Toward the end of July, students in Kenya learned that there will be no school until next January. The news came as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 exceeded 10,000, ranking Kenya as the country with the second highest number of confirmed cases in eastern African nations, and the eighth highest in all of Africa.
In recent weeks the numbers have continued to rise. At this writing there have been 23,873 coronavirus cases. Of those cases, 8,740 people have recovered and 391 people have died. Kenya no longer holds the dubious distinction of ranking number two in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in eastern Africa, but the fallout hasn’t changed. Adults are out of work, teenage pregnancy and crime are on the rise, and hunger is an ever present challenge.
A recent conversation with William Aludo, EC’s Kenyan Program Coordinator, revealed that while students are disappointed that school has been cancelled for the remainder of 2020, many are also relieved that they will be less likely to be exposed to the coronavirus. However, students are also wondering how they can continue practicing and studying in order to prepare for the next school year. The Kenyan government has made online YouTube lessons available throughout the country, but there is a tremendous disparity between those with and those without access to radio, television, internet and computers.
Another pressing issue resulting from the decision to close schools is the absence of feeding programs for orphaned and vulnerable students. To date the Kenyan government has not responded with a nationwide answer to this dilemma. This issue affects tens of thousands of children from pre-primary through high school.
When the news broke that there would be no school for the remainder of 2020, EC’s Board of Directors responded quickly and compassionately. They made a commitment to ensure that the 600 students we support have what they need to survive while they are out of school. To that end, EC plans to continue with monthly food distributions in all of the locations where these students live and go to school. Our students are receiving bags of beans, maize, rice, wheat and porridge flour, as well as jugs of cooking oil. Young women are also receiving supplies of sanitary items that are otherwise unavailable.
This response is not something we anticipated when we created our annual budget, but I am grateful to report that our supporters have continued to give, allowing us to help these students and their families during this time. Your support is also welcome. Please click here to partner with us in our efforts to provide orphaned and vulnerable children with a monthly supply of food. Your gift will make an immediate difference for these children and their families.
EC’s 10th Year
In closing, this August marks the tenth year of the existence of Everyone’s Child as a 501(c) (3) organization. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of good will, prayers and financial contributions from our many supporters over the past decade. As we begin moving into our 11th year of operating as a non-profit, our Board of Directors and I want to extend heartfelt thanks to all who have helped to feed, educate and encourage hundreds of children who otherwise would have been left behind.
It has been said that a long journey begins with one step. We know that we could not have come this far without your help. Our gratitude is unending.
Last month, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and a global cry for justice, students sponsored by Everyone’s Child were also facing a challenging time. After schools closed in mid-March, they waited anxiously for almost four months to find out when they could safely return. Last week they learned that the government won’t be opening schools until September. The number of coronavirus cases in Kenya has grown from just seven in mid-March to just under 5,000 at the end of June 2020. Students and their families are now being told that the decision to re-open schools is tentative and will be based on the countrywide status of COVID-19.
School schedules in Kenya are based on an agrarian calendar, with month-long breaks occurring every three months to allow for the tilling, planting and harvesting of crops. But due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the expected month-long break in April turned into three months, and by the time schools re-open it will have been almost half a year since students will have been in a classroom with each other. The Kenyan government has organized lessons on television and via the internet, but in a country where 73% of the population live in rural settings, access to television or internet is not always possible.
The other challenge these students face is that of having enough food to survive during a time when many markets have closed and breadwinners are out of work. All students are guaranteed at least one meal a day while they are in school, but with school closures, that daily meal is no longer available. Also, in recent months the country has seen its worst locust infestation in 70 years. To make matters worse, lockdown restrictions have prevented farmers from protecting their crops from these voracious eaters. Gone unchecked, the locusts will cause catastrophic food shortages throughout the region for months to come.
A Different Kind of Injustice
Life often isn’t fair to the orphans we serve. These children suffer from a different kind of injustice – also resulting from prejudice and ignorance. Rather than being judged for the color of their skin, theirs is the injustice of suddenly being placed at the bottom of a totem pole because one or both of their parents died from HIV/AIDS. This stigmatizes and marginalizes them, and often causes them to become outcasts within their own family. Pity is replaced by silent suspicion, reminding them that the disease that took their parents could also infect them and those who have taken them in.
