Fifteen DC metro students traveled to Kenya earlier this year for an eye-opening experience and have now launched a campaign to raise school funds for impoverished youth.
After spending three weeks visiting students in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, teenagers from Potomac, Chevy Chase, McLean and Washington, DC, are launching the $12 for 12 Campaign, in an effort to help send some of their new friends to school. The campaign aims to get 2,012 people to donate $12 in 12 days to help 12 top graduating high school seniors in Kenya go on to higher education. They have already raised $14,000 in 10 days.
Public education in Kenya is free until the eighth grade, but after that many students still cannot afford to attend school. College and even high school educations are out of the question.
Casey Youngentob, a Potomac resident and junior high school student at The Maret School in DC, traveled with 14 other area teenagers to volunteer for three weeks with the nonprofit Children of Kibera Foundation, a group working to improve opportunities for Kiberan youth.
During the day, Yougentob and the rest of her group would help teach elementary students, grade papers, teach them songs and oversee art projects. In the afternoon, they went to high schools to meet with people their own age or to different tourist attractions, such as giraffe and elephant reserves.
Meeting the foundation's top scholars in the schools was the most rewarding experience, Yougentob said, and it inspired the group to raise awareness and funds to support the students.
“We have launched a campaign to raise $25,000 in 12 days to support the continuing education of these 12 exceptional students- all ranked in the top 10 for academic achievement in their respective schools,” Youngentob said.
The trip to Kenya wasn’t Youngentob’s first, nor will it be her last. The teen visited Rwanda in 2010 to volunteer with Women to Women International. Before her trip this year, Youngentob visited South Africa and Batswana with her family. She hopes to volunteer with Children of Kibera again next year, before heading to college.
“I want to study African studies and international development,” Youngentob said. “I would love to be able to start a recreational nonprofit and end up moving there.”
Her passion for development work began when her family, through her older sister, hosted two South African students about five years ago. Since then, she says, her family has been nothing but supportive, though Kibera, Kenya, is a far distance and vastly different from home in Potomac, MD.
“One day I went on a home visit to one of the [Kibera] scholar’s houses – the walk from the school to his mother’s house was mind boggling. We had to walk up a hill, cross bridges made of pipes – climb straight up a hill by a railroad. I couldn’t imagine anyone disabled or elderly being able to do that. It’s not that they’re OK with it, but it’s normal,” Youngentob said. “Houses there are smaller than my room. I felt a lot of guilt and embarrassment.”
Yougentob’s guilt soon changed into a determination to come back and help.
According to Sarah Coste, trip organizer and math resource teacher at the Potomac School in McLean, VA, it’s that determination that sets the $12 For 12 Campaign group apart from other students.
“It’s been really rewarding to see these students get engaged,” Coste said. “You hear about a lot of global learning trips, but what I’m proud of with these students is that they’re actually doing something with their experiences.”
For many of the metro students, July’s trip was the first time they realized what a difference living in a country of abundance makes, Coste said.
“Our kids for the first time in their lives – they always knew they were going to college -- but realized these kids, in Kenya, as bright as they are most likely will not.”
Having raised about $14,000 with two days left of the formal campaign, the students are a little behind goal but will continue raising money and awareness for the cause.
“The goal was to bring in $25,000 but we’re going to extend it in a more quiet way,” Coste said. “The kids have been updating and blasting the campaign on Facebook and Twitter every two days, now they’re back in school they want to keep going.”
To learn more or contribute to the campaign visit the Children of Kibera Foundation website at http://www.childrenofkibera.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org