How is already mid November?! 2023 has danced right on by, as years do.
I find myself reflecting (as I do) and wondering if Everyone’s Child has made a difference this year. Have we? Thinking back on all we have accomplished, the answer is a resounding yes. Yes, we have. And it is all because of you.
EC is the conduit for these accomplishments – but YOU, my friend, are the difference.
Young girls and boys in Kenya and India have eaten a hot school lunch every day this year because of you.
Orphaned secondary school students have received an education this year; their old, tattered uniforms and outgrown shoes replaced with those that are crisp and new.
Young ones across the world have felt loved and seen and supported, all because of you.
As we near the end of 2023, we are hoping to raise $40,000 through our Annual Appeal, which will allow EC to continue to grow and impact the lives of children in Kenya and India in 2024.
If you have the means to do so, please consider donating to our cause. We accept donations via PayPal, credit card, personal checks, and Venmo. For more information, please check out the donation page on our website. To donate via Venmo, please scan the QR code below.
Have you heard the news? Miruya Primary School (MPS) in Rongo, Kenya has seen some big changes – and there’s more to come!
Brick by Brick Fundraiser
Thanks to our incredible donors, EC completed our Brick by Brick fundraiser at the end of August, successfully raising the remaining $5,000 needed to build a new classroom at MPS. Building should start within the next few months and we can’t wait to update you about the progress!
So, what else has been happening at MPS? In partnership with the school’s Board of Management, local contractors, and local parents, four of the current classrooms at MPS were painted, tiled, and had glass panes put in the windows. This was truly a collaborative effort by all parties – the windows were even installed pro bono by the contractors who helped tile the classrooms because they believed in the mission of EC and wanted the students at MPS to have safe and dry classrooms. How incredible is that?
The Importance of Partnership
One of EC’s main focuses is to work at the grassroots level in partnership with the local community. Without the knowledge and endorsement of local people, our projects would not exist. It is through constant collaboration and a shared caring for the welfare of the students that we get the job done.
Last month, 43 Kenyan secondary school (high school) students went shopping for new school uniforms. Imagine their joy! There is something to be said for having new clothes. The crisp feel of new fabric, coupled with the clean smell of brand-new clothing can make one feel like a new person.
Orphaned Students in Kenya
These students hail from 13 different schools across Kenya. They all have one thing in common – all have lost one or both parents. The reasons vary: AIDS and COVID-19 have taken some, others have been victims of road accidents, tropical disease, or violence. Most of these children now live with family members, either grandparents, aunts and uncles, or in some cases an older brother or sister. Another commonality they share is their need for support. While family members feel compelled to take in these children, they often lack the means to support their education.
New School Uniforms
These students are accustomed to making things work for them. More often than not, they wear castoffs from other students who have graduated. These are often ill-fitting, dingy, and full of holes. Shoes almost never fit. It’s an embarrassment they’ve learned to live with. For these teenagers, the crisp feel of a new uniform isn’t just about the fit, it’s about fitting in. When I asked William Aludo, EC’s Program Coordinator how they felt about their new school uniforms, he said they were all “excited, very happy, and thankful to the end!”
EC’s Secondary School Sponsorship Program
The EC Student Sponsorship Program began in 2012 when a group of teachers from Vermont’s Moretown Elementary School, a high school teacher from the town of Orange, VT, the 2012 President of the Waterbury VT Rotary Club, and a Harwood Union High School student traveled together to Kenya. They toured the countryside, taking in the views and meeting teachers and EC supported primary school children. After visiting with students at Bishop Donovan Secondary School in Lanet Umoja, they became aware of orphaned students who needed help paying their school fees. Over an evening of chai and chapati, a decision was reached to start the EC Secondary School Sponsorship Program.
A Sponsorship Story
The sponsorship program began with 14 students in one high school. Their stories were wide and varied, all with a shared theme of hardship. Among them was Simon Wanjala, an orphan who was also a victim of the post-election violence that took place in Kenya in 2007. He and his younger brothers were displaced five times in the span of four years. For a time, he lived with family members who mistreated him as he struggled to complete his high school education. Despite these hardships, Simon was able to graduate, mainly because of the EC Sponsorship Program. Today Simon is a husband, a father, and a successful entrepreneur. His full story can be found here.
The EC Sponsorship Program Today
Over 200 orphaned girls and boys have been sponsored through this program since 2012. Currently EC is supporting 51 students who live in eastern and western Kenya and attend 13 different secondary schools. Our goal is to sponsor 24 more students this year, for a total of 75 secondary school students.
