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In 2002, Len Morris and U. Roberto (Robin) Romano were shooting in Kenya for the film that would become Stolen Childhoods. Peter Munene, of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN, a bit of a mouthful even as an acronym), brought them to a coffee plantation, where he said they would find children laboring to pick the coffee beans. Robin Romano was shooting with a hidden camera, as people are not generally eager to have child laborers filmed.

Coffee bushes grow high, and they have very sharp spines. Len and Robin had been shooting for a little while. There were children all over the plantation, climbing, picking, infants napping on the ground. Len noticed a young girl with a very ugly wound on her ankle, a stab from a thorn that had become badly infected. He stopped the shoot. Robin, a lifelong hypochondriac, was traveling with a very impressive first aid kit, and he bound up Sylvie Ngendo's wound.

Next day, Len and Robin returned to the village to check Sylvie's wound. A crowd gathered round, many with wounds and other medical issues. A crew of filmmakers with a first aid kit was the closest thing to a health clinic they had. At the end of that day, they agreed to let Len and Robin come back and film the coffee picking, properly this time. And the crew thought "How expensive could it be to send all of the village children to school?"
With the help of Peter Munene and ANPPCAN, 28 children were enrolled in primary school. The Kenyan Schoolhouse was born. Over a thousand children have passed through the program, and several are now at university.

 

A profile of six students supported by the Kenyan Schoolhouse program (kenyanschoolhouse.org) at the Kimana Secondary School, a provincial high school located near Mount Kilimanjaro in southeastern Kenya. 70% of the students come from the Masai tribe.

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