Not long after schools closed in March, knowing that we were in a challenging time, EC’s Board of Directors decided to direct funds toward providing EC sponsored students with enough food to survive during this pandemic. As a result, during April and May, EC staff and volunteers held two food distributions for over 600 orphaned and vulnerable children in Kenya. To a certain extent, this effort seemed like a drop in the bucket. But to each child who received a bag of food, it meant so much more. It meant that they would eat without having to worry about where the next meal would come from. And perhaps even more importantly, it meant that they would be able to contribute to the family that had taken them in after losing their parents.
They Belong to All of Us
Kinship is what happens when we remember that we all belong to each other. Everyone’s Child stands by the precept that the children we serve belong to all of us. These children are the adults of tomorrow. If we can value and treat them with care and concern, then the hope is that they will do the same for those who come after them.
To that end, we have reached out to the students at each of the six schools where we currently offer support to make sure they and their households have food during the outbreak that has rocked our world. Contributors have generously supported the decision of our Board, making it possible for hundreds of children and their families to have food during this time.
Justice for the Orphan
The prophet Isaiah tells us to “seek justice, encourage the oppressed and defend the cause of the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:17). Justice may seem to be somewhat elusive these days, and the coronavirus doesn’t seem to be going away. But if in some small way we can reach a few of those who are being negatively affected by current circumstances, then we are all better off for having done so.
Our plan is to continue distributing food while schools in Kenya are closed. If you would like to join us in our efforts to help EC sponsored students get through this pandemic, please consider a gift to Everyone’s Child. Your donation will feed, educate and connect these children, and will give them a chance to discover what is important in life. Please click here to make a secure donation to Everyone’s Child.
As always, asante sana – great thanks for reminding these children that they do belong to all of us.
Early yesterday morning I opened my email to find an encouraging message from James Maina, the Head Teacher (Principal) at Bishop Donovan Secondary School in Lanet Umoja, outside of Nakuru, Kenya. Today I want to share that message with our readers.
The Current Climate
The current climate in Kenya is similar to that of other developing nations. The government has responded to the coronavirus in much the same way that governments have all around the world. Schools were closed in mid-March, and non-essential businesses were shuttered not long afterward. People are told to adhere to the rules of the lockdown or risk receiving a beating from local police forces. Street vendors who rely on customers purchasing fruits and vegetables have been forcibly made to stop selling produce. Open markets have also been closed, leaving millions without access to food for themselves and their families. In a country of over 50 million people, there have been 216 cases of COVID-19, with 9 deaths and 41 recoveries to date.
Bags of Food
Everyone’s Child has been doing all we can to provide food to orphaned and vulnerable children in Kenya during this global pandemic. The response from our donors has been tremendous. Over the past several weeks people have sent donations and prayers for those who are struggling to find food as a result of all the shutdowns. Last week we learned that the administrators in each of the five schools where we support students had made plans to work with their local governments to distribute food to these children.
An Encouraging Message
As I stated above, I received an encouraging message in my inbox yesterday. Here is a snapshot of what it said:
“Greetings Sister Ruth. We are grateful to God that we have continued receiving his Grace and Mercy despite the havoc that has been caused by Covid-19 across the world. We are delighted to report to you that today 13/04/2020 (Easter Monday) at 2.00 pm we have managed to distribute foodstuff to our orphans, courtesy of Everyone’s Child.
The students were very happy for the hand of Mercy and really blessed you and Everyone’s Child at large.”
Yours sincerely, James Maina Ng’ang’a
The last sentence in Mr. Maina’s letter touch something deep inside of me. I’ve gotten to know many of these students over the years. Stories of their hardships have made an indelible mark on my conscience, reminding me to be grateful for what I have and to do whatever I can to alleviate their suffering. I am so thankful to see that our plans in this latest endeavor have proven effective!
William Aludo, EC’s Kenyan Program Coordinator, has continued to send me photos this week. These newest ones are pictures of students at the Nakuru Teacher’s and Kitere Primary Schools receiving bags of food. Needless to say, seeing these makes my heart soar!
Everyone’s Child has been serving the needs of orphans and vulnerable children since 2010. We are able to do this primarily because of the tremendous support we receive from people like you who want to help. While education is our primary vision, we have always recognized the importance of good nutrition as a critical component for learning.
