Red Rose School Offers Hope to Kibera Slum Orphans

In Nairobi, Kenya, thousands of orphaned children in the Kibera slums do not go to school. They simply cannot afford the fees and have little hope of a better life. But thanks to a small group of donors, including some in the United States, some children will realize their dream of an education.

Eleven-year-old Brian Amurama lives with his grandmother, Elizabeth Aluda, in a single room in the Kibera slums of Nairobi. They share it with Brian's four-year-old sister Tulen, six-year-old brother Bradley and an adult relative. 

Brian starts his day by helping his younger siblings get ready for school. He serves them breakfast, usually just a cup of black tea, before they start the long walk to school.

It takes the children approximately 20 minutes to navigate the busy morning streets to get to school.

Brian's hopes for a good education depend on a small private school established in 1998 by a retired Kenyan school teacher.

Protase Buluma is the deputy director at Red Rose Nursery and Children Center. He says the school is like a drop in the ocean, but it is giving hope to these kids.

"Specifically,” he says, “ we cater for the needs of the orphaned children in the slums, who have nobody to take care of them. So far we have 40 orphans out of a population of 89 kids."

Brian's parents died in 2004. That's when he and his little brother and sister went to live with their grandmother. Elizabeth Aluda is among hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who live in extreme poverty in Kibera, on the south side of the capital Nairobi.

Despite their circumstances, the children have reason for hope. They are enthusiastic and eager to learn through the various teaching methods the teachers have developed at Red Rose School.

A United Nations report says many orphans in Kibera end up on the streets with no formal education or family support system. With time they become part of the rising statistics of crime related deaths, sexual abuse and the widening cycle of poverty. For the few who go to the Red Rose school, they get more than reading and writing there.

Red Rose School Deputy Director Protase Buluma says "Where they would have lacked education they now receive it here. Where they would have lacked nutrition, they get it here. Where they would have lacked love and hope, they are now getting it here."

Red Rose runs its programs with the support of a group of private donors. Ken Okoth is one of them. He grew up in poverty in the slums of Kibera, but now teaches at the Potomac School, a private institution in northern Virginia outside Washington.

Okoth says his personal life experience motivates him to help the kids of Kibera: "I can't just sit back and think, `I made it, am successful, I will move on with life.' I know at every stage, somebody gave something to me and I can never pay them back for the help they gave me."

Okoth has enlisted the help of fellow teachers and students at his school in Virginia to raise funds for the children in Kenya. Some of the teachers and students visited Red Rose School late last year to deliver education materials, including lap-tops and books.

Red Rose school is a small oasis of hope in an expansive landscape of poverty and despair . Many residents of Kibera say they hope that Kenya's government will allocate more resources to ensure no child lacks education and opportunities to advance.

Okoth says this will change the future of the children: "Being poor is just a circumstance where you start in life, but it is not your destiny and it can change."

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