Sponsor a Student: Mfangano Island, Kenya

Sponsor a Student: Mfangano Island, Kenya

From Hannah Greene

To provide school fees and uniforms to students I met living on Mfangano Island, Kenya this summer—students who otherwise might not be able to attend school this year.

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This summer, I lived with the Sagrema family on Mfangano Island, Kenya, experiencing their community and helping out whenever I could—from fetching the goats at night, to leading trash cleanups near the water, to visiting schools and interviewing students.  

Over long conversations brainstorming with my host father Samwel, I promised to find sponsors for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend school. His organization, The Mfangano Education Fund, introduced me to the fifteen students with the greatest need, usually those whose parents are deceased, suffer from illness, or are unemployed.

This month, I’m raising funds for the fifteen students I met—students who otherwise might not be able to attend school this year. This year is our pilot program, starting small so we can work towards sustainable, multi-year initiatives.

Each year we plan to expand this program to more students and to continue sponsoring each of these students so they can graduate from high school and beyond. Our ultimate goal is to make sure that every student on Mfangano Island has the opportunity to attend and thrive in school.

 I saw firsthand that education falls below the priority of survival when a family faces severe poverty.

 The residents of Mfangano Island have the motivation, work ethic, brilliance, and creativity that we deem necessary for success.

But why are children dying of preventable diseases?

Why do girls drop out of school as soon as they get their periods?

Why are waterways contaminated by harmful runoff waste?

Why does 15-year-old Paul have to trade anchovies for school admission?

Why doesn’t Modester’s house have a light to study after sunset?


For millions of students around the world, attending school comes with a lot of barriers.

But we have an opportunity to help take those barriers down.


These students have the motivation and tenacity to accomplish amazing things—if given the opportunity.

Elementary school uniforms cost just $6.74, but are enough of a financial barrier that many students must drop out before reaching high school.

Public high school students must pay $469.36 per year, inclusive of room and board, uniforms, books, teachers’ salaries, and other necessities for education.

This is where we come in.

In the U.S., we could earn $6.74 in one hour of work at a minimum wage job. With this amount of money, we can help open a door to opportunity for a student.

So I’m fundraising on behalf of these students.

Please consider choosing a student to sponsor, or giving a general donation shared between these students.

We’ll send you the receipt for school fees, or a photo of the student in their brand new uniform, along with a thank-you note written from your sponsee.


We can change someone’s life – with just the price of one venti Frappuccino, a cheap CD, a deli sandwich, or a bottle of nice shampoo.

Each of these students just want to be able to go to school. With our help, a student can focus on studying, not on being afraid she won’t have the money for fourth grade.

The biggest obstacle standing in her way is the $6.74 USD (700 Kenyan shillings) school uniform.


But we can take that barrier down.


You don’t have to hop on a plane to volunteer or abandon a career and become an aid worker to make a difference—today, we can start empowering one student to accomplish their dreams and strengthen their community. With just $6.74.



Read these students’ biographies, and choose one who speaks to you. Or contribute for the students at large, and we’ll send funds to the students in the order we met them. 


 This program is driven by the community, for the community. Funds raised go directly to student uniforms and school fees.

We are piloting this program to fund the education of 15 students from Mfangano Island, Kenya, for the 2019-2020 school year.


For now, we start with school uniforms so that Esther, Beckham, Earnest, Sharon, and Warren can complete primary school.

Next year, as they finish middle school, we’ll provide school fees for them to attend public high schools. 

For the rest of the students, who are entering high school, we can cover the school fees to give the opportunity to graduate high school.

 How we can help:

 *conversion rates as of July 26, 2019

**Girls’ school uniforms for Kakiimba Primary School and Repairer Christian School are made of a different material than most uniforms, so they cost $8.18.

Primary school uniforms: $6.74--$8.18

Secondary school fees: 48,750 KSH = $469.36


These are the students who are asking for your help. 

Meet the Students

The Sagrema Foundation identified these students as those of the greatest need.

I met each of them to learn about who they are and what inspires them. 


Class 8 (8th grade)


Denokia dreams of becoming a teacher, because in his words: “I like to help.” He works towards his dreams by being very disciplined as a student and always obeying the teacher’s rules.

After school, his chores include carrying basins full of water from the lake to his family. In between chores, he likes to read, and his favorite subject is math. He is very sweet and considerate, and he would be an amazing teacher!

In need of: School fees for 9 grade (starts in September 2019)

$469.36 USD (48,500 Kenyan Shilling)


Class 8 (8th grade)


Erick is highly motivated and hardworking, and he diligently studies his books every day in addition to helping with house chores, such as carrying dishes to the lake to wash them. He is working towards his dreams of becoming a doctor so that he can help treat patients with eye problems. His father earns a living by digging for neighbors’ projects in building and farming. 

In need of: School fees for 9th grade (starts in September 2019)

$469.36 USD (48,500 Kenyan Shilling)



Class 8 (8 grade)


After school, Annah walks home and immediately begins studying, until it is time to help her mother by cleaning the house, scrubbing dishes, and washing laundry in the lake. Driven, hardworking, compassionate, and with a love of science, Annah dreams of becoming a doctor so that she can help people on an even greater scale.

