AVSI first arrived in Kenya in 1986 through the long-term assignment of three qualified AVSI technicians requested to teach at a vocational institution in Nairobi. In the early 1990s AVSI started a more ambitious project and by 1994 the new St. Kizito Vocational Training Institute (SKVTI) in Githurai Kiambu was up and running. Today SKVTI, a well established and respected institution which serves 350 students with a range of 9 different courses, continues to work engaging with the late Cardinal Otunga’s appraisal of the school: “there are many youth who are jobless and often on the brink of desperation and criminality…[at SKVTI] I am sure that not only the technical but also the human aspects of such an enterprise will be taken care of.” During the same period, AVSI accompanied the birth and consolidation of a local NGO: COWA (Companionship of Works Association) which, in addition to work in other sectors, focuses on helping SKVTI graduates and other unemployed youth to enter the labor market and to connect with local businesses.
Over the years these programs created opportunities to meet specific communities, particularly both the most distressed and vulnerable living in the slums and other local groups and CBOs working in education and social development areas. These encounters generated opportunities for growth, and AVSI now also implements projects in early childhood development and education, psychosocial support, health including HIV/AIDS, economic strengthening for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), their families and communities, food security and emergency relief in special circumstances and in famine prone areas. In the last five years alone AVSI’s programs have benefited more than 9,000 OVC and 20,000 individuals related to them (siblings, parents/guardians, classmates etc).
In the education sector, AVSI’s concern for quality education and the steady involvement of local people and groups in its projects spurred the commitment to renovate old schools and to found new ones, including two schools: the Little Prince Primary School in Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world, and the Cardinal Otunga Secondary School in Giturahi. The schools’ mission is align with AVSI’s method and is two fold: firstly they work to respond to the educational needs of the children while having a light house effect on the neighborhoods that surround them, revealing the light of the possibility of change in one area of life, a light full of hope that spreads outwards, touching the lives of individuals and illuminating the potential for human dignity to flourish. Secondly, they serve as a strong example to other educational institutions in terms of school management and organization. Realizing the centrality of well trained human resources behind a school, AVSI and its local partner COWA promoted the creation of the local ICARUS Agency for Education which designs educational activities for secondary school children while providing management tools and training for school teachers and social workers, in cooperation with the University of Nairobi and Mount Kenya University.
AVSI’s programs in the education sector have grown quickly in recent years: in 2009 AVSI in collaboration with COWA and ICARUS implemented a large scale intervention rehabilitating schools and training the teachers working in the Somali refugee camps is Dadaab. In March 2010, the Little Prince School inaugurated the new Little Prince Nursery School in Kibera. Also in 2010 the SKVTI opened a new branch of the Institute in Kibera, providing both disadvantaged youth and the unemployed living in Kibera with vocational training and skill reinforcement courses while creating opportunities for growth and work.
In health care AVSI has worked with partners to spread HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention through campaigns and seminars designed to educated youth and adults to the value of life and has also organized community initiatives for general check-ups and de-worming. As food security is a major issue in many parts of Kenya, AVSI and its partners provide food support to famine prone areas in Rift Valley, as well as implement projects that include small scale irrigation, animal husbandry and water management while promoting economic empowerment through savings and loan programs and capacity building.
AVSI has fostered the growth of communities and individuals through efficient and effective partnerships at all levels. It works directly and indirectly with other NGOs, community-based organizations and associations (CBO, CBA), faith-based organizations (FBO), academics and government agencies. It has more than 25 partners in 10 districts within 5 provinces and 10 service outlets in Nairobi. It currently employs 70 staff members at different levels (headquarters, field assignments) who work with 110 staff members of partner institutions and an average of 50 volunteers.
Distance Support Project
Location: Greater Nairobi
Description: Long-term support to over 2,372 OVCs improving the conditions for psychosocial and academic progress, while strengthening the capacity of the children’s families, caretakers and local organizations to respond to their needs. Fulfillment of school requirements (uniforms, books, fees etc), organization of after school recreation and educational activities, and creating of programs designed to improve the economic status of the child’s family through training and support to parents.
