Brosis Inauguration Plus Other Updates
Miss the previous update about my work at the Brosis School? Read it here.
Brosis is a grassroots school and community centre located in a slum area near the Karen district in Nairobi, close to where I live, that serves some of the poorest of the poor children who otherwise would not be able to go to school, given 100% free public schooling in Kenya isn't yet available.
Improving conditions at Brosis has been my main focus since arriving late last year.
My idea was to launch a values-based beautification of the school compound to create a positive, nurturing environment for the students and teachers. A place they can feel at home in, proud of, and responsible for. Then, with this work complete, to hold a public inauguration of Brosis in the presence of the community, parents, and local government administrators.
In the below slideshow, you can see the results from Phase 1 of our work, i.e, fixing up the school, painting murals, and planting a flower garden.
Phase 2: Inauguration
Since Brosis had never had an official inauguration, I felt this was an important step to make the school's presence known in the community in a more formal way. Enrollment jumped up by 300% in the weeks after the inauguration, which we can safely say means that many people in the community didn't know the school existed.
It was a fun and festive day, and many smiles were going around as we went through our program, which included some speeches, a drama performed by the students, and refreshments for all.
The students were so excited for the inauguration, as it's not too often that Brosis hosts a large public function. These messages they pinned to their shirts to welcome all the guests were adorable.
We wanted to raise a flag as means of officially inaugurating the school but unfortunately couldn't organize that in time. Instead, Headmaster Abel and I talked through each of the above core values.
Eli, Sonali, and Ziba who are here volunteering from abroad, attended, and shared a few uplifting words with the community.
Some singing and dancing with the students and teachers toward the end of the program.
Our humble story of change caught the attention of a major news network in Nairobi who will be airing a piece on Brosis in April! Here they are filming at the inauguration.
Our work to the compound is done and the inauguration is complete. The students and teachers are all showing more joy and enthusiasm because of this and the compound itself has a palpable energy you can feel when you step into it.
As an example, kids who attend "better schools" down the street, come to the Brosis compound to play, since we are having so much fun here. Here's Abel talking about that.
The volunteer component
An interesting and unintended effect of the changes at Brosis relates to how they affected the few volunteers we've had since making them.
First there was Jonathan, a film director originally from New York, now living in Germany, who came for over a week to produce a skit with the students.
He had a very positive experience, enthusiastically started sharing online about the school, and plans to return in the future. This can lead to other volunteers wanting to come, support for the school, and additional ripple effects.
Then there was Ziba, Eli, and Sonali who all left Brosis in or on the verge of tears, having fallen in love with its spirit and energy.
My sense is that before the transformation, their experience would not have been nearly as positive because the environment was not really that volunteer friendly given the run down state the school was in.
Volunteer Ripple Effects
This is a really good example of what I was just talking about, how when volunteers come and have a good experience, positive ripple effects can follow.
Eli seeded Brosis with a complete sewing center for women, which will be its first official livelihood project, in other words, a way the school can support itself without having to rely on donations and school fees, which aren't sufficient to meet monthly overhead.
Above, you can see the professional equipment Eli donated, as well as the two initial beneficiaries of the project who will be the head seamstresses.
The business model involves tailoring and garment repair. Money earned will support the seamstresses, as well as Brosis.
To start, school uniforms are going to be produced for all the Brosis students at a highly reduced cost, since Eli donated all the fabric. From there, we will need to successfully market the business to the community.
The sewing center will receive a Brosis-like beautification treatment and be a focus of mine for my remaining time in Kenya.
Update: Due to a number of unforeseen complications, this project, unfortunately, deteriorated and ultimately failed. It started with the best of intentions but required more thought and planning before purchasing the equipment.
The work that I came here to do is, for the most part, complete.
What's left is launching the sewing center, as well as the Brosis Farm, which I'll talk more about in a future update.
Looking back, I'm reminded of what I used to say about Guru in India. That the changes were already waiting to happen, I was simply the lucky one to initiate them.
Our process was fueled by care, hard work, and sustainability and what we created looks like a gift that will keep giving after I have to step away from the school.
Continue to the next update about my work at the Brosis School.