In need of: School fees for 9 grade (starts in September 2019)

$469.36 USD (48,500 Kenyan Shilling)



Class 7 (7th grade)


Esther feels compelled to become a doctor, guided by something in her heart telling her this is how she can help her community. Her favorite subject is mathematics, and she studies in between helping her mother with duties at home. She knows she can accomplish great things because she always listens to advice from teachers and parents and uses this guidance to grow as a person who is enthusiastic, kind, and eager to help.

In need of: School uniform for 8 grade

$8.18 USD   (850 KSH) 



Class 7 (7th grade)


Driven by his love for mathematics, Beckham dreams of becoming an engineer. He studies each day to work towards this dream, in between helping his grandfather with farming. His father passed away, and his mother works as house help in Nairobi (an eleven-hour bus ride away).

 In need of: school uniform for 8 grade

$6.74 USD (700 KSH)



Class 7 (7th grade)


Ernest is driven by a passion for science, and always takes the initiative to be a leader in the classroom. Despite having to walk very far to reach his school, he studies diligently each night and is proud that he always submits his homework on time. While at home, he also has to carry basins of water to his father from the lake. Ernest dreams of becoming an engineer, because he knows this is a good-paying job that will allow him to help his community.

In need of: School uniform for 8 grade

$6.74 (700 KSH)


Form 1 (9th grade)

 Ibrahim is passionate about mathematics, chemistry, and biology, and dreams of becoming a doctor with the mission to “help people get well.” On the rare occasion that he isn’t studying or reading, he loves to sing or play soccer. He works towards success by always asking questions and consulting his teacher when he needs help solving a problem or understanding a concept fully. At home, his responsibilities include caring for the cows and goats, and he does everything he can to help his family. 

In need of: School fees for 10 grade

$469.36 USD (48,750 KSH)



Class 6 (6 grade)

Sharon’s favorite subject is English, which she is proud to understand very well. She dreams of becoming a pilot, motivated in part by the salary which will allow her to help other people. She is hardworking and studies until she fully understands, consulting classmates and teachers if she gets stuck along the way. At home, she is busy with house chores like washing dishes and laundry in the lake, cleaning the house, and caring for her six siblings. To make a living, her mother climbs the mountain atop Mfangano Island to find firewood, which she “sells so we can eat,” as Sharon told me. Motivated by her dream to become a pilot, Sharon studies diligently after finishing all of her chores.

In need of:

“books and revision materials to help me [be able to] work harder” – resources for studying

Varying between $5.78 USD - $8.24 USD (600 – 856 KSH) each


School uniform

$6.74 USD (700 KSH)



Form 3 (11 grade)


Clinton has an impressive awareness of the world, is knowledgeable about a number of subjects, and talented in a variety of fields. He loves physics and is passionate about biology because “it defines how our body and outside environment relate.” As many adults have mentioned, Clinton tells me about how “Kenya lacks engineers”—an issue which inspires him to use his brilliance to become an engineer. He mentions the causeway between Rusinga Island and the mainland, which he tells me was built by Chinese engineers. He wants to be able to bring similarly life-changing innovation to his community, and works towards his goals by studying diligently. “I take my time to go through my books so I can succeed in exams,” he says. At home, he helps his parents by managing the livestock. In between studying and household duties, he is also a talented soccer player. Part of a team that travels throughout the district, he plays soccer to “relax my mind”—and then returns to studying!


In need of:

Mentorship –

an engineering mentor who can “encourage me on my career”


School fees for 12 grade –

$469.36 USD (48,750 KSH) per year




Class 8 (8 grade)


Mathematics comes easily to Modester, and she studies diligently at every opportunity. Always compassionat, she dreams of becoming a nurse “to help others.” In between studying, Modester cooks dinner for all of her siblings and then washes dishes. She often doesn’t have time to begin studying until after it is dark – but her home doesn’t have a light other than a small candle, so doing homework is nearly impossible after sunset, which is around 6:40pm. Because their parents are deceased, she lives with her four other siblings in a small house covered in a tarp for protection from the rain.


In need of:

Light – a solar or battery-powered light

$24.07 USD (2,500 KSH)


School fees for secondary school

$469.36 USD (48,750 KSH)





Class 8 (8 grade)


Alexander loves social science and mathematics, each of which he understands naturally. His stepfather was diagnosed with a supposedly “preventable” disease and passed away abruptly, because there weren’t enough doctors to treat him in time. Alexander says that ever since, he has felt determined “to do my best to become a doctor so I can treat people.”

Alexander believes that he can accomplish his goals because of his “discipline” and respect for both elders and younger people.

At home, he works to “cultivate crops” like bananas, and his family is built around “assisting each other.” Motivated by a desire to help others, Alexander works hard in school and at home. In his words, “I try my best so in the future I can help the nation, and even the world if possible.”


