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Barack Obama attends grand opening in Alego (Kenya)

Next year, the PATRIZIA Children Foundation will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. To date, it has helped over 200,000 children in all areas of the world. The work of the foundation is based on the premise that education is the key to a life of self-determination and a better future. Building schools, orphanages and hospitals makes it possible to provide access to an education. As was the case in Alego in Kenya, where the PATRIZIA Children Foundation recently opened a new training and education centre for children in need in collaboration with its partner organisation, Sauti Kuu. Following the official opening ceremony, which was also attended by former US President Barack Obama, a number of PATRIZIA volunteers travelled to Alego to provide hands-on support on site.

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The name of the partner organisation, Sauti Kuu, is Swahili for ‘strong voice’. Dr Auma Obama, founder of the foundation and the sister of Barack Obama: “We want to teach young people to help themselves and make good use of local resources. That means sharing knowledge and fostering the self-confidence they need to go their own way – that’s the goal of Sauti Kuu.” As is the case with Beryl. The 17-year-old grammar school pupil unexpectedly lost her father some time ago, a heavy blow that affected the young girl so badly she failed to finish school. Since the death of her husband, her mother has been feeding Beryl and her siblings without any outside support. Left to her own devices, she is scarcely able to plug the gap he left behind – and simultaneously act as a mother and father to her children. But Beryl and her mother certainly haven’t let this get them down. The youngster dreams of becoming a journalist, inspired by a famous Kenyan reporter she saw several years ago on TV. He left a lasting impression on her and ever since, Beryl has pursued her career aspirations with dogged determination – now also thanks to the practical support of Sauti Kuu.

Education, training, personal development – for a strong voice

“Our partners in the country mainly look after children and young people aged 10 to 17 years, just like Beryl,” says Anna Warkentin, a PATRIZIA volunteer who works in Frankfurt. “Many of them come from difficult family backgrounds, are half or fully orphan-ed, and simply need care and support.” Sauti Kuu’s new training centre is a huge complex in the village of Alego Nyang’oma in the county of Siaya. The father of Barack und Auma Obama also comes from this region near Lake Victoria. The centre built by the foundation spans three large buildings, providing a safe haven for the young to develop soft skills and strengthen their personality.

Young people are offered a variety of secondary education options, for example in the manual trades thanks to a facility funded by the PATRIZIA Children Foundation. Supervised by professionals, they are trained, for example, to become carpenters or plumbers. Sauti Kuu also offers tutoring sessions, education grants, training projects and career counselling, specifically targeting all its services at young people with little or no access to an education. The centre also encompasses computer rooms, a library, living rooms and sports amenities. “Sport is a particularly good way to promote a sense of community and bolster personal motivation. This 16th facility funded by the PATRIZIA Children Foundation is tailored precisely to the needs of young people and the proof of its success already speaks for itself,” explains James Rodge, PATRIZIA volunteer from London, who is an asset manager at the company.

At the same time, children are being made aware of the importance of sustainable and environmentally friendly development under the motto Grow to Eat. For example, they learn that growing fruit and vegetables can cover personal needs or help you to become financially independent by selling surplus produce. Young people often lack the basic knowledge and interest when they first come to the centre, but this soon changes when they start their training in the vegetable gardens, which were set up specially for them, or when they visit other facilities.

Over 1000 guests – although one was more famous than the others

After two years of building work, the new Sauti Kuu campus has now been officially inaugurated. Among the many dignitaries at the ceremony were government representatives from Kenya and Alexander Busl, Managing Director of the PATRIZIA Children Foundation. All clearly enjoyed the colourful and unforget-table programme, an eclectic mix of singing, dancing and anecdotes.

Of course the big highlight of the event was the attendance of Barack Obama. The former US president started by viewing the facility in Alego before giving a speech, in which he underscored how happy he was to help publicise the project. In his typical eloquent style, he turned the visitors’ and media’s attention away from himself to the core message of the foundations, stressing how important it is for young people from Kenya and all over Africa to have a strong voice.

Alexander Busl was also inspired by Obama’s speech, particularly the empathy the former president showed for the importance of the new training centre to the overall region. The PATRIZIA Children Foundation has found a strong local partner in Sauti Kuu and the two parties have a surprising number of things in common: “The journey walked by children and young people – into a future bursting with self-confidence and independence – is a common goal that unites us all. The made-to-measure course and training we provide will help develop personal strengths and make an important contribution to this goal.”

Long-term commitment – central to success

The school buildings being funded by the PATRIZIA Children Foundation provide 100 children and adoles-cents with a new start in life by offering a selection of education options and school qualifications. One thing has already been decided: the PATRIZIA Children Foundation will continue its partnership with Dr Obama and the Sauti Kuu Foundation for the next 25 years. This is a promise for the future of the children and young people of Alego – and a promise they can trust. Just like Beryl, they all have the talent they require to take the future into their own hands. All they need is a strong voice to accompany them on this journey.

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