Spurgeon’s Academy, one of two Kenyan schools supported by the Fred Outa Foundation.
Outa recounts how rewarding it has been taking short-term mission trips to Kibera every year, spending his time giving back to the city that raised him.
“I was once like the people living in the slums… and today I’m here,” he said.
After earning three degrees as a student in the states, today Outa serves as a member of Parliament.
He said he feels compelled to give back knowing the challenges his people face and how difficult it is to comprehend what they’re continuing to go through.
Millions of people call home to Kibera, a city that plays host to a number of slums. Disease, hunger and poverty are some of the challenges that commonly plague the people.
“That dream that we’ve had, we’ve started realizing we still have challenges—food, stationery, uniforms,” Outa said of the Fred Outa Foundation. “It takes a lot of resources. It takes a lot of patience. We will get there.”
Today, the Fred Outa Foundation is able to support more than 400 students through Spurgeon’s Academy, an all-boys school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and St. Esther’s Academy, an all-girls high school, providing access to education, food, and other support services.
“(The) school is built right in the slums,” Outa said. “Most of them stay late. They only have a good time in school. Once they go back (home), their lives changes.”
While the Fred Outa Foundation and its schools are able to support a number of those in need living in Kibera, it is a challenge to extend its reach at times.
“Every year we struggle with that,” Outa said. “Of course all them are needy. We cannot afford to have all of them there (at the schools). It’s hard to say should I take this one or this one.”
For this reason, the Fred Outa Foundation gives first priority to children without parents, children with one parent, and then children with a parent whose unaware of their responsibility to care for their child.
Outa said it doesn’t help matters any more or less seeing how the government attempts to exercise its rule over the people living in the slums, charging them rent for occupying space on their land.
“They have to be there, that’s the only place for them,” he said. “Government wanted to move the school from its current location. Through donors, we’re looking for a more permanent location.”
He said it will take time before the government changes its ways and starts taking responsibility, but the hope is more will see how greatly their support is needed.
“We have some who come teach back at the school, private companies, and others working in the slums, “ he said. “They have hope when they leave the school. We have a lot of testimonies so that’s why we have to go beyond.”
In a trip to Kenya last summer, the members of Fred Outa Foundation met the likes of Bill and Chelsea Clinton.
Outa said it was humbling to meet them and see how moved they were by what’s happening in the slums.
He said the Clintons are interested in making a commitment to the cause in Kibera and have yet to act on it, but their focus may be on pregnant woman.
Jared Svoboda, vice president of fundraising of fundraising and event planning for the Fred Outa Foundation, noted how significant it is to support the cause considering the potential and vision of the schools.
“It’s not so different from probably the universities here, where some kids can pay and some kids can’t, but we’re going to even it out all out,” he said. That’s what we want this to look like. We want the middle-class and the upper-class kids to pay their wage and lower-class kids from Kibera or wherever can come too and pay what they can. In other words, they’re not going to get left out.”
Kim Svoboda, another vice president of fundraising and event planning for the nonprofit, said it’s also important to note that their goal for the schools is to be self-sustaining.
“As we get more students into the school—as Fred mentioned it’s a state of the art school—it’s beautiful and will attract students that are able to pay for school as well as bring students from the Kibera, the slums, who aren’t able to pay for it,” she said. “So, as we get that mix of students, who are able to pay and those who are helped by it, then the school’s become self sustaining.”
If interested in making a donation or giving back to the Fred Outa Foundation through network opportunities, visit fredoutafoundation.org.