In February 2009 I began to put the foundation for the Kibera School for Girls, the only free school in Kibera targeting girls at risk for rape and prostitution, into place. I applied for and was given a grant for $10,000. Throughout the next year, I raised an additional $93,808. I engaged a world education specialist who designed an innovative curriculum for the school, capitalizing on how children best learn while taking our students’ particular challenges into account. Through hands-on learning, we foster independence and creativity, giving students choices to make the subject inherently more meaningful, which in turn, increases the learners’ intrinsic motivation, developing self-efficacy. Already an external assessment by the Kenyan Association of Independent schools found that after just 5 months, our students are a full year ahead of their peers in government schools. I then traveled to Kenya, secured land, hired an architect and helped to design an eco-friendly building, and engaged community members to build the school, complete with eight classrooms, a large library, and a multipurpose room. I interviewed and visited the homes to assess the need of over 500 applicants for our first 45 spots. Our students are now in pre-school to 1st grade, and the school will expand each year up to eighth grade, eventually serving 370 students. Our school has literally saved the lives of many of our students, protecting them from rape, and prostitution.
In the summer of 2009 I also built the Shining Hope Community Center, which offers desperately needed free services to the entire community. This center includes a bio-latrine facility, which uses innovative green technology to convert waste into methane gas, providing the only sanitary toilets available for public use while offsetting carbon emissions. The community center also has a library with 1,500 books, literacy and computer classes, and the only internet access for miles. I also started a sustainable gardens initiative at this center, teaching families to build vertical gardens, which can be grown anywhere and sold to provide an income. The community center and school have served approximately 5,700 Kibera residents to date.