Jacqueline sat by herself.

While the other girls gathered their workbooks and said their goodbyes, Jacqueline sat alone in a blue plastic chair with blue braids in her hair and blue eye shadow highlighting her expressionless face.

I walked up and asked her favorite color.

“Blue,” she replied.

I should have known.

But what I couldn’t have known was everything she told me next.

Jacqueline wants to be an architect. She is good at math. She hopes to visit America someday.

She had a boyfriend until a few weeks ago—when he raped her. She is going to counseling. She is alright.

—–

Unfortunately, Jacqueline’s story is not uncommon. Many of the teenage girls who attend Technoserve’s Young Entrepreneurs (YE) initiative are secondary school dropouts, single mothers or even prostitutes. They live in the Kawangware and Mathare slums where they have lost virtually everything. But then again, as YE facilitator Faith said, “That’s why they can trust our program.”

Girl Power

YE was first introduced to the slums of Nairobi three years ago. The simple, community-oriented business program is funded by the Nike Foundation—specifically, the “Girl Effect.”

Jacqueline’s life hasn’t been easy.

The gist of the Girl Effect is that if you change the life of a girl living in poverty by helping her start her own business, she will, in turn, change the life of her family which will, in turn, change the life of its community, which will, in turn, change the life of its country, which will, in turn, change the life of humanity.

Pretty rad, huh?

Beautiful Sisters

Faith called me to the front of the class and asked me to introduce myself.

I told the girls my name, my age and where I am from.

I then explained that I am a photojournalist and that Tanari wants me to take pictures of them and write about them so that their stories can be shared with the world.

In exchange, I requested that they teach me about financial planning.

The girls smiled and shrieked, “Sister! You are welcome, and you are beautiful!”

I am beautiful? Sweethearts, if only you knew…

All the ladies of YE have a lot to overcome.

Business Solutions to Poverty

Throughout the six month program, the young ladies of YE complete a curriculum covering entrepreneurship, basic financial education and employability. In order to gain real life experience during their studies, they divide into groups and are challenged to create their own businesses which will contribute to the well-being of their community.

They must develop a business plan, maintain financial records and present their achievements in front of their peers and facilitators. At the end of the program, the businesses are judged by real entrepreneurs from Nairobi and the top three groups are awarded the funds necessary to continue.

Within the past three years, 3,000 Kenyan girls have completed YE’s training!

Allowed to be Girls

Tanari was contracted by Technoserve to teach the 14-18 year old age group. In typical Tanari fashion, they introduce the girls to each other and the program during a weekend at camp. While this may sound like an ordinary teenage experience, for girls who have never left their slum before, it is extremely significant.

For many, it is the first time that they are allowed to just be girls. They participate in team building activities such as obstacle courses and trust falls and each girl has a chance to share her “story” over campfire. The girls listen patiently to one another and become forever endeared to each other as they realize that they are valuable and also that they are not alone.

In order to ensure all 45 girls in each of the four cohorts run by Tanari attend YE every week, the program gives them money for lunch as well as for childcare if they are mothers. The Tanari facilitators also make a point to connect with each girl’s family to explain the YE program to them so they, too, experience the heart of Tanari.

——-

Through the training she receives, Jacqueline hopes for a better future.

I don’t know if Jacqueline will ever move to America or become an architect or change her favorite color.

But I do know that through Tanari’s literal investment in her future—made possible by Technoserve’s YE initiative—she is and will continue to be better than alright.

——-

Jacqueline stood up, shook my hand and said goodbye.

“See you next week,” I asked.

“See you next week,” she replied.