These students need our assistance, now more than ever. If you would like to contribute to our efforts, please click here to make a secure online donation. By doing your part, these children will continue to receive what they need to get them through this crisis.
As always, asante sana (deep thanks) for your encouragement and support. It means everything.
This past week I learned about the situation in Kenya from William Aludo, EC’s Program Coordinator. He gave a sobering account of schools being closed, people being out of work, and markets being shut down. At this writing there have been 122 cases of COVID-19 in Kenya.
In Nakuru, William learned that while some people have vegetables in their gardens, many still rely on their local markets. The situation is becoming dire for many families.
Kampi Ya Moto
Normally, schools in Kenya are closed during the months of April, August and December. However, Everyone’s Child has always continued to feed students at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto even when school isn’t in session as food insecurity is a major issue in that region.
Last week William spoke with Mrs. Chesire, the Head Teacher (Principal) at that school to see if it would be possible to continue feeding the students there during this epidemic. She told him that the government was not allowing anyone to return to the school, so feeding the children would not be possible. This was bad news, since these children rely on meals they receive from EC during the months that schools are closed.
But then, a few days ago William sent me photos of children in Kampi Ya Moto receiving bags of food! Mrs. Chesire and Sarah (the cook) had managed to hand out 81 bags of dried maize, beans, maize flour and porridge flour to students. They plan to repeat this in two weeks as well. Needless to say, it was such a blessing to know that these children wouldn’t go hungry.
Whatever is Necessary
Everyone’s Child is in a position to help students in need during this pandemic. The situation in Kenya has propelled us to act quickly to alleviate suffering of the children in our care. This past week, the EC Board of Directors gave William the go ahead to connect with school administrators in each of the five schools where we currently feed close to 600 children. Our goal is to do whatever is necessary to provide food to students in need. These administrators will be working with their local governments to ensure that provisions will be distributed to these children and their families.
Your Continued Support
We understand that the impact of the coronavirus will likely lead to a spike in the number of people needing help. As I stated above, EC’s goal is to do whatever is necessary to provide food to students in need. That is why I am reaching out to you today to ask for your continued financial and prayer support for our programs, and specifically for EC’s Orphan Feeding Program.
Change Brings Opportunity
So much has changed. But change also brings opportunity. We are looking for every way possible to continue helping the children enrolled in our programs, while keeping the door open for meeting an even greater need.
I want to thank those who have already reached out to see how they can help make a difference. If you are in a position to help financially, please click here to make a secure online donation. You can also send a check to Everyone’s Child, P.O. Box 522, Linesville, PA 16424.
An Added Bonus
For those who can give financially, there is an added bonus to consider. On Friday, March 27th, the US Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. A provision of that bill makes it possible for American taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions when filing with the IRS, to deduct from their AGI up to $300 in cash contributions to qualifying organizations. For those who do itemize, they will be able to deduct 100% of their donations in this tax year.
For the past several weeks, I have been following the news in order to provide our supporters with a report from Kenya. At this writing there have been seven cases of the virus discovered in their country. So far none of these cases have been reported in rural areas. As the link above points out, when and if this occurs, the results could be devastating for millions of people in Kenya.
I have been in touch with William Aludo, EC’s Kenyan Program Coordinator, who has confirmed that all schools and universities have closed and all students have been sent home. While this may be good news in terms slowing the spread of the coronavirus, it also presents a challenge for the students who rely on a daily meal through EC’s Orphan Feeding Program.
Everyone’s Child is currently working with our Kenyan colleagues to develop a plan to safely distribute food to children who will be negatively affected by the nationwide school shutdown. I will do my best to update you on their efforts as they unfold. Our goal is to ensure that the most vulnerable children will receive some form of nutrition on a regular basis. If you have questions or thoughts about this please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Above all, I solicit your prayers and continued assistance as we work through this global challenge. Your concern and support for Everyone’s Child is valued and welcome.
For those of us living in the developed world, the promise of an education is something we own. We can bank on it. In fact, very few of us ever consider what it would be like not to have access to primary or secondary (high school) education.
