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THE FWSU STORY: Fairfax Farm to School Program Cultivates Sustainable Partnership with School in Kenya

Posted on April 18, 2018 on the FWSU Blog

Last week, students at BFA Fairfax welcomed visiting school leaders from Kenya into their gardens and classrooms. It was an incredible opportunity for the visiting team to learn how to start a farm to school who want to start a farm to school program in their own community. The 10-day trip to Vermont was made possible through the generous support of VT Center for International Learning Partnerships (VCILP) and the Bay and Paul Foundation.

BFA Fairfax students Shannon and Caitlin present the School Farm to Brother Kennedy and Florence Maina from Kenya.

” It is incredible all they are doing from saving orphans to building economic communities to building equality between genders.” – Grace Zelazny, BFA Fairfax student

Students leading BFA Fairfax’s farm to school club gave a tour of their grounds, orchards, and facilities, shared about their projects in their farm to school class, and told the story of how their program grew into the multifaceted collaborative project it is today.

Partners from Kenya, with Dr. Mary Lynn Riggs of VCILP, tour the Fairfax School Farm

“The work Brother Kennedy and Florence Maina are doing in Kenya is wonderful. They seek economic sustainability and gender equity through education. Creating a food system where people learn to garden in sustainable ways is at the heart of their work”  – Fred Griffin, BFA Fairfax High School Language Arts Teacher

As part of the effort to build capacity and strengthen rural community development efforts in Kenya, Dr. Mary Lynn Riggs, VCILP’s Program Coordinator, arranged for Brother Kennedy Oronjo and Florence Maina to visit the Farm to School program at BFA Fairfax.

Brother Kennedy of St. Charles Lawanga in Kenya, interacts with students involved with sustainability and the BFA Fairfax School Farm.

“We know something about how hard things are in parts of the world. It was eye-opening to hear specifically what was going on in Kenya and Brother Kennedy’s school.” – Hannah Rainville

Farm to school programs increase students’ access to local, healthy foods, helping to address hunger and connecting students to where their food comes from to promote local agriculture and healthy eating habits. Brother Kennedy Oronjo and Florence Maina run two schools in Kenya for economically disadvantaged children, most of whom are orphans, one in Nairobi and one in rural Rodi-Homa Bay. The communities they serve struggle with food insecurity, economic challenges, and gender inequality, and they are building a farm to school program to address these issues and provide opportunities to young people. Their goal is to address hunger and food insecurity within the community through education and applied learning while at the same time boosting their rural economies. In the end, they envision a system similar to the one BFA Fairfax and other Vermont schools have developed.

BFA Fairfax High School Language Arts Teacher Fred Griffin is a student advisor for the Farm to School Club.

“We want to find ways to link not just our Farm to School program, but our school with the project in Kenya. Heifer International was adopted by BFA Fairfax four years as a care-giving mission. Last year our student body purchased a water buffalo, two flocks of chickens and a sheep for Heifer to distribute. Livestock are a vital part of a sustainable food system. We are going to explore linking Heifer, Brother Kennedy, and our school by targeting his project as the beneficiary of our animal gifts.” – Fred Griffin, BFA Fairfax High School Language Arts Teacher

Students in Fairfax started their farm to school program only two years ago, and the program has since expanded rapidly. The students, both in farm to school classes and in the farm to school club, manage an apple orchard, a greenhouse, vegetable and herb gardens, and plan to add a chicken coop, a hoop house, and a pollinator garden this spring.

Signs of Spring in the greenhouse at the BFA Fairfax Farm!

“It’s great that they are trying to improve their lives.” – Anna Spiller, BFA Fairfax student

The project has been funded by two Vermont Farm to School grants, in 2016 and 2017, but the true success in their program comes from the creative integration of agriculture into the school curriculum and the deep community connections students and teachers have fostered with neighbors, student families, and the local agricultural community.

Brother Kennedy and Florence review the plans for the BFA Fairfax School Farm to gain inspiration for a project in Kenya.

“I think it is pretty cool that they are looking at Farm to School here in Fairfax as a way to build a sustainable program of their own.” – Quentin Stoneburner, BFA Fairfax student

BFA Fairfax was chosen this year as one of Vermont’s exemplary Farm to School grantees and is featured in the 2018 Farm to School & Childcare Program Report. After seeing a successful farm to school program in Vermont, Brother Kennedy and Florence hope to bring tools and lessons learned back to Kenya to inspire the development of their own farm to school programs.

Parsnips from the School Farm were served during a meeting with partners from Kenya.

Welcoming the Form Ones (Grade Nines)

Form Ones

Thursday this week was a very special day to the Form Ones as Brother Kennedy organized a ceremony to officially welcome the Form Ones to school. The students and the staff members were so happy on how well they were able to adapt to school and interact and mingle well with other students. The form ones too expressed their gratitude especially to Brother Kennedy for giving them the golden opportunity to study, have their meals and access the medical facility all free of charge. They promised to work hard in their studies to achieve their dreams.

Academic clinic day

On Saturday brother Kennedy organized a meeting with the guardians of the children to discuss their academic progress with the teachers. This was a very interactive moment for both guardians and the children, they were able to identify the different capabilities of the children in various subject. The guardians were happy on the great improvement registered by the children in their academics, spiritual growth and also in their social life.