Adding Your Support
The cost to sponsor one student is approximately $200 per year. This includes the cost of two new school uniforms per child. If you would like to contribute to this effort, please click HERE to visit our website and learn how you can make a secure donation.
As always, thank you for helping these children reach their potential. Together we can change a generation through education.
This morning’s “spring forward” has me reflecting on a few months ago, when EC’s Executive Director, Ruth and I flew seven hours forward to the land that holds our hearts.
Two other travelers joined us on our journey: Jennifer Solomon, who was returning to the country and people she also loves, and René Idowu, who was visiting Kenya for the first time. After a three-year hiatus, we finally made it back to Kenya. And Kenya greeted us with open arms.
To Rongo We Go
Day one found us tossed into the hubbub of Nairobi. Honking horns and busy footsteps on their way to work guided us as we drove out of the city, past the swirling dust devils in the Great Rift Valley, and toward the red-dirt roads of Rongo in western Kenya.
After a brief twilight stop at Kitere Primary School to glimpse their flourishing student-grown gardens, we journeyed to William Aludo’s house where homemade chapati and much needed ‘catch up’ after so many years were waiting for us. The next morning we returned to William’s house to deposit approximately 75 pounds worth of college-lined notebooks and black-inked pens as supplies for the camps William leads for orphaned secondary school students during their school breaks. (These supplies were donated by students at Harwood Union High School in Duxbury, VT!)
Miruya Primary School
Following a mug of chai, we traveled to Miruya Primary School in the hills of Migori County. We were welcomed by throngs of students who gathered to see us even though our visit happened during their school break. After touring the school and assessing the needs there, the headmaster and some of the local partners treated us to a lunch of local goods – sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, and juicy mango – as a thank you for visiting the school. One of the local parents also gifted us with a goat, which is an honor in Kenya.
I named the goat Wilbur, and since he didn’t fit in our vehicle he has now become the chief lawn mower at Miruya Primary School.
From Rongo we made the seven-hour trek east to Nakuru where we met with EC-sponsored students at Bishop Donovan Secondary School in Lanet. Our team encouraged the students to continue their studies and keep persevering.
Living Faith International
Our last day in Kenya brought us back to Nairobi where we visited Living Faith International, a nonprofit organization which sponsors orphaned students so that they may continue their studies. This visit stood out for me as I was reunited with Martin Hallelujah, a 16-year-old EC-sponsored student whom we met during our 2019 trip to Kenya. As one of Living Faith’s newly sponsored students, Martin’s happiness could not be contained. He proudly showed me around the grounds and thanked us for everything EC has been able to do for him over the years. He asked me to say hello and send his thanks to all of you as well, dear readers and supporters.
Although this was a short trip, we returned home with inspiration and a renewed devotion for the mission of Everyone’s Child: to help orphaned children and vulnerable communities in Kenya.
As always, Kenya gifted us with welcome, warmth, and a wonderful sense of a home away from home. EC’s work is anything but finished, so stick with us, there’s more to come.
Greetings from my Thanksgiving table to yours. I hope this note finds you warm and surrounded by those who bring you joy.
<< Looking back
This time of year is the season for reflection; for looking back on the past year to reflect on the experiences that have led to growth and progress. Here at EC, we have so much to be thankful for. We are grateful for the children whose lives we have been able to touch – and whose hearts have stolen ours. We are thankful for our many incredible supporters and donors who believe in EC’s mission to help the children of the world.
Looking forward >>
As we look back on this year, we also look forward to the coming year.
As we near the end of 2022, we are hoping to raise $35,000 through our Annual Appeal, which will allow EC to continue to grow and impact the lives of children in Kenya and India in 2023. It is through the donations of supporters that EC is able to do what we do. This holiday season, please consider giving to our Annual Appeal. Because of compassionate contributors just like you, we have already raised over one-third of the funds. Can you help us reach our goal?
If you have the means to do so, please consider donating to our cause. We accept donations via PayPal, credit card, and personal checks. For more information, please check out the donation page on our website. Additionally, EC is now able to accept donations via Venmo!
P.S. We’re excited to announce that after a three-year hiatus, EC’s Executive Director, Ruth Young, and I will be flying to Kenya in January 2023! We plan to meet with EC Kenya’s Board of Directors and several EC sponsored students. Stay tuned for updates on our upcoming trip!
The war in Ukraine has sparked a worldwide call to action. Thousands of people have answered the call.
Andrii Morohov is one of those people.
