Building a Bridge to Careers
The unemployment rate for youth in Kenya averages more than 26%. This is a growing problem with major social and economic implications. In collaboration with Nairobi-based Shared Values Foundation, Africa Circle of Hope established the Career Bridge Program, which was launched into 2017. These scholarships to training institutes and professional colleges bridge the gap between high school graduation and a productive job. Career planning, mentoring and professional networking support a personal development process.
Almost every young person in Kenya wants to go to university but this requires a sponsor and graduates may not find a job even with an academic degree. The best path to a job and career is often a certificate or diploma from a college or professional training institute. These institutions offer apprenticeships and many guarantee a job placement after graduation. The cost of professional training is less expensive and can be completed in one to three years. Professional institutes offer a variety of majors from Applied Science and Engineering to Food and Beverage and Hospitality.
Many high school graduates are waiting for university support or trying to find a job without practical skills. As illustrated in the following model, frustrated and idle young people may fall into a river of despair, drugs, crime, disease and homelessness. Career Bridge offers educational options to help save these youth from a continuing cycle of poverty.
Model developed by Africa Circle of Hope and Shared Values Foundation. 2016. Nairobi, Kenya.
Makena Textile Workshop (Meru, Kenya)
The workshop was started to improve the quality of life for the women in Meru.
The Makena Textile Workshop was started in 1979 when a group of women from churches in Meru, Kenya, joined together in an entrepreneurial business initiative to improve their quality of life, support their children, and contribute to the local economy in this poor rural area. The group of 21 women members/owners have continued the business and invested toward the purchase of the warehouse shed where they work. When we first met with them in 2007 they were struggling after years of limited sales and often no salary.
ACOHF provided funds for new equipment, boilers and an industrial sewing machine, entrepreneurship training and marketing strategies that increased sales and allowed the members to take a salary. “You have given us hope,” the women said. “This year we had a Christmas.” ACOHF has been working in partnership with the women at Makena Textile Workshop in Meru for more than seven years to help them sell their rugs and fabric and develop new products. The women have enhanced their tie-dyed products and also innovated with different types of fabrics, multicolored designs and natural dyes. They continue to make distinctive household items from these fabrics including tablecloths, napkins, placemats and drapes.
In 2013 these artisans have for the first time created intricate patterns of color on silk scarves. This initiative offers some opportunities for new partnerships and distinctive one-of-a-kind artistic products. The women have also placed their products in home goods stores in Nairobi and have delivered some limited customized work for national and international customers.
ACOHF has supported entrepreneurship training not only for the women at Makena Textile Workshop and other cooperatives in rural Meru but also 38 women from the Good Samaritan Mothers group in the Mathare slums of Nairobi. Some of these women had a fruit or vegetable stand, sewed school uniforms, cooked food or had some initiative to gain income. Others wanted to start a small business. The Dean of the Faculty of Commerce at Catholic University of Eastern Africa facilitated monthly educational sessions for these women at CUEA over an entire year. These workshop classes covered basic business operations, budgets, pricing, communication, marketing strategy and customer service. The CUEA Vice Chancellor spoke at the final graduation ceremony and awarded certificates. The graduates expressed their appreciation and determination: “We can be a model for others. We can work together to improve the quality of life in Mathare.”