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Securing the Perimeter

Securing the Perimeter

The term “securing the perimeter” refers to an order given to protect an area from outside forces and enemies. When we think of primary schools in Kenya, our mind goes to children laughing and playing, or singing and chanting with their teachers. We don’t usually consider them having to face dangers from outside forces or enemies. But anyone who has traveled in developing nations knows well that such dangers are real. Most are a result of a lack of resources.

Infrastructural Problems

A UNESCO book titled Improving the conditions of teachers and teaching in rural schools across African countries provides an “objective assessment of facilities in rural schools [that] reveals a gross and unacceptable state of infrastructural decay.” The findings show that primary schools in particular suffer from these problems, stating that “[t]he vast majority, … have no water, sanitation and electricity …” Notably, the report shares that “[f]ew schools have a perimeter fence or enclosure, making them open to intruders and vandalism.” Even though the report was written in 2011, it still carries weight today, pointing out that a lack of security “…is one of the major reasons for the prevailing crisis in the education system in many African countries.” (p. 68)

children standing behind a barbed wire fence in Kenya
Kenyan primary students protected by a barbed wire fence

A Rural School

A year ago this September I had the opportunity to visit a primary school in rural western Kenya. Getting there was an adventure. Our team drove through the city of Rongo and up into the hills of Migori County, watching the smooth tarmac turn into rough dirt roads. I marveled at our driver David Kiboi’s ability to navigate the rocky terrain leading up to the school. At the same time I marveled at the magnificent scenery. It was beautifully reminiscent of other places I’d been around the world. Every so often I’d ask David to stop so I could try to capture the view, all the while knowing that my cell phone wouldn’t do justice to what I was taking in.

Beautiful green fields surrounding the rocky road leading to Miruya Primary School
Beautiful fields surrounding the rocky road leading to Miruya Primary School

The Miruya Primary School is located an hour and a half from EC Program Coordinator William Aludo’s home in Rongo. The school is at the end of a long driveway, offering small comfort to the administrators who are concerned for the school’s security. For years there has been no gate or fence to keep out intruders.

The Miruya Primary School
The Miruya Primary School

A group of children were having their lessons outside. We were told they had given up their classroom to provide a meeting room for “the visitors” (us). Our visit was long enough to meet staff and students and see everyone eating lunch. We also saw firsthand some of the challenges these students and their teachers face every day.

rocky ground in front of the Miruya Primary School
students on the rocky ground outside of the Miruya Primary School

Daily Challenges

The schoolyard was full of rocks, making a trip to the outdoor washroom a treacherous venture. The classrooms had very little in the way of educational materials. There was no designated dining area; instead we saw children lining up along the back wall of the building to eat their meals. And finally, teachers and staff lacked a secure place to plan their lessons and keep their supplies.

feeding children: children eating lunch at Miruya Primary School
children eating lunch at Miruya Primary School

Securing the Perimeter

Everyone’s Child has been working hard to upgrade conditions at Miruya Primary School since 2018. That year we raised funds to build a new kitchen (pictured below) in honor of Sr. Kateri Walker. Last summer we held EC’s first matching fundraiser, raising enough funds to build another classroom at this school. Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented the building start date. However, today I am excited to announce that the project is ready to begin, starting with the construction of a fence securing the perimeter of the school grounds.

a small brick building used as a kitchen at Miruya Primary School in Kenya
Kateri’s Kitchen at Miruya Primary School

In the coming year, EC will continue providing food for close to 600 orphaned and vulnerable students in eastern and western Kenya. Nearly 200 of those children attend the Miruya Primary School. We also have plans to continue establishing this school as a safe place for children to learn. If you would like to contribute to these efforts, please consider making a donation by clicking here. Your tax deductible gift goes a long way to providing for Kenya’s youth, making it possible for children all across this beautiful country to be educated safely.

As always, asante sana, deep thanks for keeping these children and their future in your hearts and prayers. They truly do belong to all of us.