Opportunities to Learn
When I think about my years as an elementary school student, I remember jump rope games and skinned knees. I remember circling pictures in a row that matched pictures in the left column. Learning how to write my name in cursive was another milestone. My high school memories include learning about Argentina in a 9th grade Current Events class and the smell of formaldehyde in Biology. I remember parallelograms in Geometry and left hand turns in Driver’s Ed. There were so many opportunities to learn.
However, for many children and families living in Africa, the promise of an education is not guaranteed.
Last January, an article in the Africa Report stated: “[a]ccording to UNESCO, in sub-Saharan Africa one-fifth of children between six and 11 are out of school, one-third between 12 and 14, and 60% between 15 and 17. Though the reasons are various, ranging from conflict to corruption to lack of provision, poverty is now identified as an overwhelming factor.”
Today, free primary school education is legally guaranteed in 42 of 54 African nations*. Primary education was made free to all Kenyan students in 2003, and in 2017 the Kenyan government introduced free secondary education. A catalyst for free schooling in Kenya began with the dedication of organizations like EC who are committed to making education available to Kenyan children.
The Cost of an Education
For both primary and secondary school, Kenyan parents are still required to pay for school lunch programs and uniforms, a cost that puts a financial strain on many families. For children without parents, the promise of an education becomes even more elusive. Children who have been orphaned are usually taken care of by family members who often can’t afford additional costs. The hope they once had becomes uncertain, and their potential for a successful future is at risk.
Lunch programs typically cost $12 a month per student, and school uniforms cost about $60 annually. These amounts certainly seem affordable, especially for those who are used to paying high fees for children’s programs. But for families who are subsisting on less than $25 per month, these costs can be prohibitive. Sadly, Kenyan students who don’t have lunch money or a proper uniform are suspended from school. Furthermore, preschool in Kenya is not free, and many families wind up paying 20% of their annual income to cover this expense.
The Promise of An Education
In 2010, Everyone’s Child was established to provide an education for Kenyan children who had lost their parents. Since then, thousands of children have received an education, thanks to the generosity of donors who understand their plight. What this has done for them is immeasurable. It has given them a future full of hope.
Today, over 600 orphaned and vulnerable children in Kenya are supported by EC. These students range between the ages of 3 and 18. All are either orphaned or belong to families that are unable to afford school fees.
Ways of Contributing
The good news is that we have found a way to help these students. EC’s sponsorship program pays school fees for orphaned and vulnerable secondary students based on donations we receive. The Orphan Feeding Program is sustained by people committed to making sure that orphaned primary students receive a daily meal while they are in school.
Many EC donors choose to give on an ongoing or monthly basis. A continuing contribution makes it possible for many children to enjoy their education without the stress of being sent home for lack of lunch money or improper attire.
If you would like to become a monthly supporter of EC, please click on this link and select the second “Donate” option. One time donations are also welcome and a vital part of maintaining EC’s sponsorship program.
As I look ahead to the rest of 2020, I am anticipating a year of fulfilled dreams and expectations for children who have lost hope. I am also looking forward to working alongside people who have a heart for children who want to be educated but lack the resources for that opportunity.
Thank you so much for joining us in this effort of giving every child the promise of an education.
What you do to the least of them, you do to me. Matthew 25:40
*At the writing of this blog, I was unable to find statistics comparing African countries that do and don’t provide free secondary education.
There is exciting news to share! Everyone’s Child has a new opportunity for the year ahead. But first, here is an update on what our supporters have accomplished in 2019.
Kenya: School Lunches and Sponsorships
The Orphan Feeding Program offered daily meals to600 orphaned children at five different primary schools in Kenya. Everyone’s Child now partners with several Kenyan school administrations to bear the cost of this project, a major first step in developing self-sustaining programs. Our average monthly cost for this program is $1,200, totaling over $14,000 annually.
EC’s Sponsorship Program supported 30 orphans in preschool and high school. This summer three middle school students from Vermont raised over $2,000to help orphaned high school students with their school fees. Our goal for this coming year is to sponsor at least 10 preschoolers and 30 secondary students, for an annual cost of $6,000.
Sweaters for India
In northern rural India earlier this year, temperatures dipped into the low 60’s. EC supporters provided sweaters to over 200 needy children living in Orissa, offering relief during the cold snap. In southern India, donations helped to pay school fees for five impoverished orphans. The total cost of both efforts was $2,500.
