Clare Morneau started the Kakuma Girls Education partnership when she was 15, between her girls' school in Toronto and Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya.
something to hold in your hand
"I first heard about Kakuma Refugee Camp when my dad and the company he worked for, Morneau Shepell, visited the camp. I already knew I was lucky to live in Canada because I’d learned a lot from my sister Grace, who is from Uganda. I was also starting to learn about the situations, good and bad, in other countries in Africa. When my dad and colleagues were in Kakuma they visited the schools in the camp and talked to members of the UNHCR and other aid organizations about what was needed there most. And that was girls’ education."
The UNHCR agreed it would be valuable to create a dedicated girls’ secondary school given the challenges girls face in obtaining education in Kakuma. Morneau Shepell supported the building of the school in 2013. Currently only two per cent of eligible refugee children go to secondary school in Kakuma and a minority of those are girls. This is a shocking percentage, one that seems almost impossible to someone living in a first-world country.
Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls (MSSSG) enrolls studious, hardworking girls while also helping the most vulnerable girls in the camp. Girls who are orphaned or only have one parent, or those who lack family support and protection, are at a disadvantage. They have no means of earning money and they risk being pulled from school to care for siblings, do tasks such as collect firewood, or get married. If they go to MSSSG they can stay in school, be safe, and focus on their education.
Havergal College is an all-girls, private day school in Toronto, Canada. Not long ago I knew nothing about refugee camps or Kakuma and many of my friends at Havergal didn’t either. I decided that I wanted to change this. By exploring the Kakuma girls’ world, I had a chance to explore my own. I was getting a perspective that is rare for a typical Toronto private school student, and I wanted my friends and classmates to have this opportunity, too.
Writing letters, penpal-style, seemed the best way to get started. Through this correspondence, I got the idea for this book. I want the voices of the Kakuma girls to be heard, and I want to show how education fosters hope.
We had quickly learned so much about each other. I wanted something material from the exchange that we could hold up for ourselves and others to see. "
The making of Kakuma Girls
Clare Morneau launched the Toronto-Kakuma Partnership with Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls (MSSSG) and her school, Havergal College in 2014 with the help of Mohamud Hure, UNHCR. Then she had the book idea. Clare is principal writer of Kakuma Girls.
10 girls at MSSSG (Sarah Nyajuok Gik, Fardosa Ali Hassan, Nyimuch Chuol Wel, Christine Bachoke, Zahira Habila Ariss, Esther Nyakong, Nhial Alek Tabitha, Rita Monday Tom, and Amach Mabior are key contributors: they shared their stories with Clare, answering her questions about how they or their parent(s) got to Kakuma, their education experiences and dreams. Students at MSSSG in Kakuma also took photos for the book.
Girls in the writing partnership in Kakuma and Havergal College wrote letters to one another and several wrote essays on contemporary topics such as friendship, refugees, war and peace.
Clare, also with assistance from Sarah Cha and Carol, did research on Kakuma, refugees, and country contexts.
Former Kakuma refugees Panther Kuol, Elizabeth Agutu (Kakuma) and actress, model and humanitarian Kuoth Wiel (who was a refugee in Ethiopia) contributed pieces as did Mohamud Hure and Cathy Wachiaya from UNHCR in Kakuma, Kenya and Lois Rowe, VP of Havergal College.
When Clare turned 17 she went to Kenya for a special meeting with some MSSSG girls in Nairobi (she unfortunately couldn't visit Kakuma camp due to a security threat against westerners)
Isabel Foo designed the book and the infographics.
Doug Laxdal of The Gas Company printed the book in Toronto
Many others helped, thank you.
You are learning about it and hopefully will read the book and/or get engaged!