More than 200 orphans and vulnerable young people have hopes for a brighter future as new graduates of the Inua Partners in Hope program.
The students, the third graduating class, celebrated the completion of their vocational education at a ceremony in Naivasha on Aug. 30.
Inua Partners in Hope gives students ownership of their development. Students choose which vocational path to take after counseling with a variety of mentors. They also learn life skills over the course of the three-year program.
The Swahili word “inua” means “to lift together, raise up or elevate.”
Ephy Adhiambo, who graduated with hairdressing skills, shared her story and urged her fellow graduates to use their education well.
“I am no longer an orphan. I take the escapade of this graduation as that first step where my difficulties only spark new attempts with the full understanding that nobody can discourage my progress except myself.”
The goal of the program is to help at-risk young people overcome poverty and insecurity and find financial independence through education and faith-based mentoring.
This year’s graduates learned skills ranging from general mechanic and driving to welding, electronic repairs, dressmaking, construction, masonry, plumbing, hospitality, fashion and design, painting, art, video production and carpentry.
Graduates with small enterprises received startup kits or capital in their particular fields of specialization.
Trinity United Methodist Church in Naivasha, Kenya, and First United Methodist Church in Winter Park, Florida, founded Inua Partners in Hope in 2010.
To date, the program has transformed the lives of 2,000 orphans and vulnerable youth in 15 villages in the region, representing nearly 500 families, said the Rev. Paul Matheri, Inua’s program director.
Rahab Mwihaki Karoki, the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony and chairperson of Superior Hotels Kenya, urged the graduates to keep moving forward.
“You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new,” she said.
She said the graduates deserve credit for undertaking the rigorous education, for pushing themselves to the limits and now for going into the world ready to use their talents.
“Each one of us has the ability to lead a dynamic life by pursuing our unique goals and dreams. There are no limits to what you can accomplish when you know who you are and have faith in what you can do,” she said.
Ivor Singer, U.S. board member of Inua Partners in Hope, issued certificates to the graduates. She said the program started after a chance meeting at the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, between the Rev. Bob Bushong, then pastor of First United Methodist Church Winter Park, and Matheri, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Naivasha.
Matheri shared that there were more than 25,000 orphaned and vulnerable young people in the Naivasha area, many of whom lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses.
The pastors decided to work together to make a difference through prayer and resources.
Singer, a member of the Winter Park church, said with the help of current senior pastor, the Rev. David Miller, the program has added three other Florida churches to the partnership: Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples, First United Methodist Church in Ormond Beach, and Trinity Methodist Church in West Palm Beach.
“It is an amazing story of how God weaves people’s experiences, knowledge, grace and love for each other into what is now Inua Partners in Hope,” she said.
Katie Cornelius, a medical student and volunteer at First United Methodist Church in Winter Park, spoke at the graduation about the power of the program.
“Look at your neighbors, they are transformed. We’ve not only seen transformation inside you but also in this program. You have put in so much work,” she said. “You now have faith, skills and support. You are able to change your friends, families and community.”
David Kimani, an orphan and new graduate, thanked Inua Partners in Hope for making his education and training a reality.
“To the graduates here, together, we endured. We wallowed. We reveled. And, now, we’ve emerged … as the smartest we’ve ever been — the most engaged, the most creative and the selves we were meant to be: whole and complete,” he said.
Patrick Ndonga, business programs manager for Inua, said that 99% of Inua students who took government examinations for technical education and vocational training performed very well.
“More than 90% of all the graduates were self-employed and supporting their siblings or guardians by their time of graduation,” he added.
The Rev. Scott Smith, pastor at First United Methodist Church Ormond Beach, agreed that Inua is a transformative program.
“The program benefits us in the U.S. by allowing us not to be the ‘ones who do the work,’ but rather the ones who come alongside the students and walk with them on the journey,” he said.
Speaking during the graduation, Matheri talked about how hope keeps the program going in the most difficult of times.
“Hope carries us through the storms of life in the anticipation of better, brighter days. For us at Inua Partners in Hope, all of you donors are our ray of hope, which brings light to the orphans and vulnerable,” he said.
“Together with your help, Inua Partners in Hope can address unique challenges and provide youth with a path for a stable, healthy and hopeful future.”
Maiga is a communicator for the Kenya-Ethiopia Conference.
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