Case Study: Beyond Scholarships

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Palmhouse Foundation Kenya
Founded by Margaret and Eric Kimani

Program Description:

  • Secondary school bursary program for bright and needy children
  • Covers school fees. Parents are expected to provide accessories such as uniforms or books.
  • Includes a mandatory mentoring programme with entire student cohort meeting three times a year and at the close of their secondary school term
  • Palmhouse runs the mentorship programme and undertakes follow-up of individual students.
  • Palmhouse links a select number of their graduating students with scholarship programs for university.
  • Palmhouse beneficiaries are expected to take part in future mentoring sessions once they have graduated.

When Palmhouse Foundation was set up by Margaret and Eric Kimani in the late nineties, their initial quest was to support the cost of school fees for bright, underprivileged children in their community. Within a short period, they realized that though useful, their unstructured giving was more of a panacea. In 2002 they registered Palmhouse Foundation whose primary goal was to put in place a structured scholarship program for academically gifted needy students. One criteria for selection into the program was Form 1 enrolment in a national secondary school in Kenya. National school placement is highly competitive and only the brightest across the country are selected. Additionally, acceptance in a national school is very prestigious and is often viewed as the gateway to a high quality education. The cost, however, is at the top of the range in public education. The 650 USD a year fee was still out of reach for many of the students accepted.

In addition, as Palmhouse supported students came from poor backgrounds, many were daunted by living with peers from more privileged backgrounds. Others were the very first to go to a national school in their extended family and had to deal with familial pressure to succeed “for their community”. The need to provide a conducive support system for the scholarship recipients soon became apparent and Palmhouse began structuring a mentorship facet for the scholarship program. Palmhouse students meet three times a year at the end of each school term and have an opportunity to debrief with each other, learn from the challenges and successes of older students in the cohort, engage with inspiring adults from a range of professions, and finally have a series of one on one sessions with selected mentors.

Today, Eric Kimani defines impact for Palmhouse as graduating students who through their experience, feel compelled to pay it forward by the time they leave the program. Working with each individual child and providing a wholesome experiential support system for that child became central to their giving, and their definition of impact was no longer the number of children Palmhouse financed for school. While they may have started off by focusing on fees support for as many children as possible, through engagement with their students, success became defined as students graduating and understanding their role in building opportunities for other disadvantaged children.

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