Keela Grimmette, founder and executive director of Reason 2 Smile, with Reagan, a student who lives at Jambo Jipya Children's Home and attends Jambo Jipya School in Mtwapa, Kenya.
continued Grimmette started Reason 2 Smile in 2007, shortly after volunteering at Jambo Jipya school in Mtwapa, a fishing village located in Kenya, Africa.
Like Pepe, the experience left her with memories that inspired her to take action.
“She (Pepe) has a real personal connection to that country,” Grimmette said. “She said she was very excited to soak things up, which was interesting for me to hear—for a kid that young to have experiences like that.”
In Kenya there are free public schools, but children must have a school uniform and books to attend, requirements many families simply cannot afford.
A Kenyan woman named Christine Mwende began helping local families send their children to school, but soon realized that she could help a lot more people by opening her own school.
In 2004, Jambo Jipya was created. The school provides everything for the kids—school uniform, shoes, supplies, two meals a day and health care.
Grimmette taught first graders there for 10 weeks in 2007, and realized that the school would have to close if it didn’t start receiving some funding.
“The biggest thing was, I developed a really close relationship with the kids in a very short period of time,” Grimmette said.
One of those relationships was with a little boy who lived in a mud hut with his brother and grandmother, who made money producing and selling an illegal alcoholic drink to locals.
Grimmette would visit the family on the weekends, and never forgot what she saw there.
The hut had a mud floor and its roof was made of coconut branches and leaves. There was broken glass everywhere.
“If I could know it was just this family living like this, maybe I could wrap my head around it and move on,” Grimmette said. “But I know it’s not. As I’m driving I’m seeing more mud huts and little kids with hardly any clothes in, walking in bare feet, and I know this is happening to hundreds and thousands of kids.”