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How fresh vegetables is handing freedom to our boys
Our empowerment program begun by simply watching the boys do their thing /Photo: Jared Junior (2014)
I remember the first thing the boys asked for when they came for a sleep over to our house at the beginning of 2017. In the end, I had to ‘cave in’ to their request because I had promised to fulfill their wishes.
 
“What would you like to eat for dinner?” I asked.
 
“Meat, lots of meat,” one of them said. “Everything that we don’t eat at home!”
 
Luckily, we had meat in the fridge. Since my wife was away, I had resolved to eat what I didn’t grow up eating for the three weeks she was going to be away. By the time the boys came, I had already eaten enough shrimps to last me a lifetime.
 
I would wake up to eat shrimps for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I combined everything with shrimps. It was as if I was trying to confirm Benjamin ‘Bubba’ Buford Blue’s devotion to shrimps! Well, when the boys came, I took a break from eating shrimps.
 

How fresh vegetables is handing freedom to our boys

How fresh vegetables is handing freedom to our boys
The visit by the British Army Band defined the way the students view resources in their environment
And for the next 3 days, all we ate was meat, meat and more meat. We did not eat vegetables at all. It is so, funny that our boys freedom lies in the very vegetables they have planted in the school parade ground!
 
“We are already selling our vegetables in the community around,” Hillary Wandera explains.
 
“How is this helping change your attitude towards what you can achieve?” I asked.
 
“We are happy that we’re no longer asking our parents for money to buy books and pens,” he replied. “We’re also learning the value of work and money.”
 
That sounded like music to my ears!
 
I have been involved at Five Star Academy since 2012. I remember the first time I visited the school as a children’s TV producer. The children were so eager to get on TV, for the wrong reasons. They wanted to find a sponsor to pay for their school fees.
 
I gave them a choice to choose between recording a TV program for our show or a long term empowerment program. They chose a long term empowerment program. In the end, I did not record a program with them and they have never appeared on a TV show. The children and I have grown together.
 
Some of them have progressed to high school or went to better schools. However, they left transformed. One of the things we have emphasized is finding something you are good at and do it with all your strength and heart. I mentioned to them how I was working towards earning an income through writing.
 
With time, all the children started following my progress. I had one shirt and pair of trousers then and was still single. We would meet every Thursday and discuss the goals we had and pray. The children have seen me break down and cry in class when I am overwhelmed. They seen me ask to share their food when I am hungry.
 
At first, I thought I was committing a huge mistake. But with time, I discovered that by being vulnerable, the children started opening up. Their desire to become the best kept on growing. Meanwhile, Teacher Charles and I kept challenging them the following valuable lessons:-
  • believing in themselves and their gifts
  • becoming self-reliant
  • stop depending on handouts
  • embracing excellence

Growing and selling fresh vegetables

How fresh vegetables is handing freedom to our boysOur approach is to keep asking questions that stir something in our children. We push without doing tasks.
One of the challenges we have faced is stirring dreams in the children. Dreams of having a better life than the ones their parents are having. Dreams of progress and unity.
 
Teacher Charles has led by example. He makes desks, builds classrooms and paints them. He also does other things that ensures the children have a safe learning environment. On my part, I spend hours on my writing and fundraising through running. We do these things to teach our children not to depend on handouts and charity from well-wishers.
 
We have also brought a number of wonderful friends and partners to the school. Patty Liston, Patricia Jones and Tracy Hanson have all emphasized the importance of finding homegrown solutions to problems. With time, what we have been doing and saying started rubbing off the children. One day, Hillary Wandera decided to plant vegetables at the parade ground. We recently did an interview with him.
Follow this link to read the full interview. 
How fresh vegetables is handing freedom to our boys
The fresh vegetables that is hading freedom to our boys
The boys are now selling fresh vegetables and no longer depend on handouts for chalks and pens. They also have chicken and rabbits and hope to grow it into an income generating activity. I look back to the very first time I visited the school. The fact the boys are growing vegetables and selling them, shows that the best is yet to come. I also hope you will visit and buy our fresh vegetables.
Here’s to freedom!

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How fresh vegetables is handing freedom to our boys
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