Opportunity in Western Kenya
This past September I traveled to Kenya to visit with students, teachers and administrators at each of the schools where Everyone’s Child provides support. One of the schools we visited was the Miruya Primary School, located in a poor rural area in western Kenya.
The needs there are numerous, including the continued provision of daily meals, a security fence, leveling the schoolyard, and a new classroom. Enrollment is expected to increase in the coming years, so additional classrooms will also need to be built. Thankfully this summer’s Matching Challenge raised $10,000 to build a classroom! The cost of the remaining projects there could well exceed $20,000.
EC’s Board of Directors and I are very excited about the new opportunity that lies ahead for us to help the children at this school, with an eye toward building a successful partnership and eventual self-sustainability.
Everyone’s Child Now
Everyone’s Child now reaches over 800 orphaned and vulnerable children globally, providing education, meals, potable water, clothing and connections to those in need. None of this would be possible without your prayers, involvement and financial contributions.
Our goal for this year’s Annual Appeal is to raise $32,500, enabling us to sustain and grow our current programs.
During this season of giving, I am writing to ask you to please work alongside us as we encourage the orphans and vulnerable children who are counting on us for their education and their future.
Donations can be made online by clicking here or by sending a check to EC’s new mailing address: P.O. Box 522, Linesville, PA 16424. All contributions are tax-deductible, used for and appreciated by the children we support.
In the words of one of EC’s sponsored students, “No matter where you come from, someone somewhere is thinking of you.” On behalf of these students, our deepest thanks to everyone who is thinking of these children. With your help we will continue changing a generation through education.
If you’ve had a chance to read EC’s September blog, you may remember reading about the “value added moment,” when a student named Gordon said that he wanted to raise funds to help orphans go to school. His enthusiasm was contagious – other students in the room that night said that they also wanted to find a way to raise funds for peers who struggle to pay their school fees. They had all been encouraged by the three girls at Harwood Union High School in Vermont who had raised funds for EC during their summer vacation.
Three ideas, two months, and one student
William Aludo, EC’s Program Coordinator in Kenya, recently held a brainstorming session with these students, asking them to lay out their ideas for raising funds. They came up with what I call a “3,2,1 plan”. Their proposal involved three ideas, two months and one student. Their three ideas were to sell milk and hardboiled eggs, make and sell homemade potato chips (a.k.a. french fries), and open a barber shop. They challenged themselves with spending the next two months raising funds. Their goal is to raise enough money to send one orphaned secondary student to school in 2020.
A lofty goal
This is a lofty goal for students who haven’t yet joined the work force, don’t receive a monthly allowance, or haven’t got a savings account to dip into. But I believe those blocks won’t deter them from reaching their objective. During the first weekend of November they began peeling and cooking potatoes, and by the day’s end had already begin to make sales! In an age where “peer to peer fundraising” is all the rage, these students are putting this concept to work!
During this season of giving and gratitude, my hope is that the passion these students have for helping their peers will encourage others to want to give. If you want to support an orphaned student next year, please click here to make a secure donation. Your gift will help a child go to school, and will also encourage these students who are trying to make a difference!
When Tracy Guion, EC’s Messages of Mercy Program Coordinator, William Aludo, EC’s Kenyan Program Coordinator, our driver David Kiboi from Nairobi and I visited the Miruya Primary School in Migori County last month we were treated to a song called “The Lord has Something to Say”. The students who sang it were shy, waving at us from a distance but clamming up when we got close to them. That made sense; their worlds involve home, school and the 3 – 4 km walk between those two places. The sight of these newcomers was a bit startling, especially given the differences in our skin color and vocal accents.
A group of fifth and sixth graders were seated outside when we arrived, their desks balancing precariously on the rocky ground. These students share a classroom in the school building, but they had taken their desks out into the school yard to make space for a meeting that would take place later on with “the visitors” (i.e. – us). Despite their displacement and timidity, they managed to sing a call and response song for us. I’ve posted a video with the lyrics below:
“The Lord has something to say,
The Lord has something to say.
Listen, listen, pay very close attention.
The Lord has something to say.”