In need of:

School fees for 9 grade (starts in September 2019)

$469.36 USD (48,500 Kenyan Shilling)




Form 2 (10 grade)


Domnick’s favorite subject is Christian Religious Education because understanding of this subject comes most naturally to him. Recognizing that Kenya lacks sufficient medical care, he wants to become a doctor to help his community, because many people suffer from diseases that could be easily treated elsewhere in the world. In between cleaning his home and clearing land for crops, Domnick prioritizes studying and does extra practice exercises to make fully understand schoolwork. When asked if there is anything else he wants, he said: “I would just want someone to encourage my dream.”


In need of:

School fees for 9 grade (starts in September 2019)

$469.36 USD (48,500 Kenyan Shilling)






Class 8 (8 grade)


When asked why her favorite subject is math, Liviah replied: “I just love it.” She carries this passion for education through all of her classes, working hard to accomplish her dream of becoming a doctor. “I want to help people and know how to treat many diseases,” she says. “I want to study hard so I can have a good life and to help other people.” She has been at the top of her class by studying a lot and asking questions of her teachers and parents. After fetching firewood so that her mother can cook, she looks forward to reading each day.


In need of:

School fees for 9 grade

$469.36 USD (48,750 KSH)




Form 2 (10 grade)


When asked what he does to be a successful student, Paul said that he assists his friends and classmates whenever he can—“helping those who maybe don’t have anything,” such as sharing pens with classmates who can’t afford them. Paul intends to become a teacher “to help students get education.” Every day after school, he goes out on fishing boats to bring food home so that his family of four brothers and two sisters can eat. His mother cannot afford the fees for secondary school, so an arrangement was made by which Paul catches anchovies in Lake Victoria, and then his mother dries them on tarps and gives to the school in exchange for his school fees. These fish are usually sold for $0.96 per full plate.

Paul’s favorite class is Christian Religious Education because it inspires and motivates him. “If given the opportunity I will make sure that I work hard and make my life and make my future all to help those in need after I finish school,” he says.


In need of:

School fees for secondary school

$469.36 USD (48,750 KSH)




Class 7 (7 grade)


Warren’s favorite subject is science, since she truly understands most of the concepts. She studies extensively, settling with a book in hand as soon as she finishes bathing in the lake each day. She intends to become a well-rounded lawyer so that she can thoroughly understand Kenyan laws. Warren is sincerely dedicated to her education and studies at every opportunity—but school uniforms and upcoming fees for secondary school might jeopardize her education.


School uniform

$6.74 USD (700 KSH)



*Photographs and information are shared with students’ permission



If you are interested in sponsoring one specific student, please indicate in the Notes section, or email me at hcg256@nyu.edu with the name of the student you choose to sponsor.






After finishing my first year at New York University Abu Dhabi, I traveled to Kenya to stay with the Sagrema family for three weeks. I found Samwel’s family through Workaway, a platform connecting host families with volunteers like me, who work in exchange for room and board. (https://www.workaway.info/339259959222-en.html)

I’ve traveled many places, but something caught my heart in Kenya. I wish I could repair every school building, buy every life-saving medicine, and purify every water source. But as a college student, I can’t do this alone. This showed me that changing the world doesn’t have to mean a million-dollar donation. Just $6.74 can open a door to education, beyond which is a path to the opportunities I often take for granted. This is our chance to help cut down on inequity and make a tangible difference.


There are thousands of charities asking for your money every day, and many are worthy of your generosity.

But with administrative costs and other fees, few charities can say they give 100% of donations directly to recipients.

As a pilot program led entirely by volunteers, we can promise that your donation will go directly to paying school costs, allowing these students to thrive.

PayPal charges a 2.9% fee, but a sponsor has agreed to cover the $116 lost to this fee—so that all $4,728.74 raised will go directly to these students.



Please reach out to me at hcg256@nyu.edu to learn more, share ideas, or find other ways to help.

Thank you for your generosity!

Hannah Greene




About the Sagrema Foundation:

My host father Samwel leads the Sagrema Foundation and the Mfangano Education Fund, which identified these students as those of the greatest need.

The Sagrema Foundation takes a multidisciplinary grassroots approach to supporting the community of Mfangano Island through: education, healthcare, youth and female empowerment, environmental protection, and economic growth through organic farming. These intertwined initiatives can help the low-income community rise out of poverty.


From The Sagrema Foundation:

We donate school fees, uniforms, and books for vulnerable children, build school infrastructure, provide exam subsidies, develop Parent-Teacher Associations, offer sanitary towels and other personal effects for female scholars, and are trying to develop a school feeding program to help low-income families. We help develop accessible community health facilities to expand access to health coverage and help treat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Typhoid, and cancer. 

Women and Youth groups with revolving funds for micro-finance initiatives help establish small businesses, and these investments help members rise out of hunger and extreme poverty. Our environmental initiatives help prevent deforestation, develop sustainable waste-management, and educate the community on sustainability and organic agriculture. For economic empowerment, plans are underway to support groups with revolving funds for micro-finance initiatives for investment in farming tools, irrigation, and fishing gear. Recognizing the interconnected nature of these initiatives, we strengthen our community through a holistic approach to empowerment, yielding verifiable results of great impact.

Read about the Sagrema Foundation here: https://sagremafoundation.wixsite.com/communityempowerment






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