Tag Archives: preschool building

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!!)

Realized Dreams

I’m so excited!  In fact, I’m thrilled, absolutely thrilled!  Here it is, the beginning of May 2016, and dreams I have been waiting to see come to pass for years are finally being realized.

I believe in the power that a photograph wields, and since we live in an age where pictures can be posted and viewed in a single click, I’m taking advantage of that process and will let these photos do the talking.  Well, most of the talking anyway.  I’ve added explanations as well 🙂  As they say in Kenya – sit back, relax and enjoy!

More Drinking  Water for Kampi:

If you’ve been following the blogs and updates for EC in Kenya you’re aware that there has long been an issue with potable water in an area called Kampi Ya Moto (see photo below) where we have a primary school.

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Early this year a donation was made to allow an additional rain harvesting tank to be purchased and set up at the school in Kampi Ya Moto.

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Today both tanks are full and should remain that way until the next rainy season.

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Now there is clean drinking water for the children on demand,

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a school garden,

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and happy kids!  Contaminated drinking water has become a non-issue for the students at this school!

EC Mentorship Program for Orphans:

This month our new Program Coordinator, William Aludo, has started a Mentorship Program for the orphans attending Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School in Lanet Umoja.  EC is currently sponsoring 15 students so they can receive a high school education, but we’ve always wanted to be able to offer them additional support outside of their education.  William, who is a trained counselor, is using a resource written by Kenyan author and businesswoman Grace Wanjohi to help these young adults make realizable life and career choices.  This is a golden opportunity for children who don’t enjoy the same benefits as  many of their schoolmates – the direction and moral support of loving parents.

BEDSS 2ndary orphans 2015

Orphaned students at Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School

Lanet Umoja Preschool:

When I first visited Kenya in 1997, the Lanet Umoja Preschool was the only school for miles around. Today a small city has grown up around this ramshackle building, with many schools – including our own Lanet Umoja Primary School and Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School. The preschool has continued to be used, but there have been many problems connected with it such as leaky walls, flooded floors, African bee attacks, and other issues associated with a building in disrepair.

Last month one of our Board members, Fr. Paul Stewart, traveled to Kenya and wound up helping to construct the first of three rooms that will eventually become the new Lanet Umoja Preschool!  I’ve learned that the local government is partnering with us to build one of the classrooms, which illuminates the way that EC does business – working together with private, local and government entities to positively affect an area.  The children were out of school during April, and here is what happened with some of the funds that you have helped to raise this year:

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The materials arrive

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Fr. Paul Stewart helps move the stones

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A stone worker carves the blocks

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Moving them to the building

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Putting up the walls

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Laying the steel girders for the roof

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The first classroom – nearly done!!

As a lifelong preschool teacher, I’m thrilled.  Absolutely thrilled to see this coming to pass.

Thank you for your continued support for these projects.  We are just $3,000.00 short of finishing the first preschool classroom.  If you are in a position to partner with us to get the job done, please click here and send a secure donation today.

Asante sana (deep thanks)!!

 

A LEG UP FOR PRESCHOOLERS

S5000467My first trip to Kenya was a mission trip.  I traveled with a group of missionaries from the Community of the Crucified One based in Pittsburgh, PA in 1997.  We toured the country, starting in an upscale hotel in Nairobi and winding up in pup tents in Masai Mara. Everywhere we went we saw preschool-aged children.  They were either playing, carrying younger children or Kerry cans of water on their backs, or chasing us as we drove through their dusty towns.  “I’ve been with preschoolers for a long time, but I’ve never seen so many little children in my life”, I thought to myself as we bumped along roads that were only passable during the dry season.

students after school in Kiti

Our tour ended in Lanet Umoja, which at that time was 735 acres of grassland 12 miles outside of Nakuru. Our host had brought us there to introduce us an area where a school was needed. Although the region was thinly populated (maybe 50 to 100 families in total), many families were buying plots. Some were escaping tribal warfare in their villages; others were escaping the high prices of city living. There were very few primary schools within that area, and most children had to walk several miles to get to school each day.  A few homes had been built, but the only school we saw was a small preschool that had opened in 1996 with a staff of 3 teachers serving 25 children. The building looked something like a rudimentary American tool shed with brightly painted doors and window shutters and a rusted tin roof.