Stay safe, and be blessed,

Ruth

No School

No School

Toward the end of July, Kenyan students 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 26,436 coronavirus cases. Of those cases, 12,961 people have recovered and 420 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 teenager with a young child on her back - the result of no school
A young mother with her sleeping child

No School

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, they are also relieved that they will be less likely to be exposed to the coronavirus. However, many 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.

No Food

Another pressing issue resulting from the government’s 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.

a group of children holding bowls and waiting for food in Kenya
Children in Kampi Ya Moto waiting for their daily meal

EC’s Response

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 575 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. Since this past April, our students have been receiving monthly supplies of beans, maize, rice, wheat and porridge flour, as well as jugs of cooking oil. Young women are also receiving sanitary items that are otherwise difficult to for them to find.

A young Kenyan boy with his food distribution during the no school period
Frank happily shows off his monthly supply of food

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. As always, we welcome new supporters of Everyone’s Child. If you would like to help, please click here to partner with us in our efforts to provide orphaned and vulnerable children with a monthly supply of food during this pandemic. Your gift will make an immediate difference for these children and their families.

EC’s 10th Year

This August marks the tenth year of the existence of Everyone’s Child as a 501(c) (3) organization. When I stop to think about how far we’ve come in ten years, I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of good will, prayers and financial contributions that have come from our many supporters over the past decade.

It has been said that a long journey begins with one step. As we begin moving into our 11th year of operating as a non-profit, our Board of Directors and I want to extend our heartfelt thanks to all who have helped to feed, educate and encourage hundreds of children who otherwise would have been left behind on this journey. We know that we could not have come this far without your help. Our gratitude to each of you is unending.

Asante sana ~ with deep and abiding thanks,

Ruth

two poor children walking down a dirt road in Kenya
A long journey begins with one step
A Challenging Time

A Challenging Time

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.

3 young adult boys from Bishop Donovan Secondary School in red sweaters
EC sponsored students from Bishop Donovan Secondary School

School Breaks

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.

A Challenging Time - photo of a typical Kenyan wattle and daub home
A typical wattle and daub home in rural Kenya

Facing Challenges

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.

Losing one's parents can present a challenging time for this lonely looking child by a post
Losing a parent to HIV/AIDS causes great grief and confusion

Providing Food

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.

COVID-19 has caused a challenging time for this young boy holding a can of dried beans
An orphan receiving food during the coronavirus lockdown

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.

two young girls holding bags of food they received during the coronavirus lockdown
Two young orphans in Kiti holding bags of food

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.

Blessings,

Ruth

An Encouraging Message

An Encouraging Message

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.

Orphaned students lining up to receive food at Bishop Donovan Secondary School
Orphaned students lining up to receive food at Bishop Donovan Secondary School

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

Head Teacher Sebastian Maina pouring maize into a child’s bag at Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School

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!

Additional Schools

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!

Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School student holding two bags full of food
Orphaned and vulnerable students from Kitere Primary School in Rongo receiving bags of food

Your Part

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.

Two students receiving food at Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School

As always, asante sana (deep thanks) for your encouragement and support. It means everything.

Blessings,

Ruth

Report from Kenya

Report from Kenya

Dear friends and trusted supporters,

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 everyoneschildren@gmail.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.

Blessings always,

Ruth

The Promise of an Education

The Promise of an Education

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.

The Promise of an education: young Kenyan girl on a swing
Faith on a swing

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.

The Statistics

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.

The Promise of an education: Providing scholarships for students like this one sitting against a tire
Losing a parent causes many challenges for young students

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.

Everyone's Child secondary sponsorship students
EC sponsored students from Bishop Donovan Secondary School

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.

The promise of an education: orphaned preschoolers in Kenya
Orphaned preschoolers at Lanet Umoja Preschool

Looking Ahead

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.   

Blessings,

Ruth

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.

Everyone’s Child Now

Everyone’s Child Now

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 to 600 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.

The Lord has something to say to us about feeding children at Miruya Primary School
Lunchtime at Miruya Primary School

EC’s Sponsorship Program supported 30 orphans in preschool and high school.  This summer three middle school students from Vermont raised over $2,000 to 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.