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Next Steps
    • Watch “The Girl Effect” promo video on YouTube! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIvmE4_KMNw
    • Visit Technoserve’s website to read more about how their “Business Solutions to Poverty” are transforming communities in developing countries around the globe. http://technoserve.org/
    • Learn more about what the Young Entrepreneurs of Kawangware and Mathare are specifically doing each week by “follow”ing their blog. http://tanaritrust.blogspot.com/ Feel free to leave an encouraging comment—the girls are excited to share their experiences!
    Next Steps

About the Author: Jocelyn is a freelance photojournalist with World Next Door. She studied Creative Writing and Missions at Concordia University Irvine. She enjoys reading, writing and traveling. She also likes butterflies.

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Comments

  1. Darla said... 

    Reply

    June 25th, 2011 at 6:24 am  

    You are touching my heart with these real life stories! I just finished a book with a character who wore blue as Jacqueline does. For the character it is was to bring calmness to her environment around her. I looked up the symbolism in scripture and found this:
    The color blue is used quite extensively in the Old Testament to describe the various hangings in the holy places. In general blue should be viewed as a heavenly color. Below is only a representation of the color’s use in scripture, it occurs far more frequently than demonstrated here.

    Direct Meaning: holy covering – Exodus 28:31, Numbers 4:5-7;11-12, Esther 8:15; the Lord’s commandments – Numbers 15:38-40

    Opposite Meaning:
    corruption through vanity, whoredoms and idolotry – Jeremiah 10:8-9, Ezekiel 23:3-8

    Color Symbolism:
    heavenly – Exodus 24:10, Ezekiel 1:26; 10:1 (sapphire)
    holy service – Exodus 28:31, Esther 8:15
    chastening – Proverbs 20:30 (KJV)

    Associated Symbols:
    water(s) – spirit (John 4:13-14; 7:37-39, Revelation 21:6; 22:17, Matthew 3:11-16), people / multitudes (Revelation 17:15, Jeremiah 46:7-8; 47:1-3, Isaiah 8:7; 17:13)

    Be encouraged, Stephen! Your words are HIS!

  2. Dave Rod said... 

    Reply

    June 25th, 2011 at 9:34 am  

    Jocelyn, Sometimes I get jaded and overwhelmed with the needs everywhere and get fatigued by it all but then I read something like this and I am buoyed again.

    Thanks for reminding me that life change is happening and the world is one step closer to the Kingdom of God because of people like Tenari, YE and you!

  3. Jo Nading said... 

    Reply

    June 25th, 2011 at 10:46 pm  

    I guess I am taken aback by the scene: you offer to share their story with the world in exchange for them teaching you something. Where ELSE could one do that? I mean – people SELL stories all the time…for fame, for exposure, for pure revenge or a joke or meanness….or just the money. No, for these girls, it is more valuable for them to give something away that shows their true worth. I dunno – just really knocked me on my heels. The least of these. There they are again acting more like Jesus than we do. Yes, Jesus shows up everywhere. Thank you for sharing. I have a feeling your world will be rocked all summer. What an amazing journey for you Jocelyn. Be an awesome student for these girls.

  4. Jim.M said... 

    Reply

    June 25th, 2011 at 11:26 pm  

    Love this:

    “they realize that they are valuable and also that they are not alone”.

    Recognizing self worth, and knowing you are in a community surrounded by those of the same struggle, what incredible comfort this must provide.

    Great article Jocelyn.

  5. Darla said... 

    Reply

    June 26th, 2011 at 4:52 am  

    Jocelyn, sorry I added a note at the end of my post not giving you the credit you deserve. Great article! I’m still thinking blue and what it must mean to Jacqueline. Prayerfully with you!

  6. Jocelyn said... 

    Reply

    June 29th, 2011 at 2:23 am  

    Thanks so much for the encouragement everyone! 😀 You’re finding all sorts of things in my writing that I didn’t even realize. I love it! Darla, thanks especially for your findings on the color blue. How fitting! Jacqueline is truly covered by the Father. Also, hakuna matata regarding the author mix-up! I took it as a compliment. That someone could even mistake my writing for Stephen’s is quite the honor.

  7. Advantages of Organic said... 

    Reply

    July 22nd, 2017 at 2:24 am  

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