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Toward the end of the 1990’s the Kenyan government under Daniel arap Moi’s leadership had agreed to assist with teacher salaries, books, and even additional classrooms if communities could find sponsors to help erect primary or secondary school buildings. Our church community in the USA raised funds to build Lanet Umoja Primary School, and followed up ten years later with funding to build Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School. During those ten years funds were also raised to build two additional primary schools in and around Nakuru. The Kenyan government lived up to its promise of paying teacher salaries, supplying books and materials and providing funds for additional classrooms, and students began filling the classrooms. In 2002, Mwai Kibaki became the third president of Kenya, and in an unprecedented move eliminated school fees for primary school students, opening the door for thousands of children to enter primary school for the first time in their lives. Kenyans would say that this move gave their children a big “leg up” in life.  During this time enrollment at the preschool grew as well, as many families wanted a good start for their children. However, the Kenyan government’s building assistance and any other funding was restricted to primary and secondary schools and did not include preschool education.

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Twenty years have gone by since my first visit, and in that time the “village” of Lanet Umoja has grown from a few hundred people to over 28,000 residents.  The first school we built has grown from a hundred children to an enrollment well over a thousand students.  A chapel (Holy Cross Prayer Community) and a mission house were built for the missionaries who came from our church community in the USA to help introduce people to the Franciscan life that our church offers.  Today there are nine active church outreaches in Kenya that are connected with our community and Holy Cross Prayer Community in Lanet Umoja.

The original preschool building is still being used, holding approximately 75 children, several of whom are orphaned, in three small classrooms. The walls, like an old shed, have cracks where daylight streams in during warm weather, and wind and rain also make their way in during the cooler, rainy months. The windows have no glass or screens to keep bugs and other flying creatures out. Children nap on dirt floors, lined up like canned sardines between rows of rickety wooden tables and chairs. It’s not an ideal setting for early childhood learning by any stretch of the imagination.  As the director of a thriving preschool program in Vermont for 25 years I am well aware of the regulations surrounding early childhood education in much of the USA.  Like their American counterparts, these Kenyan preschoolers have the same need for a good start in school, yet their parents and teachers lack the resources to provide an adequate learning environment for them.

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Five years ago we heard of a disastrous incident where African killer bees were discovered near the preschool building when some children inadvertently disturbed their nest during their recess time. The bees responded immediately and with a vengeance. All of the children and staff were stung many times over, and one little boy lost his life due to multiple stings. Children who ran inside the preschool found no refuge since the cracks in the building and lack of window screens provided little to no protection from the angry bees. This event alone is a strong argument for the need for a local health clinic, which is currently in the works. But it also presents a very good reason for building a sound structure for these children where they can be safe as they learn.

This year Everyone’s Child is committed to raising funds toward a new preschool building for the children of Lanet Umoja. Our goal is to raise $22,000.00, which will allow us to build two of the three classrooms that are needed.  The blessing in all of this is that the pastor and members of Holy Cross Prayer Community have made a commitment to partner with us by raising the funds needed to build one of these classrooms too!

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“Our children are our future,” is a saying that people use all over the world. I believe giving children a solid foundation in their early years is paramount to their future as adults, beginning with a safe place for them to learn.  I invite you to join us in making a difference in the lives of these preschoolers by contributing to the Lanet Umoja Preschool Campaign. These children are the future citizens of Kenya and our world. Together, let’s give them the leg up they need to succeed!

To make a secure donation via PayPal online, please click on the “Donate” button on any of the pages on this website. You can also send a check made out to “Everyone’s Child” to 20 Vermont Route 100 South, Moretown, VT 05660.  (Please write “preschool building” in the memo section of your check.)

Faith on a swing

Thank you for your support for everyone’s child!