I’ve been around young children too long not to sit up and take notice when a child says something that sounds like a message directed at me. There have been many times when a student has said or done something that catches my attention. Educators call this a “teaching moment”, which usually pertains to an adult teaching a student and not the other way around. After the second chorus I decided that I was the student and this was one of those times to be especially attentive. The message eluded me at the time, but in the days that followed their song came back to me over and over again.
A Scenic Area
This was the second day of our trip and Miruya Primary School was the first of several schools we planned to visit. I had been to Migori County in western Kenya one other time and was once again awestruck by the beauty of this area. The hillsides were covered with a checkerboard of fields, looking for all the world like a scene from Ireland or Vermont.
But the moment we stepped onto the school grounds we became aware of the challenges that people living in this rural area face every day. The schoolyard was riddled with rocks, making walking hazardous and a game of tag an impossibility. Classrooms held little more than a chalkboard and rough wooden benches attached to planks that served as desks. Two or three students shared dog-eared books. The windows had glass, but there were no educational posters on the walls and teacher’s desks were non-existent. Most of the 165 students enrolled wore the school uniform of green and blue, but children who had just joined the school wore hand-me-downs or whatever was available at home.
As we moved through the classrooms, children reacted timidly to our small group, some smiling shyly and waving, but most viewing us with wide eyes. It was plain to see that they knew William, who is Chairman of the Board of Management at the school, but we were unfamiliar to them.
Not long after we arrived it was time for lunch. We went behind the school where children were lining up at the new kitchen that EC supporters helped to build last year. We had brought along a “Kateri’s Kitchen” plaque to put up on the building, dedicating this kitchen to the memory of our dear friend Sr. Kateri Walker who was so instrumental in building EC’s orphan feeding program.
The children ate their meal outside, leaning against the wall of the building, some waiting for others to finish so they could share the bowls which at that time were too few for the growing enrollment. I shuddered at the thought of the germs that were also being shared among the children. (Since then, 200 cups and bowls have been purchased and brought to the school.)
The Lord Has Something to Say
After leaving Migori County, William, David, Tracy and I spent the next four days visiting other schools where for the past ten years supporters of Everyone’s Child have provided meals, uniforms, clean water, classrooms and connections with peers in other countries. As we traveled from school to school, I thought about the song I had heard at the Miruya Primary School and wondered what I was meant to learn from those shy children and their little tune.
Everywhere we went we were met with smiles and laughter. Students were pleased to show us what they had learned in school. It was encouraging to see the changes that had taken place, especially as several of the schools we visited had started in rocky fields with less than a hundred students and few resources at hand. Enrollments have increased, and children are happy and proud of their schools, as evidenced by the smiles on their faces and the high scores they receive on their national exams.
Another major change has been the establishment of partnerships between EC and the school administrations. Several of these schools now share the financial responsibility of supporting orphans in their programs with us, a first step in building self-sustaining programs on the ground.
Every Journey Begins with One Step
As our trip came to a close it became clear to me that the message hidden in that song was for us to stay the course and continue building at the Miruya Primary School. The children in this area are poor and need a school within walking distance of their homes. The changes I had seen in the other schools we visited reminded me that every journey begins with one step, and that rather than be discouraged by the enormity of the task, we should be encouraged by what has already been accomplished.
Addressing the Needs
There are many needs to be addressed at Miruya Primary School; the most pressing being to continue providing students with a daily lunch program. The school yard needs to be leveled and a security fence has to be installed. The funds raised with this summer’s Matching Challenge will build a classroom for next year’s seventh graders. The administration expects the enrollment to increase each year, so additional classrooms will need to be built.
The EC Board of Directors and I are excited about the opportunity that lies ahead for us to help the children at this school, with an eye toward building a successful partnership and eventual self-sustainability.
If you would like to contribute to this effort, or to any of our programs serving orphaned and vulnerable children, please click here to make a secure online donation. Feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our programs. We’d love to hear from you!
As always, asante sana – thank you very much for your interest in and support for what we do for the orphaned and vulnerable children in our world. You are making the difference that brings the change for them!
I’ve just returned from an amazing trip to Kenya with Tracy Guion of Waitsfield, VT. It was a whirlwind of activity, beginning with one “value added moment” that I continue to unpack in my mind over and over again.