Armed with the lifelong mantra that children must always come first, Kharkiv-native Andrii founded the NGO Blagovist 2013 (meaning Good News in English) in 2013 to aid and support orphans as well as children from low-income families in and around the city of Kharkiv. Now, Andrii has focused his nonprofit’s efforts on helping children who have been impacted by the chaos of war. From children hiding in subway stations from bombs to young families who have had to leave everything behind and flee, Blagovist 2013 has been providing humanitarian aid and essentials to as many people as they can, including everything from diapers, clothing, and basic food items to sketchbooks, pencils and paint for children.
As Everyone’s Child continues to fundraise for Ukraine, we have been in awe of the work Andrii’s NGO has done and continues to do for the children of Ukraine. It is for this reason that we have selected his NGO as the beneficiary for all of the funds raised through EC’sCaring for the Children of Ukraine fundraiser.
With these funds, Blagovist 2013 will be able to support the following communities: 1) the children and families of the recently liberated Vilkhivsky community who have spent months living under occupation in basements; and 2) a large group of internally displaced people with young children who now live in the Valkovsky community in the Kharkiv region.
Two years ago, the USA Board of Directors for Everyone’s Child partnered with the EC Kenya Board of Directors to establish the EC Kenya Scholarship Fund. This fund was set up to give students who had benefitted from EC’s Secondary School Sponsorship program the opportunity to pursue a post-secondary degree. Members of both EC Kenya and EC USA’s Board of Directors contribute to this fund each year, paving the way for orphaned students to attend college or training programs after graduating from high school. This year we have good reason to be celebrating scholarship!
A Letter of Recommendation
Last month, William Aludo, EC’s Program Coordinator sent us a wonderful recommendation letter that one of our scholarship students, Esther Njenga, received from the hospital where she conducted an “attachment” (similar to an internship). Her letter of recommendation is below:
Needless to say, we were overjoyed with this news! Esther’s performance at the hospital was exemplary, and she has been highly recommended for future positions. This means that there is a very good chance she will be able to find work in a hospital or other medical facility when she graduates in 2023. Not bad for someone just finishing up her college degree! This is the best kind of news to receive when it comes to helping students, and we are excited to be celebrating her scholarship with our supporters.
EC’s Sponsorship Program
Everyone’s Child supports orphaned and vulnerable students in a variety of ways. We provide orphaned primary school students with a daily meal while they are in school, and orphaned secondary school students are eligible for our sponsorship program. You can learn more about these programs by visiting our website and clicking on Our Mission in the menu. Please be sure to contact us if you want to learn how to support these students who rely on outside help to complete their education.
Early in 2017, William Aludo introduced us to a small school located about two hours from his home. The Miruya Primary School is tucked away in the hills of Migori County, in a beautiful but very rural part of Kenya. He had visited the school, and found three dozen young children waiting for their teacher to arrive. There were no desks, so the children were sitting on the dirt floor. After speaking with them, he learned that on the days she came, they sang songs and played circle games outside. There were days she didn’t come though, apparently because she wasn’t always paid. The government hadn’t yet recognized the school, so it was up to the parents to pay someone to teach their children. The children still came every day, in hopes that their teacher would show up.
William reported all of this to the EC USA Board of Directors, who responded by partnering with CBN to hire teachers, establish a lunch program, build a kitchen, and provide uniforms and school supplies.
Miruya Primary School
“If you build it, they will come,” the saying from the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” bears repeating here. During the past two months two new classrooms have been built for the seventh and eighth students. Enrollment is up from last year. What is more, the school is now fully registered with the government – as public a school as they come. This means they are able to receive government funding, and can hire government paid teachers.
A Visitor to Miruya Primary School
Not long ago, the area MP (Member of Parliament) came to visit the school. He was greeted enthusiastically by the students and joined them as they danced and sang. The new tile floors made an impression, and gave him the confidence to say that he wants to help with some other changes to the school. Among those improvements, he plans to initiate the hiring of a government paid ECDE teacher. He will also give the school 80 new desks. The students and teachers have come a long way since the day that William found them sitting on the dirt floor waiting for their teacher to show up.
Walk for Water
Last month, walkers all across the US joined forces to raise funds to dig a well at Miruya Primary School. The goal was to raise $5,000 to be matched by the generous donations of our supporters. A well at the school will cost $14,000, so our intent was to conduct another small campaign to get us to the finish line. Once again, the heart and generosity of our supporters came shining through. The Walk for Water event raised over $9,000, allowing us to sign a contract with the well digging company. Plans are underway to have a well dug before the start of the new school year!
