Makindu Vocational Program


What a joy it has been collaborating with Makindu Vocational Program in the United States in giving young people in Makindu and its environs a new lease in life! Though the school is just three years old, much has been accomplished, through the support and commitment of the Board of Directors both in Kenya and in the USA. The sponsorship program initiated by the USA Board has been so beneficial, it has seen many aspiring young students get an opportunity to transform their lives, and that of their family members through the vocational training.

The year 2019 was quite special, as we passionately released the pioneer Makindu Advanced Training College graduates into the job market. We were very fortunate to have the founders, Jan and Marty Johnson, who were accompanied by other gracious donors:-Pat Hamilton,  Jim Cooper,  and Beverly Forster, grace the graduation ceremony. All the 2019 graduates have since gotten jobs in various places within the country, and are supporting their families back home.

We as a Board are fortunate to have Tom Mwanzia as the Director of the vocational college. He is so commited and passionate, and has the students’ interests at heart. He carries his duties with professional ethics and compassion, and has been instrumental in linking the students to field practicums, as well as connecting the college with several organizations and individials a result of which many of our students have gotten jobs. The second graduation will be in early April, and the students are already looking forward.
Lastly, COVID has seriously disrupted learning in schools all over the globe.

Thankfully, we have a sufficient hand washing station, where the students frequently wash their hands with soap and water. We as well ensure that they are in masks, and are observing social distancing. This has been greatly boosted by the recent extension of the metal structure, which ensures the students are well spaced within the classrooms. So far, we have not had any active COVID case.

The local community has greatly appreciated and embraced the vocational college. In return, they have been giving donations in kind, i.e assisting with firewood for cooking for the students, giving free labor whenever there is an ongoing project, assisting in cleaning and clearing the college compound, as well as offering financial and material support.

As we look into the future, the Kenyan Board, and generally the Makindu community remain deeply grateful for the support rendered by the MVP and all the other donors in the USA, for the support of this transformational project/college, whose implementation came in the right place and at the right time. Feel very appreciated.
God Bless,

Bishop Ben Mutuku
Chair, MATC Board



My involvement with Makindu Vocational Program (MVP) actually started before Jan and Marty formed MVP. My wife Pat Donahue and I supported Makindu Children's Center for years prior to the formation of MVP. For years we donated goods and money and attended the annual fund raisers for MCC. In 2015 Jan and Marty were inspired to create a vocational college for the youth of Makindu and the environs.So Makindu Advanced Training College was built and funded by MVP. The college opened in January of 2018 and the first graduating class was in November of 2019. Prior to the opening Jan had recruited my wife to the be on the Board of Directors of MVP. With this new position I became the "gofer" for my wife: Could be printing materials, buying supplies at Office Max , or preparing dinner while she attended Board meetings.

As time progressed and my wife's cancer began taking its toll on her energy I would chauffeur her to and from meetings. It was always our intention to make a trip to Makindu and visit MCC and MATC. We were unable to make a trip before my wife's passing. In 2018 we did sponsor a girl for the two year program and she was due to graduate in 2019, the 1st graduating class. I took the opportunity to travel to MATC and attend the graduation.

I met the very dedicated men and women of both MATC and MCC as they both share the same property. I was extremely impressed and moved by my encounters with the adults and children of the community. While attending a Board meeting of MVP and MATC in Kenya Jan asked me if I would become a member of the Board. Mulling it over for 30 seconds I decided I indeed should be on the Board. In a way I will be carrying on Pat,s work and I believe I have something to contribute to this project. In the meantime I have sponsored another girl and am very pleased to do so.

Stating the obvious the school has had a setback due to Covid-19 but things are up and running again with extra precautions in place. 2nd year students returned in Fall of 2020 and new 1st years students returned in January 2021. Just as colleges in the U.S. are not back to what is normal so MATC has changed its academic year to bring students back. I will continue to support MVP and MATC with time and financially support the students . Thanks for reading

God Bless,
Jim (Coop) Cooper

The Trip of a Lifetime!

I first heard about Makindu Vocational Program in Kenya from fellow Unity church members Jan and Marty Johnson, who just happened to be the founders of this program. MVP Makindu provides education to young impoverished women in Kenya. Jan and Marty spoke passionately of their vision and travels to Kenya, Africa, and wonderful safaris on the savannah. I was intrigued and wanted to go!

In November of 2019 I had the excellent opportunity to accompany Jan and Marty, along with 2 other interested travelers, Patty and Jim, to visit MVP Makindu. It just happened to be on the occasion of the very first graduation of the young women that had completed the 2 year program of hair dressing and dress making vocations. It was truly a celebratory time! Students, local sponsors, teachers, MVP director Tom Mwanzia, and many others had prepared for this very special day of graduation and celebration. The students had sewn their own caps and gowns and prepared song and dance to present to all who attended expressing their appreciation. The ceremony, included proud town and country officials, teachers and families, especially thanked Jan and Marty, guests of honor, who were also donned in cap and gown!  The grandmas and guardians prepared special foods for days in advance for the celebratory feast after the graduation ceremony. Excitement and gratitude swelled in hearts and filled the air and brought tears to the eyes of all who were present.

