She's the First in East Africa, Part 2: Kenya by Kate Lord

This post is part of a four-part series about traveling to East Africa this fall with She's the First, a nonprofit that sponsors girls' education worldwide. I traveled for six weeks with STF's Co-Founder and Director of International Operations Christen Brandt and documented the girls' lives at school and at home in still photos and video.

  • Read Part 1 in the series, about my experience in Tanzania, here.
  • Read Part 3 in the series, about my experience in Uganda, here.
  • Read Part 4 in the series, about my experience in Ethiopia, here.

Makesh, Sumaya, Mbithe and Vianca pose with the "#1" sign, a symbol of She's the First.

We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, by minibus from Arusha, Tanzania. We quickly learned that Nairobi is a city of contrasts; surrounding the city are mansions and gated communities, but Nairobi is also the home of Kibera, one of Africa's largest slums. Walking through Kibera, I'd see men and women in perfectly ironed suits headed out to work in downtown Nairobi. Many people have jobs, but affordable housing is so scarce that they must continue to live in the slum.

Kibera is the size of a small city and runs like one -- there are shops, homes and butcher shops, and the alleyways are full of neighbors greeting one another or rushing off to work. But the buildings are made mostly of scrap materials and there are no formal systems for sanitation and few sources of clean water; STF's partner, Shining Hope for Comunities, not only provides education for girls, but also has community programs like an inexpensive clean water well and a free clinic. According to SHOFCO, only 8% of girls in Kibera ever have the chance to go to school. The organization's Kibera School for Girls is the first tuition-free school for girls in Kibera.


The view from the school's rooftop playground

The Kibera School for Girls

Vianca, left, and her classmates make "growling kitten" faces. TOO CUTE!

She's the First currently sponsors four girls at the school and they are SO ADORABLE. The youngest, Vianca, is in P1 and the oldest, Makesh, is in P4. All four were champs on camera, and were so eager to show me and Christen they're awesome playground, which is made from recycled materials!

Girls play on the see-saw during recess

Vianca rides the slide with her friends

Vianca rides the slide with her friends

Sumaya strikes a pose

Makesh poses post-interview (she'll be in two of She's the First's upcoming promo videos!)

Mbithe smiles with her mom, a volunteer at the school

Vianca lines up to head back to class

Our experiences visiting the girls in their classrooms are best summed up by Christen's post on She's the First's blog:

We were able to sit in on a few classes, as well, and let me tell you: These girls are smart. They took a few minutes to help us with our Swahili (see below for a new word they taught us!), and each class had a million questions for us — even the Pre-K! One third-grade student’s question was, “What are your thoughts on the girl-child?” That, of course, immediately prompted a class discussion about how they were learning to be responsible leaders and would one day take over the world. Their teacher asked only that they give her a ride whenever they see her walking by the side of the road; I asked that they keep me employed.

Makesh in class

Sumaya reads aloud

Vianca concentrates on her ABCs

We had so much fun getting to know these little ones! Check back this Spring for videos featuring these four awesome girls!

Clockwise, from top: me, Makesh, Vianca, Christen, Mbithe and Sumaya

Photographing + Filming for She's the First in East Africa by Kate Lord

Charity in class in Arusha, Tanzania.
Charity in class in Arusha, Tanzania.

I'm currently traveling through Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, photographing and filming students for She's the First, a nonprofit supporting girls' education worldwide! We're blogging at (click the photo above to be redirected), and you can follow my trip on instagram and twitter as well!