At the annual Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) luncheon on February 8th, Search President Jessica Magagna, along with ten other representatives from esteemed organizations donated a total of $15,300 towards the construction of two schools in Kenya. Executive Director of AISA Dr. Peter T. Bateman supports the Free the Children initiative, a non-profit organization established in Canada whose goal is to free children worldwide from poverty, from exploitation, and as freethechildren.com says,
"…free [children] from the notion that they are powerless to effect change."
Craig Kielburger, at the age of 12, founded Free the Children in 1995, when, after reading an appalling newspaper article, he gathered 11 school friends to begin fighting child labor. The website describes the organization's growth:
"Today, Free The Children is an international charity and educational partner, with more than 2.3 million youth involved in our innovative education and development programs. Since its inception, Free The Children has worked in more than 45 countries. Free The Children currently works in eight developing countries with its Adopt A Village program."
The Adopt A Village Program commits to developing five pillars in a community: to build schools, train, support and accommodate teachers; to catch, purify, and distribute water, build latrines and provide education on sanitation; to provide health clinics and health education; to offer training in leadership and alternative ways to earn income; and to teach about agriculture, irrigation, food security, and nutrition.
Kenya is one of the neediest countries in the world. Because 56% of the Kenyan population lives below the poverty line, under $1.00 per day, one in ten Kenyan children die before they reach the age of five and one-third of those under five have stunted growth from a lack of nutrition. About one in four Kenyan children are child laborers, and one in four girls are married before the age of 15. Prior to Free the Children's assistance in a village called Salabwek in 2007, the average child in the region walked three to eight kilometers to school in a mud structure. Nine out of ten members of the community were illiterate, and there was no local source of clean water. Now, thanks to Free the Children, the village comprises 20 school buildings, an on-site water-catchment system, a drip irrigation system, and a mobile health clinic. Freethechildren.com reports,
"A school farm, tended by students, provides nutritious food such as kale for student lunches that are cooked in the community kitchen."
These days, 89% of the households in Salabwek practice healthy habits at home, including hand washing and dish drying.
The story of this village is not the only one of its kind. Free The Children has achieved the same kind of success in Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, India, Nicaragua, rural China, and Sierra Leone. With the support of organizations like AISA and donors like Search Associates, Free The Children will continue to make the miraculous commonplace.