As we look ahead, there is a lot to look forward to. With two new classrooms in place and a well soon to be dug, we hope to see a lot more smiles on the faces of these children. As always, we want to thank all those who are helping these students reach their goals and realize their dreams.
Please click here to learn how you can help to educate, care for and connect with students across Kenya and India.
In 2017, I published Simon’s Story, a story about Simon Wanjala, an orphaned student who was displaced five times within a five-year period. A lot has happened in his life, so it’s time to give an update to the story.
A Successful Beginning
Simon was part of the first group of orphans in EC’s student sponsorship program in 2010. He graduated from Bishop Donovan Secondary School two years later and has stayed in touch since then, helping with EC’s programs in and around Nakuru. After graduating, Simon held several different jobs, and by 2017 he had built a successful Forex training institute in Nakuru. He hired three team members who taught both online and in-person classes to people interested in learning about trading foreign currencies.
During this time Simon was caring for his two younger brothers, giving them a home, paying their school fees and making sure their needs were met. He also met Felisters, the woman who eventually became his wife. The two of them married at the end of 2019, after a long courtship which included saving for and presenting a dowry, with the hopes that the offering would be accepted by her parents.
A Pandemic Setback
In 2020, shortly after cases of COVID-19 were discovered in Kenya, the government shut down all non-essential businesses, including Simon’s TopRank Forex Institute. However, he has never been one to succumb to difficulties, as the story of his early years bears out. In recent months as restrictions began to loosen, Simon dug into his savings to open a gym and beauty salon near his home in Lanet. Although he still lacks some gym equipment, he is hiring staff, providing much needed jobs to people in his area.
Simon’s generosity doesn’t end there. During the lockdown he used his savings to help provide food for families in his town who were out of work. His example falls directly in line with the vision of Everyone’s Child to “care where there is great need“. As he stated in Simon’s Story, his aim is to “…let society learn from me that God always provides for needy kids…”.
An Update to the Story
Last week Simon contacted me with some exciting news. Felisters had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl, making him the happiest man on the planet. He was waiting to pick both of them up from the Margaret Kenyatta Mother Baby Wing, a mega maternity wing at the Rift Valley Provincial Hospital in Nakuru. His exuberance could be felt through the airwaves, and with no wonder. Experiencing the miracle of new life is one of those moments that outweighs all others.
We at Everyone’s Child are happy and excited for Simon as he continues his journey. It’s wonderful to be able to track with him, celebrating his wedding and the birth of his firstborn child. We are rooting for this little family and praying that his new business will thrive.
EC has been able to impact the lives of hundreds of orphaned secondary students like Simon since 2010. This year we are supporting 23 orphaned high school students in several different schools in Kenya. If you would like to contribute to the education of a student in need, please visit us at everyoneschild.net/donate/. Your gift will make a difference that will have an impact for generations to come.
Thank you, and many blessings,
Everyone’s Child: changing a generation through education.
Not so long ago, William Aludo, EC’s Program Coordinator in Kenya, sent me photos of students from Miruya Primary School. This is the school where EC recently built a new classroom. The children were collecting water from a muddy river William called the “seasonal” Kaboro River.
The next batch of photos featured children walking along a dusty road with large jerry cans on their heads. These cans were filled with the water they had just collected.
From a cultural standpoint, it isn’t so strange to see children carrying or collecting water in Kenya. Water is necessary to live, and most if not all of these children live in homes where there is no running water. The responsibility of collecting water is often left to children. But to our North American eyes, the sight of a young child scooping muddy water from a shallow river gives us pause.
Waterborne diseases are the number one leading cause of death in Kenyan children under the age of five. Among the more popular solutions to the problem of unsafe drinking water are water filtration systems, rain harvesting systems, and borehole drilling.
Providing Clean Water
Everyone’s Child is committed to providing potable water at schools where we support students. In 2014, EC partnered with Christian Broadcasting Network to install a rain harvesting system at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto, Kenya. Before the system was in place, children were getting water from a muddy river that was a two-mile walk from their village. The mortality rate in that area was also extremely high among young children.
Today the red dust that dominated the area around this primary school has been replaced by a garden, and joy can be seen on the faces of all the children.
How You Can Help
Explorations into the provision of clean water at the Miruya Primary School have begun. In the coming months we will be launching a campaign to raise funds for this effort. If you would like to add your support, please click here to make a secure donation. Our goal is to ensure that the children and staff at the Miruya Primary School will have clean drinking water by this time next year. Stay tuned for more updates on this project!
