"Moving Forward with Vision"
Kamba language of Kenya.
In 2006, during the height of the HIV epidemic in Africa, the world was shocked to learn of millions of orphans left behind by disease, drought and famine on the continent. Large charities and organizations went into high gear and many individuals, including Tonembee founder and filmmaker, Nikila Cole, gave generously to help those in need.
Nikila was interested, as well, in finding a more personal, one-on-one way to be of use. She learned through a friend that dozens of orphans in one small mud-hut village were being forced to leave school because they lacked funding, Not only were these kids from a small rural village with no running water or electricity being sent back to their farms, they also had to take over the care and provisions for their younger brothers and sisters. Essentially they were orphans taking care of orphans and sometimes grandparents and other family members stepped in. At that time, not one girl had ever been allowed to attend high school.
Through friends, Nikila began to directly support the first female student in the village to attend high school. Wanza had been orphaned at age 10, and even though she had high qualifying grades, she didn't have the resources to attend the regional high school.
Melissa, sponsor, Toronto
Agnes and Nicholas, Kenya
Nikila with Villagers
Duraid, photographer, teaching villagers
Sonia, Sponsor, Toronto
Chantale, Editor/Sponsor Toronto
Four years later, Wanza became the first female high school graduate. When Nikila went to Kenya to celebrate this major achievement with the villagers, she was introduced to dozens of other teens who were desperate to attend high school. She also witnessed first hand how the 30 solar cookers she had brought to the village as a gift, were of incredible use to them as they were suffering the worst famine, drought, and deforestation in recorded history.
Upon returning to Canada, Nikila joined forces with Melissa Warry-Smith and other film industry friends to form a registered charitable organization to help the village. After two gruelling years of legalese aided by the wonderful lawyer Andra Chow, Tonembee Association was born. One of the villagers, Nicholas Kithembe is a Tonembee Board Director and his wife, Agnes Wambua is a Board Member. Other friends and family members began coming on board to sponsor students one-on-one and, to date, Tonembee sponsors have supported 30 high school and six university students.
With Tonembee's support, Wanza became the first villager to attend and graduate from university and is now working as an Environmental Scientist in Kenya. Through additional contributions and partnerships with Solar Cookers International, Green4Good Recycling, and Ryerson University, Tonembee has provided solar cookers to 900 village families.
Even though communication with this remote village can be challenging, Nicholas and Agnes are in touch regularly through the wonders of modern technology. We do a lot of listening and working together to further empower this industrious village who are lifting themselves to a higher level each and every day.