Combatting Generational Poverty: Naomi’s Village in Kenya


NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — Out of the 44 million of Kenya’s population, nearly 16 million are impoverished. This impoverishment is not only measured economically but in terms of lack of basic needs. These include education, health, nutrition, protection, shelter, information, water and sanitation. Without at least three of the seven basic needs, people and families are “multi-dimensionally poor.” More than 50% of its people are “multi-dimensionally poor” in Kenya, and the most affected are the youth. Therefore, the need to break the cycle of generational poverty is pivotal. Naomi’s Village is fighting poverty one step at a time. The organization’s vision is “to end Kenya’s generational poverty crisis and systemic corruption by equipping its children for compassionate and courageous leadership.”

Naomi’s Village

The orphan crisis in Africa is highly underrated. In fact, 12% of African children are orphans. Moreover, 30% of these children are parentless due to AIDS. In Kenya, around 700 children lose a parent every two minutes. Currently, there are more than 50 million orphans in Africa, with more than two million in Kenya alone. Of these children, 1.7 million do not attend school. Kenya is a country with vast potential, but it is hindered by major challenges, one being generational poverty.

Bob and Julie Mendonsa founded Naomi’s Village in 2009. It is a children’s home rooted right outside the small town of Maai Mahiu, Kenya, in the Great Rift Valley. The organization is a home and safe, educational space for orphans and underserved children. Most of the children within the program have been left parentless due to the AIDS epidemic, terrorism, domestic violence and other major disasters. Other children are from villages nearby and suffer from chronic poverty.

The nonprofit has a goal of nurturing and fostering future Kenyan leaders. It does so by providing all the tools, education, nutrition and care a child needs. Thus, the organization has four essential programs that begin in early childhood continue throughout 12th grade and beyond.

Breaking Generational Poverty Through Education

One in three sixth-graders cannot read or write in Kenya. In fact, nine out of 10 kids from poverty-stricken homes do not complete eighth grade. Therefore, breaking the cycle of generational poverty must start with children, the most vulnerable. The most significant key factor in doing so is providing proper education and resources. Kim Ramsey, Stateside Operations Manager at Naomi’s Village, spoke with The Borgen Project, stating, “You have to start very young to catch up on education per child.”

The Mother-Toddler One to One Program

To go above and beyond, Naomi’s Village believes education must begin with mothers expecting a child. With this in mind, Naomi’s Village created the MTOTO Early Childhood Program. Mtoto means baby or child in Swahili. The program includes one-on-one home training and a three-month-long parenting course.

MTOTO brings qualified nurses to expecting mothers within the local villages. The nurses work with the mothers during their pregnancy, the birthing process and infancy stage throughout various home visits. During their time together, parents can learn more about:

  • Prenatal care
  • Childbirth
  • Breastfeeding
  • Infant nutrition
  • Childhood developmental stages
  • Healthy parenting skills

With informational resources available, parents are better able to prepare for their child. Moving forward from the MTOTO Program leads to the LEAP Preschool Program. This program provides toddlers of Naomi’s Village with important foundational education and healthy play. The program aims its efforts at developing life skills.

Cornerstone Preparatory Academy

An integral part of Naomi’s Village, Cornerstone Preparatory Academy, provides integrated education. The school caters to Naomi’s Village residents and local families struggling to climb out of generational poverty.
In 2013, the school was founded as a part of the solution to Kenya’s education crisis. In various rural Kenya towns, schools have no access to running water or electricity, limited textbooks and no technology. Furthermore, the ratio of students to teachers is, on average, 59:1 nationwide. Hence, the need for improved education is essential.

Providing Tools for Success

Naomi’s Village believes it is best to ensure its teachers and kids relate to communicate and educate effectively. Therefore the school recruits and trains Kenyan teachers, guaranteeing a 25:1 ratio. Likewise, the program implements character-building initiatives to help prepare children for a path of leadership.
The Cornerstone school grounds boast modern and new-age facilities. On the campus, there are:

  • Large classrooms
  • A library
  • Science and Computer Labs
  • A fully-stocked kitchen
  • A health center
  • Gym
  • Track and field

The Borgen Project spoke with Bill McMillan, the Executive Director of the school. He believes Cornerstone is a model for all, saying, “They [Cornerstone] definitely see themselves as a model that others can take what they do and do it somewhere else. I think that down deep, there is a hope that students will come back and go to other areas and start their own Cornerstone.”

Maendeleo Initiative

Ultimately, it takes a village to raise a strong community of children. With those children come a family behind them. Therefore, to assist each child fully, the nonprofit must also serve the communities.
The Maendeleo Initiative is a partnership program with the local communities to continue development. The partnership does this by:

  • partnering with families to help provide cost-efficient resolutions for basic needs such as solar power and water purification
  • forming relationships between social workers and counselors with the community to guide and aide in emotional support for single moms, addicts and the abused
  • creating a space for spiritual development and worship

A Model For All

Ultimately, the work Naomi’s Village does is impactful and felt within the communities it serves. By the numbers, Naomi’s Village has rescued 90 children and currently maintains 347 Cornerstone students. The organization is still young and has yet to have a graduate, but it expects its first senior in 2021. To help continue its work, Naomi’s Village hopes to gain sponsors for each child. The nonprofit encourages those looking to sponsor children to visit its website. Sponsoring children with as little as 1$ would help provide the basic needs for a child.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr


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