Many of us are familiar with the saying “less is more”, but I’d like to suggest that there are also times when more is more. In this case, more instead of less classroom space for teaching children.
Change Has Come
After years of waiting, praying and wondering if building would begin, change has finally come to the Miruya Primary School in Migori County, Kenya. Last week, a group of 7th and 8th grade students filed into their brand new classroom. After settling in at their desks they looked around to admire the painted walls, tiled floor and glass windows. They were speechless.
You can watch them entering their new space for the first time below:
When More is More
This classroom represents years of planning and hoping, as well as a multitude of prayers on the part of the Miruya community. When William Aludo first discovered the school in 2018, he found an abandoned building. Eighteen children were there, sitting on the cracked and dusty floors of an empty classroom. There were no teachers. The government had all but forgotten this really rural area, and consequently no teachers had been hired to teach at the school. That same year Everyone’s Child received a generous grant to help breathe life back into this little school. We hired teachers and a cook, and built bathrooms and a new kitchen. The enrollment began to grow. Within one year we were holding a Matching Challenge to raise funds for a new classroom. The number of students had multiplied and they had run out of classrooms to hold them.
At a recent meeting, the EC Board of Directors made a commitment to build another classroom at the Miruya Primary School, allowing current and future 7th and 8th graders to have their own learning spaces. Our next step will be to investigate the potential of having a well dug so the children and staff will have access to clean drinking water. These small steps are the beginning of a revitalization of this neglected but beautiful area of Kenya. If you are in a position to help with either of these projects, please click hereto add your support.
More space, more water, more opportunities, and more hope. That is when more is more. The children of Miruya Primary School may not be able to thank you for your support first hand, but if they could, they would shout “asante sana!”, and their joy would be felt across the ocean.
I have some really good news to share. This past fall Everyone’s Child held their Annual Appeal. Today I am excited to report that in a year of pandemic and anxiety we have raised almost $30,000! When you take into account that this has been an extremely challenging year across our country and around the world, I am very encouraged by this response.
EC’s Annual Appeal is conducted every year in an effort to fund our programs, including the Orphan Feeding Program, which provides a daily lunch to over 500 orphaned students in six Kenyan primary schools each day. Another program that requires ongoing funding is our Secondary School Student Sponsorship Program. Currently EC is supporting 13 orphaned secondary students in Kenya and four students in India, and we expect to add at least 10 more students to the roster this year. Many supporters made specific gifts to these programs, enabling us to continue offering nutritious meals and an education to students who otherwise would not be able to attend school. The Mentorship Program makes up EC’s third initiative to help orphans. William Aludo, EC’s Kenyan Program Coordinator heads this program, leading orphaned high school students through a year-long plan to equip them with skills they will need after graduating from school. This three pronged approach encompasses EC’s mission statement, to educate, care for and connect with vulnerable children in developing nations.
Really Good News
The other really good news has to do with a small group of students from Harwood Union High School in northern central Vermont who spent the past several months raising funds to help their Kenyan peers attend school this year. In 2019, after learning that students in Kenya will be sent home if they can’t pay the $36 fee per term, they formed a group called “Harwood Students Making Change” and raised enough funds to help 12 orphaned high school students go to school in 2020. But they didn’t stop there. After finishing one fundraiser, Ari, Erin and Rachel visited local artisans, restaurateurs and purveyors in Vermont, asking for raffle donations. Their goal was to raise funds by selling tickets to classmates and teachers to continue helping Kenyan students go to school the following year. COVID-19 waylaid their plans, but they weren’t put off. Instead they switched gears to hold an online raffle last November, this time raising enough funds to send 15 orphaned secondary students to school in 2021.
EC Board member Tracy Guion spearheaded the event, using the online raffle platform “RallyUp” to get the word out to supporters. Tickets were snapped up by friends and strangers alike, and by the end of the month they had reached and surpassed their goal, raising over $2,500 in one month! And what was more, twenty happy winners walked away with distinctive Vermont gifts. Among the prizes were a Keurig coffee maker, a one-of-a-kind Ziemke Glass Blowing Studio ornament, as well as gift certificates from shops and restaurants like The Warren Store, Red Hen Bakery, The Blue Stone and other places in and around the Mad River Valley. It was a win-win situation for sure.