Everyone's Child Now secondary sponsorship students
EC sponsored students from Bishop Donovan Secondary School

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.

Everyone's Child Now in India: children receiving a new sweater in India
New sweaters for children in India

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. 

Everyone's Child students sitting at desks outside at Miruya Primary School
Miruya Primary School students sitting at their desks in the school yard

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.

Everyone's Child Now: primary students in Kampi ya Moto
Children at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi ya Moto, Kenya

Our Goal

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.

The Lord has something to say: smiling children at Miruya Primary school
Kindergarteners and their teacher at Miruya Primary School

Asante Sana

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. 

Warmest wishes for a peaceful holiday season,

Ruth

Three ideas, Two months, and One student

Three ideas, Two months, and One student

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.

value added mentorship students with Tracy & Ruth in Rongo
Mentorship campers with Tracy & Ruth in Rongo. Gordon is third from the left.

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.

Three ideas, two months, and one student: Three Kenyan girls prepare potatoes to make french fries
Elizabeth, Josephine and Judith prepping the potatoes

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!

Three ideas, two months, and one student. A Kenyan girl named Josephine puts french fries in a bag to sell
Josephine selling chips (french fries) to a customer

Their passion

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!

Asante sana! (Great thanks!)

The Lord Has Something to Say

The Lord Has Something to Say

Newcomers

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.

The Lord Has Something to Say with Children sitting outside at Miruya Primary School
Fifth and sixth grade students sitting outside at Miruya Primary School

A Song

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:

Children singing the song “The Lord Has Something to Say” at Miruya Primary School

“The Lord has something to say,

The Lord has something to say.

Listen, listen, pay very close attention.

The Lord has something to say.”

Taking Notice

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.

Beautiful fields and rocky dirt road leading to Miruya Primary School
Beautiful fields and a rocky dirt road leading to Miruya Primary School in Migori County, Kenya

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.

poor students at Miruya Primary School
Fourth grade students at the Miruya Primary School

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.

Sharing lunch

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.

Students holding a Kateri's Kitchen plaque
Students holding a Kateri’s Kitchen plaque

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 to us about feeding children at Miruya Primary School
Lunchtime at the Miruya Primary 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.

Students at Lanet Umoja Primary School in Lanet Umoja, Kenya

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.

Ruth with orphaned students at Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School in Kiti, Kenya

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.

Tracy Guion with children at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi ya Moto, Kenya

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 Lord has something to say: smiling children at Miruya Primary school
Preschoolers and kindergarteners and their teacher at Miruya Primary School

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 everyoneschildren@gmail.com 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!

Blessings,

Ruth

Value Added Moment

Value Added Moment

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.

Tracy & Ruth at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi - a value added moment
Tracy & Ruth at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi

Harwood Students Making Change

Tracy Guion works for Project Harmony in Waitsfield, VT, implementing an exchange program for students in the USA and several eastern bloc countries.  Last May she helped to restart EC’s Messages of Mercy writing program between students at Harwood Union Middle School (HUMS) in Duxbury, VT and William Aludo’s Mentorship students in Kenya.  William is EC’s Program Coordinator and has been running camps for orphaned and vulnerable students for the past two years. 

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).

Harwood Students Making Change

A Meeting

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.

mentorship students with Tracy & Ruth in Rongo experiencing a value added  moment
Mentorship campers with Tracy & Ruth in Rongo

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. 

Connecting Students

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.” 

a value added moment - Tracy showing the video to the students in Rongo
Tracy showing the video to the students in Rongo

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”. 

Bishop Donovan students enjoying a value added moment with tracy & Ruth
A visit with EC sponsored Bishop Donovan Secondary students

Another Visit

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.

Mentorship students at BEDSS having a "value added" moment as tehy watch the video make by the HUMS girls
BEDSS Mentorship students watching the video made by the HUMS girls

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.

Three BEDSS Mentorship boy students
Three mentorship students from Bishop Donovan Secondary School

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:

Grace at Bishop Donovan Secondary School
Cindy at Bishop Donovan Secondary School

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”.