Saturday late afternoon I wandered down to the clinic and ran into Mama Lynda, Amy, Peter and Gorret in the street—they were just leaving the clinic and Gorret wanted to take the group to Dorcas Vocational School. I thought we had already been there, on the farm, but I learned that that had been the boys’ extension, and the girls’ was up the hill. We could see it from the main road, a blue roofed building topping one of the many slopes of Kyenjojo.
We walked up the long hill and spoke to Gorret on the way. Patrick, the Dorcas director, greeted us when we arrived and led us through the property and told us of its inception.
Men and women in this community are continually dying of AIDS and other diseases, leaving their children orphaned or to live with willing relatives. For girls, it’s generally thought that their worth is confined to childbearing and house care. So, as Patrick explained, relatives of these parentless young girls, even as young as 12, push immediate marriage as their only option.
In 2004 Faith Kunihira created the Dorcas Vocational School to give adolescents an opportunity to learn and develop marketable skills, including sewing/tailoring, cooking, carpentry, agriculture, crafts, hairdressing and beauty care.
“Some come here completely hopeless,” Patrick said. “But Faith has helped many.”
The girls’ school lies on 10 acres. The main building is composed of one large classroom, a workroom, bathrooms, showers, the matron’s room and 5 dormitory rooms that house a total of 50 students aged 14 to 20. Outside the main building hosts the kitchen and storeroom for extra supplies and equipment.
The girls work with manual sewing machines, and begin learning to sew by hand using paper—the school cannot afford large amounts of fabric.
Patrick says that the girls at Dorcas are also interested in learning about computers, but such training is far outside the institution’s current budget and abilities. They do, however, plan to expand the school to accommodate more students, and are currently trying to raise funding to launch the expansion.
Dorcas has hosted three graduations thus far, and every graduate receives a sewing machine to begin their career. Patrick illustrated how Faith has helped strengthen this community by providing these orphaned and vulnerable girls an avenue for personal and professional growth by learning skills and developing a career. In fact, many of the women who work at the Kaihura village marketplace were trained at Dorcas.
“Oh we ain’t got a barrel of money,
Maybe we’re ragged and funny;
But we’ll travel along, singin’ a song,
Side by side.
Don't know what's comin' tomorrow,
Maybe it's trouble and sorrow;
But we'll travel the road, sharin' our load,
Side by Side.”