Successful story

My name is Catherine a former student at St. Charles Lwanga children Centre secondary school. I completed my high school in 2016 where I was the first in my class and qualified to join the University. Am currently studying at Meru University taking an Agricultural course. I am happy for Brother Kennedy for his kind support towards my education, he has supported me through the secondary school and even now at the university. I come from a very humble family in the slums of Kibera, which is the largest slum in East Africa. My parents divorced while I was 9 years old and it was really hard for me to take sides on which I should live with. My dad promised to take me to school but unfortunately got an accident, which injured his hand and could not work anymore. Life became so hard and it was during this time that he decided to marry another wife whom we could hardly get along. Life changed so fast and I dropped out of school and joined the slum girls in search for a living to support my family and my sick dad. It was in the midst of these struggles that I found Brother Kennedy who welcomed me to the school where I lived all my school life. St Charles Lwanga School is my home where I get the love and care, which I hardly got back at home. During my holidays I do my community service at St Charles Lwanga School where I help the students in their academics, assist in preparing and serving food, mentoring the students especially the girls. I am grateful to Brother Kennedy, Chalice foundation and Inverness County Cares for lighting a candle of hope in my life. God Bless you.

Critical Situation

Kenya is in the midst of the rainy season and this past week they have been hit with an unusual amount of rainfall. The ground, which during the dry season is hard and dry like cement, is now saturated. The fine clay soil is slick, slippery and waterlogged. Buildings and structures constructed during the dry period are now becoming increasingly unstable. During this season these headlines can be seen in Kenyan newspapers.

“Body of 41-year-old man retrieved after pit latrine collapse”- Capital News Jan 14, 2018 – KISII, Kenya

“Kenya: Six Die at Mombasa Bridal Fete After Falling Into Pit Latrine” – Kenya Direct News, March 11/2018, Mombasa, Kenya

This dangerous situation was illustrated at the St Charles Lwanga School by the partial collapse of one of their pit latrines.

Brother Kennedy reports, “All is not well due to heavy rains which sank one block of the boy’s latrine and it cannot be used and it is a no go zone because the kids can easily drop inside.”

The St Charles Lwanga School has 280 students and the sanitation needs are accommodated by the presence of 4 pit latrine structures, each with 2 doors. This means the girls have 4 stalls and the boys have 4 stalls. The partial collapse of the supporting foundation under one of the structures leaves the boys with 2 less stalls. Now there are 2 stalls for the convenience of 200 boys!!! This is an emergency situation!

Even the construction and excavating of the latrines are a risky situation with individuals digging more than 5 meters/15 feet into the soil with shovels. The latrine/toilet building is set in place over the pit, preferably on a stable foundation and when the pit is full a septic pumper truck vacuums it out.

The structure that is threatening to fall into the sewage pit at the St Charles Lwanga School, was constructed when the school did not have money for cement reinforcements to be incorporated into the pit, and to shore it up to prevent collapse.

The solution is to build a new latrine at a cost of $3000 US dollars.

Need for a New School.

Inverness County Cares (ICC) is a community aid organization based in Inverness County, Nova Scotia. ICC has worked to provide for the educational and daily life needs of the 280 students at the St Charles Lwanga Secondary School (SCLSS) since 2012. The students of SCLSS are housed in dormitories on half acre on which the school and all buildings are situated. For many students this is their only chance to obtain a secondary education. Mostly all the students had a history of sporadic school attendance due to lack of money for school fees. Because of this they truly appreciate the opportunity to learn and are very serious about this opportunity to gain a secondary education.

The conditions at the school are crowded, with classrooms and living areas past the maximum occupancy. Their diet is simple and nutritious, mainly, beans, corn, Sukuma Wiki (collard greens), cabbage and occasionally tomatoes, with meat as a rare luxury.

The school is located close to the Nairobi International airport. This is an area that is rapidly being encroached on by the city of Nairobi and the influence of the Kibera Slums which are nearby.

The climate and growing conditions in this area are not suitable for farming or even small garden plots. The school grounds are very crowded and there are two seasons of very little rain, which turns the ground into a cement-like terrain with deep cracks. Water is supplied by a rainwater collection system (supplied by Living Water Africa), channeling rainwater from the roofs of all the school buildings into an 80,000 liter tank. Drinking water is supplied by Nairobi City Water, which is stored in a tank on the school grounds. There are no showers (bucket water bathing) and six, two-stall pit latrines provide the 280 students with toilet services.

Plans are in progress for a new school in the HomaBay area of South Western Kenya, near Lake Victoria. This new school will be located in an area with a climate much more favourable to sustainable farming on a 10 acre plot of land. Although the need is critical there are many obstacles that must be overcome before the new school is a reality. Anyone who wishes to financially support these student and school initiatives may do so by sending a cheque to Inverness County Cares, PO Box 99, Judique, NS, B0E 1P0.

Next month’s newspaper article: plans for a new school and the process of educating the students, teachers and communities near the school on farming methods that will work toward making the school self sustaining.

For more information please visit

A visit from Dutch friends and Betty Jane Cameron 2nd from the right.

Students writing exams in classrooms

Outside classes

Students after classes

Sustainable farming practice.


Activities Report February 2018

Teaching the minds, touching hearts.

This week has been a very wonderful week with learning going on well. The children are busy with their studies and enjoying their group discussions which are held outside the class. In the discussion groups each child is busy and eager to learn from one another in readiness of their mid-term examinations which tests what they have learnt for the past two months.

Students taking their mid-term examination (below).

Talent Thursday

This is a special day for the students and each one of them longs for the day. It is a day of experiential learning that helps the student break the classroom boredom also gives them a chance to broaden their class knowledge and understanding. This Thursday the students were demonstrating the various set books they study for literature. The teachers and the students were so happy on how well the students understood and demonstrated the set books.

Youth club  The school has different clubs such as journalism, drama, youth and scouts, where students divide themselves into the various clubs and take up an activity. On Saturday the youth members were responsible for making the tank stand where the other students can get access to safe and clean water for drinking. They are also responsible for the agricultural practice in the school where they plant vegetables on broken buckets and boxes to supplement their feeding program.


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