During the time of preparation, we guests toured the school and grounds, visiting with the students in their classrooms, and observed the new construction of the dormitory and an additional classroom, which since during this past year, 2020, has been expanded again to accommodate even more students. The last day of our visit we all attended a combined board meeting of visiting board members, African dignitaries and Tom Mwanzia, the director of MVP. Tom is a very compassionate, caring, educated, kind being, in charge of the daily activities of the school. We admired his passion and commitment to the students and the smooth operation of the school.

As a retired nurse one of the things I looked for was sanitation in the classrooms and the handwashing stations near the bathrooms. At the time we were there, there were some plumbing issues that have since been corrected. Especially important, new handwashing facilities were installed in appropriate locations which today fulfil the requirements for safety during the Covid pandemic.

Considering the school has been open for only 3 years, so much has been done to improve the lives of the young people that are fortunate to attend. Many are only able to attend because of generous sponsors and much needed donations for equipment and new construction.

Not only have the number of students increased, but correspondingly, the size of classrooms and dormitory to accommodate them has increased providing for safe learning during a time of pandemic.

Appreciation and pride are evident as these students go forth with a vocation that vastly improves their station in life in Africa.

I was so moved by this experience and the passion of all involved, I decided to commit to becoming a board member when invited by Jan and Marty.  I am happy to be a board member of this very fine endeavor!

Beverly Forster


Educators’ Reflections

What a miracle the Vocational Program is only in its first year!  We began our visit to Makindu Vocational Program by attending a Board Meeting.  The Kenyan Board sounded and conducted business like all the boards we have sat on or consulted with in America.  They even used some of the same vocabulary like “stakeholders.”  The discussions were thoughtful, respectful and focused on the school business.

Tom Mwanzi, the school’s director, impressed us with his knowledge of all the various moving parts of the school as well as his work ethic.  We watched the continuous traffic flow in and out of his office as he consulted with individual children, staff members and all of us.  With his big smile and gracious demeanor, he appeared to have a knowledgeable, professional and efficient handle on every aspect of the program. 

Our favorite part of the visit was the time we were able to spend in the classrooms with the students and teachers.  Dorcus and Jacinta made us feel welcome and folded us into their classroom routines.  (You’ve probably seen the pictures of the work the students in the Hairdressing and Beauty program did on Maggie and Lee Ann.)  The students in the Dressmaking program helped Maggie and Lee Ann review our skills with the treadle sewing machine.   Their mastery of the quirks of these “old technologies” is truly impressive!  We both had significant trouble making the machines work.  The garments they were able to construct are remarkable, given the limited technology available to them.

Marty and Bruce worked with the construction crew to build two picnic tables so that the students will have a place to sit while eating.  The Kenyan way of building involves a lot of hand tools and there is no running down to Home Depot for something.  For example, at one point we needed a few longer screws, but Stephen, the construction leader, had only the precise number of screws called for in the plans and we waited for the half-dozen new screws to be delivered by a “bota bota” motorcycle messenger.  Nevertheless, the result was two large, strong, long-lasting cypress tables.  Marty and Bruce also had conversations with Joseph Minza, the vocational program cook and grounds supervisor.  Joseph is a part of the Mikindu community that supports the students in all aspects of their education and lives.  He knows the students well and offers caring but firm mentoring.  As Joseph noted, “a hungry man cannot plan ahead.”    

On Saturday we were able to interact with the larger Makindu Programs community.  We were overwhelmed and touched by the way that the Vocational Program students folded themsleves into the larger community.  The Vocational students came in during their day off, not only for the meals, but as a functioning part of the whole.  They helped in the kitchen and ran errands.  They also gave Maggie extensive lessons and “testing” in Swahili. It is clear the younger children look up to them as role models.

It was obvious to us that we were having the privilege of seeing a real community working together to support children and young adults as they strive to overcome poverty and all the accompanying factors that make rising out of poverty difficult.  As we moved through the town of Makindu and other parts of Kenya, time and time again we were humbled by the changes that occurred in our interactions with Kenyans when they learned we were supporting the Makindu Vocational Program.  Time and time again we were embraced with enthusiasm and gratitude for our small part in supporting the Vocational Program. It was clear to us how much of a difference every dollar contributed has made on the quality and success of the program.

Thank you!

Maggie Chase
Bruce Robbins
Lee Ann Tysseling

All three authors have been teachers their entire working lives. They are now retired professors from Boise State University. Maggie and Lee Ann were in the Dept. of Literacy, Language and Culture. Bruce was in the English Dept. of the College of Arts and Sciences.






Makindu Vocational Program is a charitable non-profit organization (503C Tax ID #81-5189538) that is the U.S. based funding source for the building and operations of the Makindu Advanced Training College for adolescent girls and boys in Eastern Kenya.