Team Kenya takes a holistic approach with their program in hopes of better lives.
Ben Margetts, development manager at Team Kenya talks about the nonprofit and its NGO partner, the importance of raising awareness surrounding gender-based violence and the importance of their Eco-Cottage agricultural project. Here, MissionBox CEO and co-founder Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk talks to Ben Margetts about the logistics of running a nonprofit that empowers Kenyan girls through education.
Team Kenya is a relatively new charity. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m the new development manager at Team Kenya. I’m Team Kenya’s first member of staff. I set up a charity when I was 23 to support women in Kenya. I’ve worked for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the Child Welfare Education Trust as a fundraiser and in program management.
I was actually meeting with Team Kenya to offer some advice and guidance on some agricultural projects when I learned of the position, so I applied. It feels like a perfect fit, because I think I’ve got the experience to take it forward. It’s just so exciting to me to have this opportunity, to come into an organization that’s so small but also has achieved so much work; It’s very exciting.
Sounds like you’re really qualified to be the first team member. Tell me about what Team Kenya does?
We focus on educating girls and empowering women with a goal of transforming communities. We do quite a lot of work in different areas with a holistic approach. Currently, we work in just one small rural community called Ndhiwa in Homa Bay County, Kenya.
We work in the community in many different ways. We offer scholarships for girls that help them get to secondary school, and then on to university in some cases. We work in partnership with schools. We’ve got four schools that we can work with over a long period.
We have also taken on some new schools recently. We work with them by creating water and sanitation services, we do water harvesting and collection, so there’s clean water year-round. We also have a girl's support group where girls get access to homework clubs, they get taught about their rights and are provided with hygiene supplies.
We also have a school supported business farm program. We give them training and start-up funds so that they can start their own farms. They grow food or keep animals so that they can use that income to buy school uniforms, hygiene supplies for girls or purchase books for students in school, boys and girls.
A huge success over the last five years has been to increase girls' attendance in school. In 2011, when we first started working with Arina Primary School, there weren’t any girls in class 8 meaning that there were zero girls graduating from primary school. Last year, there were 17 girls and 10 boys that completed primary school. Of the 17 girls who completed primary school, all of them went on to secondary school.
Another thing that we do with the schools is that we set up women’s groups. In those women’s groups, they get agricultural training from the farm that we run at the school. We also help set up their own micro-finance, we call it ‘Table Banking’, so that women are encouraged to save a little bit of money each week. Then, the money gets collected and they decide on someone that might get a loan from using that money, then that woman would pay it back with a small amount of interest. It’s still at a very small scale, but it’s helping them to very gradually build up their income.
They all benefit from the interest that’s paid in. At the end of each six-month cycle, money gets paid out and the interest gets distributed among them. Because of this, women have been able to pay for their daughters to go to secondary school. In five years we’ve gone from zero girls finishing primary school, to 17 girls that are completing primary school and are now going on to secondary school. That’s what we’re running in our four different schools. We’re hoping to go to new schools next year.
How many schools are there in that community?
There are around 50 primary schools in the region. We’re working with schools that are close to Ndhiwa. They’re in rural areas, but they’re close to the towns, so they’re easily accessible for our staff.
We’ve just launched a learning and resource center where we have an IT center and library. We also have an office there for our own partner organization in Kenya. We’re planning on offering teaching and learning sessions for teachers and homework clubs for students. The community as a whole gets to come to use computers and receive computer lessons. It’s just another way of engaging the community as much as we can.
So tell me more about your Team Kenya partner.
They’re called the Ndhwia Community Empowerment and Development Project (NCEDP) it’s a local NGO and we started working with them in 2008. We help fund them, all of our work is done in partnership with them. We help fund their staff and their staff go out and deliver the projects that we help to fund.
How are you funding this partnership?
Before I came on board, Valerie Wilson was running the organization. She did it completely voluntarily and gave up all of her time. She’s got an excellent board of volunteers and trustees that raise money. We get quite a portion of our money from trusts and foundations. We do things like a Mount Kenya climb each year and we have people taking part in those different challenge events for us. It’s mainly trusts, foundations and individuals who raise money for us.
I’m working part-time initially, to help the organization grow and increase its income; also, to help take some of the pressure off Val. She’s done an incredible job, she’s achieved an amazing amount and it’s a lot for her to manage on her own.
What else would you like our readers to know about your organization?
Yes, we have six traditional huts in an eco-cottage. We have a restaurant there and an agricultural demonstration site as well. We use the center as a training site, so when we run agricultural training for women, we bring them into this site. They can learn about the different things we’re doing here: we keep poultry; we keep bees; we grow bananas. It's a resource center where people can come and learn, but also where people can come and stay. We have local people coming to stay there and they get involved in our work.
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Ben Margetts has been with Team Kenya since March 2017. He has previously worked with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Childline and the Tropical Health and Education Trust.