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November 25, 2014

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A Librarian’s Reason 2 Smile: A Visit to the Jambo Jipya Academy in Kenya

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Downtown Mwtapa, Kenya

Back in early 2011, SLJTeen reported on this librarian’s dream to build a library at the Jambo Jipya Academy in Mwtapa, Kenya, with the assistance of the organization Reason2Smile. Reason2Smile Inc. (R2S) is a registered non-profit whose mission is to encourage individuals around the world to be in service to others. This is done by educating people locally and nationally on how they can positively impact others, and by providing funding to organizations in developing countries which provide education, food, clothing, and healthcare to orphaned and at-risk children.

The Jambo Jipya Academy is the first school to be financially assisted by R2S and under the leadership of Kenyan native and school director Christine Mwende and executive director Keela Dates Grimmette, the school has grown from 25 students (2004) to 300 students today. Mtwapa is 10-15 kilometers north of Mombasa on the coast of Kenya.

Reason2Smile and Jambo Jipya have become an important part of my life since getting involved in the spring of 2010. I am now a member of their Board of Directors and am a member of their Educational Committee. This past July, my family traveled to Kenya and South Africa and we had the privilege to stay in the home of Ms. Mwende and visit the Jambo Jipya Academy and the future Mtwapa Children’s Home. To say this visit was life altering would be a vast understatement. My family and I got the chance to meet and talk with the students and teachers that we had heard about and seen pictures of.

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Donna Rosenblum (c.) and son with future residents of Mtwapa Children’s Home

We observed classroom instruction and spent recreation time with the children at a local field, playing keep away, jumping rope and of course, playing soccer. At the end of the day, we accompanied the orphan children back to their home where we got to know each other by talking and playing games. The children also performed for us with choreographed song and dance routines.

One of the many highlights was watching my 20-year-old daughter sitting with a group of girls, talking and braiding hair, while my two sons (ages 17 and 13) engaged in animated conversations with children they had just met. The bonds of friendship we made will certainly stay with us for a lifetime. I left Kenya with a renewed sense of dedication and commitment to Reason2Smile, Jambo Jipya, and the future Mtwapa Children’s home. I always knew that my work and financial input were making a difference in the lives of children, and now I had the opportunity to see it first-hand.

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Jambo Jipya soccer players

That is why I love being involved with R2S and Jambo Jipya—there is a personal connection with this school, and its students and staff are unique and priceless. I became an educator in order to work with students and help them achieve their goals and dreams. Now I get to do this on a global scale. For me, Reason2Smile has filled a void that I didn’t know existed. The level of gratification I receive from being apart of this organization is not possible to put into words.

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Rosenblum with Alfan, a student she sponsors

There is still so much work to be done but it is nice to know we are making an impact. My commitment to build a school library for the Jambo Jipya Academy is close to fruition. The fundraising is almost complete and Jambo Jipya is hoping to expand and purchase the land adjacent to school. This will be the future home of the school library, and I am hoping that this becomes a reality in late 2014 or early 2015. I will be returning to Kenya in April 2014 and will keep SLJTeen updated as events unfold. Until then, kwaheri (goodbye in Swahili)—for more information visit the Reason2Smile website.

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