A first day.

A new dawn.

On February 1, amidst hope, smiles and blue skies, WISER’s boarding school for girls in Muhuru Bay, Kenya welcomed its first 30 students. Their arrival culminated the work of distinguished educators on two continents eager to reverse generations of treating women in the Muhuru Bay area as second-class citizens, and to transform the impoverished fishing community on the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. WISER (Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research) is a four-year partnership between Duke University in the U.S. and Kenya’s Egerton University. The LAFC Foundation contributed funding for the WISER school, the first girls boarding school in Muhuru Bay. LAFC has made a three-year commitment to construct a sports field and create a soccer program that will promote an active lifestyle and serve as a magnet for community programming.

Muhuru Bay suffers from high rates of malaria and HIV. Girls have often been the victims, orphaned at young ages and sometimes forced into prostitution. Just 5 percent of Muhuru Bay girls finish their secondary education. WISER will offer fresh opportunities for these girls, teens and adults — all receiving full scholarships — to pursue their education. One of the first students accepted was 36 years old. The WISER school is aiming to have 120 students by the time the first class graduates in 2013. Students will follow a liberal arts curriculum, including English, science, mathematics and language.

A ceremony in early January to celebrate the completion of the school drew more than 1,500 people, including the immigration minister in Kenya’s government, and featured speeches and song. The first day of classes was more contemplative but equally moving. Students moved into their dorm rooms, picked up uniforms, books and school supplies and met the school’s five teachers and principal. The classrooms have the first white boards and highest ratio of microscopes to students in Nyanza Province, where Muhuru Bay is located. “As I watched each girl walk into her classroom and sit at her own desk on her own chair, I began to imagine the possibilities that await all of us,” said Andy Cunningham, WISER’s executive director and co-founder in an email to fellow co-founders, professors Sherryl Broverman and Rose Odhiambo. “I began to imagine the possibilities that await all of us. Could we be looking at the first female Kenyan president? Absolutely! Could there be the next African there be the next African Nobel Peace Prize winner in our midst? Absolutely!”

11 / February / 2010  Latest News, WISER  Comments (0)
  • LA CANADA, CA, October 3, 2009
    • LAFC friends and families were invited to the La Canada High School Varsity Field to learn about the progress made for the WISER School and Community Programs in Muhuru Bay, Kenya.
    • One of the wonderful programs that LAFC supports is Duke University’s WISER Boarding School for Girls in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. In August, an LAFC team (Don Sheppard, Lorrie Fair, Katie McDonald, Annie Kean and Casey Cousineau) visited Muhuru Bay to get to know the community, plan our future involvement and lead soccer clinics. The trip was a life-changing experience for the team, inspirational in the efforts made towards improving the lives of Kenyan youth.
    • Emily Matthews, a Duke student and a WISER leader in Muhuru Bay, shared with us WISER’s progress from the ground level, having spent an entire summer in Africa. Special guest Selesiah Ogada also traveled all the way from Muhuru Bay for this event and gave her first person account of the plight of women in Muhuru Bay and hope that the WISER program provides. She was completely thrilled to be here and reconnect with the LAFC friends.
    • She was amazed how well young girls played on the field that she couldn’t wait to go back home and share her enthusiasm. Katie McDonald, Annie Kean and Casey Cousineau also shared their experiences in Africa, expressing the positive effect that the soccer clinics had on the youth in Muhuru Bay. LAFC plans to involve more kids from LAFC in our work in Africa in the future.
3 / October / 2009  WISER  Comments (0)
  • MUHURU BAY, Kenya, August 15, 2009
    • In August 2009, an LAFC team (President Don Sheppard, Director of Social Responsibility Lorrie Fair, and LAFC soccer players Katie McDonald, Annie Kean, and Casey Cousineau) visited Muhuru Bay in an effort to get to know the community better, to plan our future involvement and to lead soccer clinics.
    • Twenty girls and twenty boys from the local community participated in campWISER, learning about gender issues in Kenya, leadership and teamwork, adolescent health (HIV), technology training and soccer clinics. The classes emphasized self-esteem and overcoming gender barriers.
    • Soccer clinics were run by an all-female team of coaches, which surprised many of the Kenyans at first, but quickly broke down the traditional gender stereotypes about women playing sport.
    • LAFC has provided financial assistance to the building of the first model all-girls secondary boarding school and community center in Muhuru Bay made available for 120 girls. The WISER school will provide female teachers as role models, teacher training in new pedagogies, and full and inclusive scholarships to two thirds of the girls enrolled, with a strong focus on AIDS orphans.
    • Community programs will focus on gender, leadership, and HIV/AIDS education. These co-educational programs involve male peers who learn how to share leadership roles with girls. While the school is under construction, Duke University organizes campWISER to help facilitate social change in gender perceptions and discuss major health issues relevant to the society.
    • The funding also contributes to the installation of a complete water system to provide clean, potable water for the school and surrounding neighbors for 5,000 people. Lake Victoria has a high level of schistosomes, making water collection a serious health risk for malaria and other infectious diseases.
      The LAFC Foundation partnership with WISER has long-term objectives not only in Muhuru Bay, but if successful, in every rural area in Kenya.
15 / August / 2009  WISER  Comments Off