Donors: Private donors
Increased Care and Support for OVC in East Africa
Location: Kenya (also Rwanda, Uganda, Cote D’Ivoire)
Description: Provide care and support for 1344 orphans and vulnerable children, their families and communities. Work closely with 26 community based organizations for direct implementation. Conduct activities ranging from education and health support, to psycho-social care, community development interventions, income generating activities for older youth and families, and capacity building of local partners. Regularize enrolled children’s school attendance, increase capacity of families to provide for the needs of their children, increase access to health services, and improve management of local partner organizations and associations.
Partners: Kenyan Ministry of Education, COWA, ICARUS, other local organizations
Little Prince Primary and Nursery School
Location: Kibera (Nairobi)
Description: The “Little Prince,” primary and nursery schools were founded to educate and accompany vulnerable youths in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. Most of its students live in conditions of extreme poverty, and school attendance is made possible through child sponsorship from AVSI’s Distance Support Program. Little Prince teachers together with parents, guardians, and/or social workers accompany the children as they discover their unique personalities, while encouraging their desire to be together and to learn. The Nursery School opened in 2010. Current Enrollment: 240 children, 30 in the nursery school and 210 in the elementary school.
Donors: Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Cardinal Otunga School
Duration: 2004- Present
Description: Founded in 2004 with AVSI’s support Cardinal Otunga High School is committed to providing a holistic education for the children in Nairobi, regardless of their ability to pay. In 2008 constructed new school building to meet increasing demand for services, and in 2010 plan to add a second class to each grade. Enrollment in 2009: 140 students.
Donors: Private donors
Education in Dadaab Somali Refugee Camp
Description: Implement a large scale intervention rehabilitating schools and training the teachers working in the Somali refugee camps in Dadaab, located 355 miles north of Nairobi. The camps have 270,000 inhabitants and were established in 1991.
Donors: UNHCR, Italian Ministry Foreign Affairs
Partners: Mount Kenya University, ICARUS (COWA)
Rural Development and Emergency Relief
Location: Rift Valley, Timborea (Eldoret)
Description: Agriculture and development: distribution of seeds, animal husbandry and gardening training. Kenya’s 2009 post-election violence (PEV) hindered achievement of education sector goals and brought unanticipated suffering to families and communities. Provide psychosocial support to promote reconciliation among communities in areas hit by violence, especially in the Rift Valley. Implement sensitization campaigns for the youth and caretakers and run seminars for school teachers and social workers to improve psychosocial trauma counseling. Provide emergency relief items such as food, blankets, clothing and monetary aid as well as protection of victims and would-be victims of PEV. Emergency sponsorship of vulnerable children and families in Timborea refugee camp.
Donors/Partners: FAO, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Duration: 2005 – Present
Description: Improve quality of teaching; provide teaching and learning materials; establish network of educators committed to implementing educative proposals that enhance the holistic growth of a person; promote cultural appreciation through music, drama and sports; enhance parental and community involvement in children’s education. Annually approximately 700 youth are involved in cultural activities and 300 attend HIV/AIDS and drug abuse clinics or receive career guidance, 200 parents from informal settlements are involved in small business development courses, and 200 teachers undergo training. Library refurbishment provided for 20 schools.
Donors: Private Donors
Vocation Training and Jobs for Vulnerable Youth and the Unemployed
Location: Kibera (Nairobi)
Description: Open a new branch of the St. Kizito Vocational Training Institute (SKVTI) in Kibera. Provide courses in job training and vocation skills for disadvantaged youth and the unemployed. Construct four workshops and 3 classrooms for the implementation of 7 courses in tailoring, electricity, soap production, beauty salon, masonry, and nutrition for 450 youth and 720 adults. Provide additional training for 36 vocational training teachers. Create 400 internships and assist the start up or 30 small businesses.
Donors: European Union
Partners: COWA, Watoto Wa Lwanga (WWL)
July 11, 2011 Kenyan Students Perform with Grammy-Winning Conductor
June 14, 2011 Kenyan Prime Minister Affirms Work of Training Institute