AFG November 2019 Update


A total of five Gatoto fundraising events took place in the US in October. Three American Friends of Gatoto receptions were hosted on the East Coast–in Washington, New York, and Boston. A fourth reception and a brunch were organized in the San Francisco Bay area. Together, they comprised the most successful US fundraising campaign yet for Gatoto, very much enhancing Gatoto’s future financial prospects.

In addition to AFG board members, Gatoto head Betty Nyagoha was able to attend all five events. Gatoto alum Josphine Mbaisi, who currently lives in Kingston, Jamaica, was able to participate in the three East Coast gatherings.

Josphine’s presence and her story brought home the importance of the work American Friends is doing in support of Gatoto. She described being raised by a single mother, who cooked and did odd jobs to support Josphine and her brother. Her family’s first interest in the school came from the hot meals. Only later, Josphine told us with a smile, did she discover the importance of what was happening in the classroom.  She came for the food, but stayed for the education.

Josphine earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nairobi. She is now pursuing a Master’s in Business Management at the University of the West Indies, while also employed as a management trainee at Digicel, the largest mobile phone company in the Caribbean.

Front row, left to right. Aisling, Betty, and Gatoto alum Josphine Mbaisi. Back row. Conor Queenan.


There were numerous high points during the five days of events on the East and West Coasts. The unexpected reunion of Betty and Aisling Falconer, who had been a volunteer assistant teacher at Gatoto through the Irish program Suas, was exceptional.

During the discussion following Betty and Josphine’s presentations, Aisling spoke with great warmth and affection about the Gatoto community and its vitality and its importance to its students and families and in the broader community, often referring to Gatoto’s dynamic head as “Madame Betty.”

Most movingly, she declared that her experience at Gatoto had literally changed her life, and it did. After finishing university (she is a Law Graduate of Trinity College Dublin), she went to work for UNICEF in education in emergencies, most recently in Afghanistan. Some of her thoughts about Gatoto follow.

What about it was so powerful that it so dramatically changed your life?

Working at Gatoto as a teaching assistant in 2004, I was inspired by seeing the transformative difference that education and learning was making for girls and boys living in the most difficult situations by restoring a sense of normalcy in their lives, offering hope and building up their life skills and resilience. I learned the importance of looking at the holistic needs of children, an approach Gatoto was striving for back then and continues to emphasize now. Gatoto makes sure its students have access to clean water and healthy food, and the school provides separate toilets for all boys and girls. Madame Betty and her teaching staff, who recognize that these items are as critical to their students’ education as the work in the classroom, also identify vulnerable children who need extra support. These initiatives remain a focus of the school’s fundraising and budget; there are many children who continue to need support and more who wish to be included.

Also, Gatoto involves the community in its decision-making, and its teachers come from the community. It’s obvious how much everyone loves and relies on this school. One cannot help but be changed by even one visit to the place.

And what career have you had since then?

My experience at Gatoto led me to spend more than 11 years in the education field, specifically at UNICEF in the area of education in emergencies. I have been lucky enough to work to support the rebuilding of fragile education systems in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, Ethiopia and Azerbaijan.


Construction of the new classrooms will begin very shortly. Below is a rendering of the new buildings being constructed. In Phase One, temporary classrooms are being built across campus as old structures are demolished, and the building on the left (below) will be put up. In Phase Two, which will begin when additional funds are raised, the building on the right will be constructed.

In Phase One, the building on the left (above) is being constructed.
The 20 year-old “temporary” classrooms that are being replaced.


In case you missed it, AFG’s latest video offers compelling insights into Gatoto and Mukuru, the neighborhood surrounding it.


We’re happy to report that over its almost five years of operation, American Friends of Gatoto has raised more than $1,000,000 in support of the school (as of the end of the third quarter, 2019). As described below, American Friends’ funding of Gatoto has increased in dollars and diversity over the years and includes support of the general operating budget, two hot meals daily, post-Gatoto scholarships, and infrastructure improvement projects. We approach the end of 2019, with optimism that we can do even more for this unique and enduring institution.

Thank you for your help in making this happen.


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.