AFG Fall 2018 Update


In early September, AFG board members Javade Chaudhri and Stuart Kerr visited Gatoto. Javade (seen above) offers these thoughts about their visit.

Stuart and I visited Gatoto recently, and the experience was moving.

I was born and raised in Nairobi, not far from where Gatoto now stands. The city has grown and changed substantially in the decades since I attended local schools. In particular, the number of people living in Nairobi’s slums has exploded; today, the 2.5 million slum dwellers in Nairobi represent 60% of its population.

The Kenyan national government officially classifies its slums as “informal settlements” and as a matter of policy, generally does not provide schools in them. Slum-dwelling children have few opportunities to go to school, and that is certainly the case in the Mukuru kwa Reuben slum in which Gatoto is located. It provides education and other benefits to 1,100 children that the national education simply does not deliver. Although Gatoto’s resources are very limited, the results it produces are impressive.

The classes we sat in on were so different from schools in other parts of the world. There were few charts, maps, or teaching aids, let alone audiovisual or computer equipment. A number of children shared a single textbook. Their thirst for education is inspiring, and Gatoto successfully satisfies that thirst. Most students learn to speak, read, and write English; many graduates go on to attend high school and some on to attend university.

For these children, living in slums without any sanitation, utilities or other necessities of life, Gatoto is a veritable oasis. The campus is the safest place students will routinely be; the simple but hot and nourishing breakfasts and lunches provided are often the only food they receive. Their Gatoto education may be the difference between continuing abject poverty and a decent life.

As an AFG board member it was humbling to see what our limited support to Gatoto helps to provide for these children in one of Nairobi’s most difficult slums. Remembering the enthusiastic, joyful faces of the children we encountered, I just wished that we could multiply our efforts a hundredfold. Perhaps with your help we will.


American Friends of Gatoto is excited to learn that Gatoto alum Josephine Mbaisi has secured an internship with the mobile phone company Digicel in Jamaica, where she is currently working. You may recognize Josephine from her interview, previously featured in a newsletter and still on the AFG website. (

Josephine’s story is truly exceptional. Raised in the Mukuru kwa Reuben by her widowed, tirelessly devoted mother, she was able to attend Gatoto because of the financial and personal support she received from the school. A standout, she received further support to attend high school and eventually the University of Nairobi, where she graduated with degrees in sociology and political science.

After graduation, she returned to Mukuru and mentored young girls, including three Gatoto students, while working with Empowerment of Youth, an organization devoted to teaching uneducated youth to make and distribute bead and art work. Along the way, she came to the attention of one of Gatoto’s most generous and loyal supporters, who helped her secure her current position of Human Resource intern.

Josephine gratefully credits Gatoto, where she excelled, with launching her life. In a recent email, she offered her appreciation. “Thanks to all of you at American Friends of Gatoto for sharing in my joy, it is indeed overwhelming.”


AFG is happy to announce that we are moving forward with the renovation of Gatoto’s toilet complex, which serves sixth, seventh, and eighth graders and functions only intermittently. This project follows AFG’s substantial funding of a drainage improvement project, and will be followed in the next year or two by a project to demolish and replace the campus’s last rusty metal classroom structures with larger masonry buildings.

Thorough research at the complex was directed by Jack O’Regan, AFG’s very effective and generous construction consultant—Jack is a manager of large construction projects in Nairobi–and included substantial excavation around the site. Working with Gatoto’s engineer, architect, and quantity surveyor, he determined that the layout of drainage pipes installed in a 2012 expansion was incorrectly designed and will never allow for proper functioning on a regular basis.

The team designed a solution and refined a cost estimate, which is currently about $30,000. The information package has been offered to four known local construction firms, which are bidding on the project. The contractor will be selected shortly, and construction will proceed immediately. The toilet complex will be ready and fully functional when the first term of Gatoto’s 2019 school year begins in January.


American Friends is seeking donations to support this sanitation project.

The importance of proper sanitation capacity at an educational institution in the developing world cannot be stressed too much. In the disease-ridden Mukuru slum in, many of the health benefits for the school’s community are obvious. Perhaps the greatest benefit, though, may be less apparent. Having proper toilets in a school serving adolescents is of crucial value to girls.

In Mukuru and most of the developing world, girls who age into adolescence come under unrelenting pressure to quit school in order to help around their homes, go to work to earn income, and/or marry. Only the most determined families and young women can successfully resist these pressures. Not having separate toilets for girls and boys has been consistently shown to be an added barrier that countless adolescent girls do not overcome. Having private bathrooms for girls, on the other hand, dramatically increases retention of those students.

The AFG-funded toilet complex renovation will create these more favorable conditions for girls. When completed, the toilet complex will consist of 32 easy to maintain toilets, divided equally between girls and boys, with entrances to their respective toilets on opposite sides of the building, each toilet being housed in a dedicated stall with a door that closes and provides privacy.

If you would like to make a donation to support this project, please click below, or send your check, as shown below, noting, “Restricted for Sanitation 2018 project.”

If instead you would like to donate in support of Gatoto’s regular on-going operations, click below. As always, AFG is seeking funds to help us fulfill our regular annual pledge to provide a minimum of $115,000 to help fund Gatoto’s regular operations and morning porridge program.

Or send checks to:

4320 Tuckerman Street
University Park, MD 20782-2145

AFG is a 100% volunteer, not for profit 501(c)3 corporation. AFG’s limited direct costs are paid by restricted board member donations. 100% of all other donations to American Friends of Gatoto are forwarded to Gatoto. Receipts are sent to all donors for their tax filing purposes.

Amazon Smile:

American Friends of Gatoto is now on AmazonSmile. Please consider shopping on and choosing American Friends of Gatoto as your charity.

You can do so by signing into your account, selecting “YOUR AMAZON SMILE “ in the “ACCOUNT” drop down. Type in American Friends of Gatoto and click SELECT.