The response to the writing program has been tremendous, especially on the part of three HUMS girls who decided that they wanted to do more. They had learned that students in Kenya will be sent home if they can’t pay their fee of $36 per term, so they formed a group called “Harwood Students Making Change” and spent their summer vacation reaching out to family, friends, and area businesses in VT, raising funds to help orphaned Kenyan secondary students with their school fees. By the end of the summer they had raised over $2,000, enough to send 12 students to school for one year. They also made a short video introducing themselves and letting their new African friends know that they had raised these funds (see below).
We had arrived at our hotel in Nairobi at midnight and then spent the following day traveling six hours by car to Rongo. Needless to say, Tracy and I were whipped. But we had an important meeting to attend, which was to meet with the Mentorship Camp students at William Aludo’s home.
Nine students met us that evening, three of whom were students that EC currently supports. It began raining not long after we arrived, and the house had a tin roof, so the sound was deafening. Despite the storm we managed to share a meal and learn about each other.
Tracy was in her element. She sat right in the middle of the students and began asking them about their lives – what they liked to eat, how far they had to walk to get to school, and so on. Then she asked them to tell her what they had learned from their pen pals in America. The answers were interesting and revealing. Martin said, “I learned that there is not much difference between we and them.” Gordon said, “It gave me a chance to explore America”, and Brayton said, “I learned that most Americans only have two children.”
When Josephine mentioned that her pen pal was Arianna, Tracy pulled out her cell phone and showed the group the video that three Harwood Union Middle School students had made, explaining that they had spent their summer vacations raising enough money for 12 students to go to school next year. The children watching were amazed, and responded by saying, “Thank you for what you have given me”, and, “I really thank you for what you did for me, especially for motivating me.” But it was Gordon’s response that floored me. After thanking the three girls he said, “I would also like to raise funds and share it with the orphans so they can also go to school.”
I was stunned. In all the years that I have been coming to Kenya, very few people have ever suggested that they might want to look for ways to raise funds to help students in their country.
Value Added Moment
When I first began Messages of Mercy in 2007, my goal was twofold. I wanted the Kenyan children who had lost their parents to know that they were special and someone across the world was thinking of them. I also wanted children in the USA to tap into their compassionate selves and understand that there were children on the other side of the world who had the same dreams and aspirations. Over the years I have seen these goals be achieved over and over again. But sitting in William Aludo’s house in the middle of a thunderstorm and hearing this student express his desire to partner with students in America to raise funds for his fellow Kenyan students was a first, and something that I definitely saw as a “value added moment”.
Later in the week, we scheduled a meeting with 13 EC sponsored students at Bishop Donovan Secondary School in Nakuru, six hours away from Rongo. Over 100 students showed up for our meeting that day, but once again Tracy was in her element, holding their attention with stories about her life and the lives of students she knew in the USA. She also told them about the students who had raised funds to help their fellow students in Kenya, using quotes like “Be the change you wish to see in the world” to describe what these girls had achieved.
Afterward Tracy showed the video that the three Harwood students had made to students we support. They too were amazed, having no idea that this was taking place on their behalf. She asked them how this made them feel, and they responded with words like “Special”, “Loved”, Encouraged to study” and of course, “Happy!” Then she asked them what they had learned from their pen pals. One student said, “God can use anyone to help others.” Another said, “No matter where you come from, no matter your race, someone somewhere is thinking of you”. Tracy replied by saying, “I have been thinking of you 13 students since I first heard of you last March!” Once again, a value added moment was tucked away in my head and heart, showing me that the Messages of Mercy writing program had far exceeded my expectations.
We ended the meeting by going outside and taking pictures. Tracy also videoed the 13 sponsored students to show to the HUMS girls back home. Two of these are inserted below:
Being the Change
That value added moment was one of several that occurred during our Kenyan adventure, all of which will be written about in the months to come. I left Africa with the hope that EC’s work is reaching Kenya’s youth in a new way, inspiring them to also get involved and be the change that makes the difference for their country.
Next year we expect there will be 25 to 30 orphaned secondary students who will need help with their school fees. If you would like to make a difference in their lives, please click here to learn how you can make a secure donation to Everyone’s Child.
We are grateful for your help, and echo the voices you have heard and seen above: “thank you so much for what you have done for us”.