From trouble with algebra and the typical pressures of high school, to financial and family issues, there aren’t many struggles that face the students of the Kibera Penda Project that Samson Mugendi, the 28-year-old Director of the Penda Project, can’t relate to. The oldest of five children, Samson, was born, raised, educated and still lives in Kibera so he knows all too well what challenges these students face on a day-to-day basis. I recently had a chance to sit down with Samson in Kibera and talk more about his life and his role with the Penda Project. TJ: What is your role as the Penda Project Director?

Samson: One of my main roles is to check on the 77 students that are currently sponsored. What I mean by that is I make sure they attend all of their classes and beyond always attending I make sure they are doing well within those classes both academically and in terms of discipline. Secondly, when they are done with exams at the end of each term, I collect all of their grades and send updates back to Kyle & Kelsey Baird and the sponsors in the United States. My other main job is to serve as the Student Pastor and teach them the word of God.This mainly takes place on Sundays when they attend the youth service at Kibera Bible Baptist Church.

TJ: One of the core aspects to the Penda Project is accountability, how do you try to provide this for the students?

Samson: As I said before this is one of the main responsibilities I have and the students need someone to consistently check on them. This is one of the reasons I am employed full time so that I can be there at any point the students may need me. In addition to attending class, all Penda students must attend study hall after school and this one of the times that I can check in and make sure all is going well with them.

TJ: What are some of the biggest challenges the Penda students are facing?

Samson: One of the biggest challenges is the environment they come from and are currently still living in. In Kibera, a lot of students drop out because they can’t pay school fees after primary school or they don’t qualify to attend. The Penda students are blessed to have their school fees covered but not all of them have qualified to attend boarding school which means they travel to and from Kibera each day to attend classes. When they go home, many people their age have already dropped out and the opportunity to get involved in bad activities like drugs are prevalent. Our boarding students are away for most of the year but still come home between breaks in terms and face these same situations. Also pregnancy is another huge challenge they face - especially the girls who are in day school and in some cases the pregnancy is against their will.

But no matter what challenges they have we always tell them that we want to have students who are committed to working hard and overcoming any hardships.

TJ: What has being the Penda Project Director meant to you?

Samson: It has changed my life. I never imagined I would be where I am now and I believe that God is using me to do great things in Kibera. The Samson I used to know four years ago is so different now because God is working in my life. My prayer is that God will continue to use me to reach many people in Kibera — from the Penda students to my neighbors and my fellow youths.

TJ: What are your goals for the future?

Samson: Right now I am working on my theological degree at Tena Bible Baptist School. I have finished my first year and I have two years left. Once I am finished I want to continue to serve the Lord in Kibera working with New Hope Initiative and using all that God has given me through my time as the Penda Project Director to continue to serve the youth of Kibera. I want to do all I can to make sure they achieve something with their education and most importantly serve God in whatever job they have.

By T.J. Walter - New Hope Initiative Board Member