Empowering the Youth to care for the disadvantaged in their communities
We met Silas Onyango in a village located in Busia County in western Kenya. Silas can be ‘classified’ in many different categories- orphan, youth, head of a poor household. But when we heard his story, the one label that stuck in our heads was ‘potential’. He has the potential to raise a healthy and successful family. He has the potential to reach a higher level of education. He has the potential to uplift other orphans and vulnerable children and serve as a mentor to them.
But all these ‘potentials’ will only come to pass if Silas gets support himself.
Silas’ father passed on when he was in class five, when he was ten years old. His mother, who comes from the neighbouring country Uganda, decided to return there with Silas’ three younger siblings. Being the first born and being a boy, he had to be left in his father’s compound where he stayed with his step mother.
Silas struggled through this uncertain life and successfully completed his primary education where he did very well academically. He did so well that he was accepted to a well known high school far from his home.
His pain started here.
Unable to raise enough money for the school fees, Silas stayed at home and had become a burden to his step mother who had her own children to care for. His fate for further education was certainly bleak.
Fortunately, Silas got the attention of his neighbour who was volunteering as a teacher in a newly established community school in the village. The teacher managed to convince the school to let Silas attend for free. Silas painstakingly struggled to buy books and other requirements by working for people on their farms early in the morning before going to school. At this time, Silas was to buy and prepare his own food (his step mother had told him he was already a big boy and had to fend for himself) in his mother’s grass thatched house that by now was dilapidated.
When Silas reached Form 2, the administration of the school changed and the teacher who took him to this school left. The new administration demanded that Silas pay school fees. Barely able to support himself, raising money for school was beyond impossible. Sadly, Silas dropped out of school.
Faced with the end of his education, Silas had to adapt himself to his new status. He had to survive if not to live. Silas continued working in peoples farms and doing any menial job that could come his way. Through this, he got some income and bought a goat and some hens. He became a small scale farmer.
In the same year, he joined with a friend whose fate was similar with his and they started digging pit latrines for people at a fee. Gradually, he graduated to sinking boreholes. They dig with picks, shovels and hoes and can even go as deep as 80 feet. Asked if he enjoys the job, he honestly says he does it to survive. He fears that anything can happen when your 80 feet under. Asked what he would really want to do he says he must one day go back to school to finish high school and possibly go to university. He hastens to add ” that is, if I’m not buried alive 80 feet under soon”.
Because sometimes he has to spend days at a site away from home, Silas had to marry early so that he could have someone take care of his goats and chicken- a source of income and the only investment he has. He now has a 1 year old daughter and his worries expand beyond just himself.
KOYNET is embarking on a project to help young people like Silas who are numerous in the rural Kenyan landscape. These young people have the desire for a better life and the energy to make it happen. KOYNET wants to support the youth so that they can build their communities and care for the orphans and vulnerable children this breaking a cycle of neglect and poverty.
We believe that influencing positively the life of a child is influencing quality of human life in the future. We need this so that Silas and others like him can look forward to a bright future.