Nyumbani Kwetu

Nyumbani Kwetu means “Our Place” in Swahili.

Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.

Nyumbani Kwetu means “Our Place” in Swahili.

This is Elimu’s founding project and our founder, Nina Chung’s Kenyan family. Nyumbani Kwetu Home has supported 17 children through their learning and growth. These children were abandoned at various times to their grandmother’s care, who was unable to provide for them. In 2006, Nina stepped into the gap to make sure they got regular nutrition, health care and education. Living and schooling expenses are still handled by Elimu.

Nina is still involved in their daily lives. Most are now teenagers and young adults. To-date 15 have graduated from high school — the first in their families to do so. Six have completed college; while others continue with post secondary studies. All of these ‘kids’ call Nina “Mum”.

A Seed is Planted

Nina immediately became acutely aware of the challenges children and their parents were facing in Kenya to get a decent education. When many of the students began dropping out half way through their program at the polytechnic where she was volunteering, Nina and other volunteers reached out to family and friends to help keep the young people in school. Over 30 students were sponsored through these efforts and Nina took on the management of the funds and communications between sponsors and students. The seed for Elimu was planted.
During this time, Nina also became involved with a family in her neighbourhood. Several children had been abandoned to the care of their grandmother who, with no formal work, was barely making ends meet. The seed of Elimu began to grow as Nina paid the school fees for the two oldest boys (then 4 and 6 years old) to start kindergarten and assisted them with tutoring in the evenings.

New Life

Her marriage ended during her volunteer posting and Nina returned to Canada for some months to discern her future. It was at this time that her sense of her own vocation began to take shape. Her brother (who later joined a religious community) enrolled her in a “New Life Retreat”. During the three-day retreat, Nina experienced a vision — an internal impression — of Jesus Christ as the Weaver of her life. In her mind’s eye, she saw Him weaving together the many dispersed threads of her life into a beautiful and coherent tapestry. The experience touched her deeply and has stayed with her. It strengthened her faith and gave her new hope.

Taking Shape

For a while she was uncertain about what to do next. She considered returning to university and got as far as being accepted to a program. But through a series of ‘mishaps’, she ended up back in Kenya with her children and finally came to realize that that was where she belonged.
She returned to Kenya with a new sense of commitment and placed herself and her resources at the service of her children and her projects. When the grandmother and her grandchildren were about to be thrown out of their home for lack of rent, Nina made a solemn commitment to sponsor the family and began managing their care as a children’s home. Nina realized that she would not be able to keep up her work over the long term from just her own resources. In order to make the care and education of these children sustainable, she began to look into registering a charity.

Making Connections

By October 2010, the first Elimu board meeting was held—with three members: George Brown, Jan Wood and Nina, herself. After the board meeting, Nina realized that she would need administrative help to handle donations, receipts, banking etc. She reached out to a neighbor, an old babysitting client from her high school days, and also an expert administrator with a wealth of useful experience. She agreed to become Elimu’s first office admin volunteer in Ottawa serving in that role for the next nine years.
Later, she contacted Sue Stoltz, an old friend, whom she had hired to her first PR job over 20 years previously. She was hoping for some help with fundraising for the Upendo School building project. Sue has since been a PR/Communications Advisor to Elimu.
Nina continued sharing her story was amazed to see how it touched hearts. People started coming up to her and putting cheques in her hands. In 2011, she raised $14,000 towards the $25,000 expenses for her projects in Kenya. Nina initially covered project expenses from her personal finances with the help of a few friends and family. Over the years, she has injected funds at key junctures like covering the equipment and furnishing to set up the digital education resource centre established by Elimu in 2016.

More Connections from the Past

In 2012, another re-connection with her past bore great fruit for Elimu. Maureen Monaghan, whom she knew well from her church, contacted her after an article about Elimu appeared in a local newspaper. The two met for breakfast one day and Elimu soon had its first treasurer.

A Shared Vision

Over time, as Elimu grew, it eventually began to transition into a social enterprise with both social impact projects and income generating activities. The Kenyans who were volunteering their time to support Nina’s efforts, started to be hired as staff. In 2016, she named Kamotho Ndung’u as Co-Founder with her in moving the Elimu vision forward. He works in the role of CEO for Elimu and has supported Nina’s efforts since 2008.

Today Nina’s life is truly a tapestry woven from her own efforts and from joining hands with family, old friends and new friends. Her “new life” is grounded in daily prayer and seeking God’s guidance through His word and through the people He places on her path. For years, she enjoyed participating in evening prayers with the children of Nymbani Kwetu Home. She has proudly watched the girls of Nyumbani Kwetu pass through school — unlike many of their mothers and aunties they have not become child mothers. These children, girls and boys, are the first in their family to complete primary school and move on through high school to post secondary studies.
In 2018, Nina was recognized as “mother” at the 5th Annual Mothers’ Honours Awards in Nairobi for her work in enhancing education in Kenya. She still divides her time between Kenya and Canada. She is hands-on with projects in Kenya and in Canada manages volunteers and fundraising. In Kenya, she mentors the Elimu team working hand-in-hand with the CEO to drive their dreams for the organization into the future.

About Elimu

Elimu empowers learners to increase academic and digital literacy, improve school retention and encourage self-sustainability through employment planning and entrepreneurship. 

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Elimu is the official trade name of Elimu Development Projects, a registered Canadian charity. BN 828374314.

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