Youth and Enterprise Development in Kenya

Through an interdisciplinary collaboration with a national program for street children in Kenya, Penn State faculty and students are addressing some of the most challenging issues in development.   The Children and Youth Empowerment Centre (CYEC), Nyeri, is a dynamic and innovative residential and educational program for street dwelling children and other highly vulnerable young people in Kenya.  Established in 2006 as a public-private initiative to address specific gaps in the care and support of disadvantaged children and youth, the CYEC is partnering with Penn State to find effective, sustainable solutions for this population.

The collaboration includes three challenges:

  1. Program sustainability: The costs of caring for vulnerable children are a challenge for Kenya (as well as other countries).  Penn State is working with the CYEC to increase their food production, both to provide a nutritious diet for children at the Centre and to provide income.  We are also helping them develop additional sources of income through their vocational skills programs.
  2. Standards of care: In addition to education, these young people need to learn life skills and behaviors that will enable them to become healthy, contributing adults.  Penn State is partnering with the CYEC to assess and adapt life skills curricula including Aflatoun and HealthWise (http://www.prevention.psu.edu/projects/HealthWise_SA.html).
  3. Program exit: Given that Kenya’s unemployment rate is over 40%, youth leaving training programs are at high risk of returning to the street.  Penn State is working with the CYEC to develop two inter-related exit programs.  The first is a youth cooperative, through which those ready to leave the CYEC (and similar programs) can develop business and financial management skills and access micro-finance.   In 2011, a multi-disciplinary team led by faculty from the colleges of agricultural science and business worked with the youth coop on ag production, basic business skills and microfinance (http://pennstateinkenya2011.weebly.com/), while a team of engineering entrepreneurship students from Berks helped the youth create jewelry from electronic waste (http://ewasteatpsu.wordpress.com/home/).  The second initiative is the establishment of eco-villages where youth in the cooperative can live and develop enterprises suited to the local environment as they transition to independent living.

For more information, please see www.cyec.net or contact Janelle Larson at jbl6@psu.edu.

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