When Brother Dominic Jordan took over as headmaster of Saint Mary's Boy's Secondary School in Nyeri, Kenya 10 years ago, he knew there were kids on the street coming from nearby slums which house millions on the outskirts of Nairobi. He didn't know how much his school would impact their lives.
"We began to bring in children (some as young as 4 years old) to give them a decent meal," Brother Dominic told a Saint Mary's College audience on Nov. 29. "We would feed them during the day and let them go home, but they didn't have homes, so they just started to stay."
His secondary school is now a haven for nearly 200 primary school-aged boys who not only benefit from the free food, clothing and shelter, but from their involvement with the 450 older secondary school students.
"Positive peer pressure works for us," Brother Dominic said. "The younger children want to be like the highly motivated secondary school kids, who come from the poor villages and from poorer-performing primary schools and who know this is their one shot. These kids are 'hungry.' They're workers."
Their work ethic helps offset the cost of running the school, allowing Saint Mary's School to charge a much lower tuition than other schools in Kenya - and even offer free tuition for some.
"Our living conditions are very simple," Brother Dominic said. "We've found a way to stretch the walls. Most classes in Kenya have 45 students per class; we have 56 per class. We have 240 kids in the dorm on each floor in double-decker bunks lining the walls, and our meals are the same every day." Each student is assigned a 45-minute chore period to keep the facility operational, grind the maize, milk the cows and even slaughter the pigs for their meals.
"But it's not all work," Brother Dominic said. "The students were district champions in basketball and football last season, and they are very religious â€“ attending two-hour Masses, with music and dancing each week." Additionally, 50 percent of graduates from Saint Mary's Secondary School were accepted into one of six free public universities in Kenya, compared to less than 1/2 percent of graduating classes from other schools. Those who aren't accepted at a university find that their high scores at the school open doors for them in government jobs.
Yet with all its successes, finding unrestricted funding for the school is difficult. Vice President for Mission Carole Swain explained how Saint Mary's College can only send money to a sister school through personal donations. "You can send a check or even sponsor a child," she said. "One of our professors passed around a basket, collecting the day's Starbuck's money to send to Brother Dominic. It added up."
Brother Dominic said the money would be welcome, noting "Agencies fund construction, but I don't need to build. I need to feed them and clothe (the children) once they're in the building."
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