In the midst of Kibera, a township in Kenya’s capital Nairobiis the Watu Moja Lee Academy, a school for children from poor families.
Kibera has been considered as Africa’s largest slum for a long time. According to kibera.org.uk about 250’000 people live in this settlement. Many children here grow up under tough living conditions. Mostly with just one part of their parents, often with their grandparents, with neighbors or in the orphanage. The Watu Moja Lee Academy gives these children a chance for education.
Everyday school life
About 170 children are currently attending this school. They are split up in quite small classes which consist of 20 to 30 children from kindergarden up to 8th grade where they are taught by trained teachers. The following video gives an impressive picture of the everyday school life:
Founder and school director Yakub Jaffar
Yakub Jaffar who can be seen in the video is the founder and school director of the Watu Moja Lee Academy. He remembers a hard childhood and tough school years, too. With this school he has created a place where children are welcome and warmly loved although their parents can’t pay the school fees.
Give those children a perspective
To give those children a perspective after these school years and keeping teenagers or young adults off the streets, Yakub extended the primary school by Kibra Green. It’s a sort of a vocational school where people get handicraft training every Saturday. Through this the young adults acquire different skills which pay their living expenses. The curriculum includes welding/metalwork, computer skills, web design, video and photography as well as tailoring.
This is where BERNINA comes into the play
The Watu Moja Lee Academy has long maintained relationships in the canton of Thurgau, where BERNINA’s head office is located. A part of the school was financed by the Rotary Club Hinterthurgau Wil. There have already been several professionals on site to train school children and young people in various skills. In 2019 we at BERNINA received a request if we could donate some sewing machines for the atelier of the Watu Moja Lee Academy.
Yakub Jaffar was in Switzerland at the time of this request. The responsible area sales manager for Kenya at BERNINA International in Steckborn and colleagues of our Swiss subsidiary BERNINA Schweiz AG (BSAG) decided to provide help quickly. From the Change4Good-Aktion of the BSAG, robust older sewing machine models were available, which were reconditioned in Steckborn so that Yakub and his companions could take them with them on the plane.
Since then, the machines have been in use:
Classes are held under the guidance of Asmin. The trained textile designer and tailor runs her own atelier in Nairobi – something many boys and girls at the Watu Moja Lee Academy dream of.
Youngsters are learning on BERNINA sewing machines
Asmin first teaches the 20 sewing beginners in the studio the most important stitches and careful handling of the machines on Singer treadle machines. Once the youngsters have mastered the basics, they are allowed to continue learning on the three electric BERNINAs and finally on the Overlock.
Under professional guidance, they learn to realize their ideas from the first sketches to the finished dress. Yakub and Asmin plan to sew the children’s school uniforms themselves soon.
Your help for the Watu Moja Lee Academy
Projects like Watu Moja Lee Academy and Kibra Green depend on partner support. The running costs for tailoring and for the school have to be covered, for example for teachers’ salaries, meals and school supplies. Financial support is also needed for projects such as lighting for the tailoring training room or for a solar power system.
Do you want to help and support this project? Your help is very welcome! Even a small donation can mean a big help for the team in Nairobi. The support for the Watu Moja Lee Academy is coordinated in Switzerland by Mrs. Susi Gubler. She is happy about your donation and is also available for any questions you may have.
Under this link you will find a flyer (pdf) with all infos: Donation for Watu Moja Lee Academy
At this point, a warm thank you to all the people in Switzerland and Africa who are committed to the success of this project! A special thank you to Susi Gubler, whose text input and pictures we were allowed to use for this report.
Lilly and Sabine