NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Dr. Flora Farago, assistant professor in Stephen F. Austin State University’s human development and family studies program, spent three weeks in Kenya working on various nonprofit projects during the summer.
While abroad, Farago worked with colleagues from Arizona State University, Drs. Beth Blue Swadener and Amy Papacek, to establish a U.S. branch of The Girl Child Network, an organization advocating for the education and rights of women and girls in East Africa. The U.S. branch of GCN will be named “Friends of the Girl Child Network,” and it will be primarily a fundraising branch supporting GCN’s efforts of empowering girls in Kenya to lead and learn.
Additionally, Farago met with GCN leaders and early childhood scholars in Kenya to lay the groundwork for an international research collaboration, Children’s Views and Voices. This collaboration will focus on children’s views of their educational experiences, their roles in their families and communities, and their vision for their future.
“The trip reiterated the importance of taking cultural context into account when discussing, teaching and studying child development,” Farago said. “I teach several child development courses at SFA and will be integrating my Kenyan experiences and lessons learned into the courses.”
Farago also volunteered with the Jirani Project, a grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated to the education and support of vulnerable Kenyan children. The Jirani Project, co-founded by Swadener, provides homeless and orphaned children in Kenya the support needed for shelter, food, school tuition, clothing and basic medical care, according to jiraniproject.org.
“We collected donations of children's clothing, books and other items and delivered these to the Jirani Project children,” Farago said. “Several colleagues and friends from SFA contributed. We also helped organize and sort books in the Jirani children's and community library in Western Kenya in Kipkaren River, where the Jirani Project headquarters is located.”
Farago visited additional nonprofit organizations such as a women's co-op/mothers' self-help group and the BRIDGES program, which helps girls who have dropped out of school to obtain their secondary school diplomas. She also visited the Kangemi Primary School and volunteered in its special needs unit meeting with teachers and administrators to assess the school’s needs.