Tag Archives: Africa

Lanet Umoja Preschool Phase Two Finished!

Phase Two Finished!

Phase Two of the Lanet Umoja Preschool building project is finished!  This past May I wrote about the completion of Phase One of this project, and now I am thrilled to be able to report that not only has our goal has been reached, but that it has been completed ahead of schedule.  Phase Two began in mid-June, not long after the first classroom was finished, and in early August the classroom was ready for the students to use.  The word from Kenya is that people passing by have commented over and over again about the beautiful building in their village.  My heart is overjoyed at the sight of the pictures, and I am so looking forward to the day when I can see it in person.

Phase Two Lanet Umoja preschool 2016

Waiting, praying and hoping

I was a head teacher and director of a large Christian preschool program in rural Vermont for over 20 years, and during that time I saw many changes to our program both in terms of demographics and physical building structure.  We expanded our space three times and moved from being a small preschool serving church families to a primary school program that reached out to families in the Mad River Valley and beyond.  Every time there was a building project the children, staff and families waited, prayed and hoped, and waited some more for the day that we were able to finally move in.  I know and understand firsthand what the families, staff and children in Lanet Umoja have been experiencing with regard to both Phase One and Phase Two of this project.

But in recent months this community has also  experienced a tremendous loss.  The tragedy that took place at the church next door in June shocked the community and destroyed the hopes and dreams of a family.  Jane Peter, the child who died during the fire was a preschooler, and many hearts were broken at the loss of her life.  The church sanctuary was also destroyed in the fire, so the people in that area now use the new classrooms to hold their Sunday services.  In the face of this horrific event, we are grateful that the people of Lanet Umoja have a place where people can gather with their children to support one another, find hope and look forward to the future together.

“Umoja”

It’s no coincidence that the Kenyan word “Umoja” means “unity” or “together”.   The people I have gotten to know in Lanet Umoja are the same ones who came together to start “Everyone’s Child” – the program that supported the orphans attending their school by providing for their needs throughout the school year.  This unprecedented act of kindness caught my attention in 2007 and was the spark that inspired the beginning of Everyone’s Child, Inc. in the USA.  I have watched these people come together since 1997 to build, to worship and to support one another.  That spirit is still very much alive today, and I am no less amazed to see people coming together now than I was when I first traveled to Kenya.  It’s the spirit of “harambee”, which is the rallying cry of Kenyans telling people to “pull together” to get something done.  The people I have met are resilient, compassionate, strong,  and they definitely get the job done.

The work goes on

The local Kenyan government has agreed to take on Phase Three by adding one more classroom to the preschool.  When that is finished we will come together to have a dedication in usual Kenyan style – with great fanfare, many speeches, loud music, lots of friends and wonderful food.  I can’t wait for that celebration!!

In the meantime, Everyone’s Child continues to provide over 300 meals each day to orphaned students with our lunch program, and currently we are helping 12 high school aged orphaned students attend school.  Your gift makes a difference in the lives of many children who would otherwise find it exceptionally difficult to attend school.  Please consider sending your tax-deductible donation to help support these programs by clicking here to make a secure tax-deductible donation today.

Phase Two Lanet Umoja preschool

As always ~ Asante sana!  (Great thanks!!)

Lunch for orphans

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Autumn Benjamin, a student at UVM helps out with the orphan lunch program in Kampi Ya Moto

The orphan lunch program started in mid-2003.  In January of that year, approximately 75 bright-eyed children wearing new or hand-me-down brown, white and black checked uniforms hurried down dirt roads and through fields to the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto (which translates to Camp of Fire), eager to learn and proud to be able to say they were just like their peers who attended primary schools in nearby towns and villages.  Their school had been built by funds raised through the Community of the Crucified One (CCO) based in Pennsylvania, USA.  The children in Kampi Ya Moto were thrilled to finally have a school they could call their own.  But there was one major distinction with these students; many of them were orphaned and most were too poor to bring a lunch to school.

By mid-morning the hot African sun beat down on the tin roof of their classroom, causing it to pop and crackle with the expansion of the metal.  The same children who had run to school in the morning began to faint, due less to the heat and more to the fact that they hadn’t had a real meal since the day before, or in some cases, for the past couple of days.

Fr. Joseph Steger was a missionary in Kenya at the time, and it was his responsibility to oversee the maintenance of each of the schools that the CCO had built.  When he learned that these children were passing out from lack of food, he asked for help from his friends and family back in the USA to get a lunch program started for them.  People responded in spades, and before long, students were receiving a daily meal of porridge (uji) made from maize, millet, milk and sorghum.  All of the students at the school lined up at noon to receive this meal, and in some cases children would quickly close the lid to their container in order to bring home what they could for family members who were going without.  Despite the dirt floors and unscreened windows in the classrooms, the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto became known in the area as a “wealthy” school because they offered lunch to the students.

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Licking the container clean

The success of the program was immediate and widely publicized, and before long the two other primary schools built by the CCO also asked for assistance with a lunch program for orphans attending their schools.  By 2006 over 250 students in three locations were receiving a daily meal.  Fr. Joseph’s family and a few faithful supporters maintained what became known as “the orphan feeding  program” (OFP) through an organization called “Kids in Kenya”.  In 2009, they asked Everyone’s Child to take over the funding and running of the program.  In the years that followed people going on tours of our schools in Kenya were allowed to participate in serving lunch to these children, experiencing first hand the results of a fundraising program that includes donors from all over the USA and Canada.

Sr. Kateri Walker of Moretown, Vermont went to Kenya a few years after the initiation of the OFP.  She was deeply moved by the people she met and sights she saw.  However, after her visit she decided that rather than return to Kenya again she would use her resources and connections to upgrade the OFP, moving it forward so more people could become aware and involved.  She remains a regular sponsor to the OFP to this day.

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Sr. Kateri Walker helping to feed the children

Today, 310 students between the ages of 3 and 13 line up in the three primary schools to receive a daily meal that is paid for by supporters of Everyone’s Child.  In addition, orphaned children in Kampi Ya Moto receive a second lunch of rice and beans to carry them through the rest of the day.  All told, EC is providing over 360 meals per day to students in Kenya who would otherwise go hungry.

Appreciation letter from BEDSS
Letter of appreciation from a student in Kiti

The letter above is one I received during my trip to Kenya in May 2015.  In it Cliff Olendo (a student from Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School in Kiti) expresses his appreciation for a program that has fed hundreds if not thousands of children since 2003.  I wanted to share it with you – the real supporters of this lunch program.  For those of you who give to the OFP, you need to know that your gift does and is affecting lives right now – today – in real time.  I hope you read and take to heart the prayer he bestows on you; that you truly do receive twice what you ask for as a blessing and reward for what you are giving to the least of them.

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Moretown Elementary School (VT) teacher Joni Clemons empties out her bucket of uji (porridge) into a student’s bowl

For those of you reading this who would like to join in this effort of sustaining orphaned children with a daily meal at their school, welcome to our ranks!  Currently this program costs EC close to $900.00 per month.  A donation of $30.00 will feed six students for a month.  $100.00 will feed a single student for an entire school year.  You can send your tax-deductible donation to Everyone’s Child, 20 Vermont Route 100 South, Moretown, VT 05660, or for a secure online donation, click here.

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Thank you.  By contributing to this program you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made it that much easier for an orphaned student to stay in school.