The History of Our Work
2006– Global Interfaith Partnership (GIP) is founded.
“Fear not. Your good intentions and your desire to learn will lead you to where you need to go.” – Kenyan attendee during initial exploratory meeting.
Initial exploratory group from Indiana and Kenyan faith leaders determine the principles that became the basis for the creation of the project:
- Start small
- Build trust
- Develop relationships
- Offer relationship first, then money
- Remember that children can break down barriers created by adults
- Understand the different layers of leadership in a faith-based organization
- Remember that people in the pew can effect change in leadership
- Work with people rooted in the community who aren’t going to move with a job change
- Ellen Daniels-Howell selected as GIP Executive Director, and Joseph Okuya is hired as the Umoja Project Coordinator.
- First organizational meeting for Indianapolis congregational leaders at North United Methodist Church.
2007 – Umoja Project begins work April 1, 2007
- The Umoja Project partners with 10 primary schools in Chulaimbo to provide uniforms to 170 primary students and pay tuition for seven secondary school students.
- Group of Guardians organized to support Umoja children who lost one or both parents.
- Ten Indianapolis congregations commit to partnership and pool funds to begin service in Chulaimbo; they are joined in supporting the project by a coalition of Kenyan congregations.
2008 – School lunch program begins
- After learning that hunger was a major issue affecting school attendance and performance, Umoja Project initiated a school lunch program in 10 primary schools.
- Barack Juma becomes the first Umoja student to finish secondary school.
- Leonard Otieno Otiende is hired as a Project Officer.
- Barack Juma is hired for one year to serve as the project’s first Administrative Assistant.
- The first field interns from Duke Divinity School serve in Kenya for 2 months.
- The first youth group from Indianapolis, associated with North United Methodist Church, travel to Chulaimbo to visit the project.
- Fundraiser event with carnival activities, known as “Kenya Carnival,” is held for the first time in Indianapolis to raise funds for secondary school tuition.
- Linda Olasya is hired as Umoja Project Deputy Coordinator.
- Women in Chulaimbo and Indianapolis form the “Global Interfaith Sisters” group and have regular video conference conversations to talk about girls’ issues.
- The project expands to partner with 15 primary schools.
- The first sustainable agriculture training’s are held for Guardians in Kenya, to assist the group in bolstering their own families’ personal food security.
- A team of Kenyan and American women (“Global Interfaith Sisters”) who support the project hold the first retreat for girls and collect data.
- GIS create the concept and develop the curriculum for a new empowerment program for girls who are Umoja students.
- The first Umoja student alumni group, Umoja Corp, is formed by high school graduates receiving college stipends after one year of volunteer service to the Project; this begins a trend of alumni support for Umoja programs.
- First long-term volunteer of the Project, living in Chulaimbo for 15 months. Her project focus included launching girls empowerment program (GET UP).
- Four Umoja students score well enough on the national exam to be given direct admittance to university with government support.
- The first interfaith youth group travels from the U.S. to visit the project.
2012 –Girls Empowerment Team of the Umoja Project (GET UP) is launched
- GET UP holds first regular programs for primary and secondary girls, aimed at reducing high dropout rates, teen pregnancy rate and lagging academic performance of young girls.
- The project expands to partner with 18 primary schools for the food security program.
- The first interfaith congregational leadership group travels from the U.S. to visit the project.
- Three students receive the highest possible grade of “A” on the national exam – one leading indicator of Umoja students’ improved academic performance.
- The first university scholarships are provided by Umoja to our highest-performing students.
- Local and professional women in Kenya are trained to be GET UP mentors.
- Former students found the Umoja Project Alumni Association to support one another through challenges of college and university and to assist younger students.
- Two additional Indianapolis congregations become partners to the project.
- The first four-day Senior GET UP retreat is held for secondary and post-secondary girls.
- For the first time, six of our female students score well enough on the national exam to be given direct admittance to university.
- Four additional Indianapolis congregations become partners to the project.
- A group of young women alumni form “Pamoja Ladies of the Umoja Project” to support younger girls.
- Winnie Amollo becomes the first Umoja student to graduate from university, with a degree in Business Marketing.
- The first “Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner” event is held in Indianapolis to celebrate the project’s work and raise funds for the school lunch program in the upcoming year.
- Founding Executive Director, Ellen Daniels-Howell passes away in May.
- Denise Soltis is then appointed in August as the new Executive Director .
2018 –Boys Empowerment Team (BET UP) is launched
- Leonard Otieno Otiende is promoted to become Project Director in Kenya.
- Jerry Owaka joins Kenyan team as a Project Officer.
- Ellen Daniels-Howell is honored at first annual Umoja Day by the Chulaimbo community with tree planting at each Umoja school.
- Boys Empowerment Team (BET UP) is launched, serving our young men with programming to help them develop positive interpersonal skills as they are mentored by community volunteers. BET UP was developed using the GET UP program as a template and then tailored to the needs of our male students.
2019 – Umoja Partnership
- Global Interfaith Partnership name changed to Umoja Partnership, reflecting our focus on Kenyan activities.
- The Project expands to partner with 19 primary schools for the food security program.
- Number of secondary school sponsored students rises to 135.
2020 – COVID-19 Pandemic
- Number of secondary school students sponsored rises to 159.
- Emergency food support distributed to Umoja students and their families during the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
2021 – Scaling and Planning for the Future
- The project expands to partner with 20 primary schools for the food security program.
- Everlyne Adhiambo Ongete joins the staff in Kenya to support the important work in the project.
- Strategic planning begins with an emphasis to go deeper and wider.