An Unforgettable Moment
In 2019, Ari created a video to introduce themselves to their new African friends and let them know that they had raised funds for their schooling. Tracy shared this video with the students in Kenya when she visited with them at the end of 2019. They were immensely grateful and equally amazed at the ingenuity of these three young women. An unforgettable response came from a Kenyan student named Gordon who said, “I would also like to raise funds and share it with other orphans so they can also go to school.”
Messages of Mercy
The best part about all of this is obvious but still bears stating. This effort was put forth by three teenage girls who clearly want to make a difference in the world they live in. Tracy had introduced them to Everyone’s Child through Messages of Mercy, EC’s writing program between students from different cultures. This program was initiated to forge an understanding and create a sensitivity and awareness between students around the world. Ari, Erin and Rachel realized that they could have an impact in the lives of orphaned students who otherwise might not be able to finish high school due to an inability to pay their school fees. And despite the obstacles of distance, culture and even a global pandemic, they have found a way to make an education possible for students who don’t have the same opportunities as many American children.
From the bottom of our hearts
The EC Board of Directors and I want to thank everyone who gave to our Annual Appeal this year, and tell you from the bottom of our hearts that you are all making a huge difference by ensuring that children are fed, educated and connected, even if the hurdles standing in their way seem unsurmountable. Together we truly can help a generation through education.
As we look ahead to the new year, I think we can all agree that a fresh start is needed. However, I’m not so sure we want to begin from square one. We’ve all been somewhere this past year and returning to January 2020 to start over again is not at all what I am recommending. But a new beginning is a welcome thought.
An Extended Vacation
The pandemic wreaked a special kind of havoc on children all over the world this past year. Kenyan students were sent home in mid-March for what turned into months of an extended vacation. This led to widespread apathy, a rise in crime and teen pregnancies, and other issues resulting from sheer boredom.
Everyone’s Child took action soon after the schools closed. Starting in April, we redirected funding for the student sponsorship and orphan feeding programs to purchase and distribute enough food for 600+ orphaned students so they could eat during the months of lockdown.
For the past two months, William Aludo has been making the two hour trip from his home in Rongo to track the progress of a building project at this school. The development has been remarkable. To date, a security fence has been installed, a gatehouse has been built, three foundations have been laid and a new classroom is on its way to being built.
A New Beginning
Enrollment is rising in the area and will continue to grow in years to come. The exciting news is that current and incoming students will have an indoor space to learn and grow. Kenya’s warm climate might cause some of us in northern latitudes to prefer an outdoor classroom, but the heat and rain in Kenya are both reasons to bring education indoors. This new classroom symbolizes a fresh beginning for the students and their teachers, and will allow them to move ahead with their studies safely in the new year.
Adding Your Support
We are as pleased as can be that the classroom we raised funds for in 2019 is finally being built. Our plan is to continue sponsoring and providing daily meals for orphaned students between preschool and high school. If you are interested in participating with us in this effort, please click here to add your support. All contributions are tax-deductible, used for and appreciated by the children we serve.
As always, thank you so much, and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and very new New Year.
“COVID-19 has done bad things – life has been hard. Since coronavirus started there is no money. People are died. People are loose their jobs. We are no going to school because of COVID-19. Many markets have been closed, but I hope COVID-19 will end. I will go back to school…I pray and I believe. Amen.” A Kenyan student writing to her American friend.
While those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are struggling with election fatigue and the onset of winter, our Kenyan friends are grateful not to be facing an election or cold weather. Both have particularly bad consequences in their country. But the trials they do face every day revolve around the same issue plaguing the rest of the world. Current cases of COVID-19 have risen well above 58,000, compelling President Uhuru Kenyatta to reinstate a nationwide 9 PM curfew. Schools that have been closed since mid-March partially re-opened in mid-October, but only for students in 4th grade, Standard 8 (8th grade), and Form 4 (high school seniors), all who are preparing to take national exams. Students in every other grade know they are missing out on their education, which many of them also know is their ticket to the future.
In October, the Kenyan government made online lessons available nationwide, but access to the internet is needed in order to watch them online. A tv screen is also helpful. Internet is widely available throughout Kenya, but tv screens require electricity, which for close to 73% of the population who live in rural areas, is a challenge to acquire.
Earlier this summer, EC-supported students in western Kenya found an opportunity to study online after EC provided a 32-inch screen and satellite dish so they could watch lessons at a building on William Aludo’s property. On any given week, 16 or more children and young adults show up in small groups to watch lessons online. It’s been a blessing for them to be able to stay connected to their studies, and they are truly happy to be in a learning environment again. A primary student recently told Willam, “I wish my parents could allow me to come every day like I go to school.”
Staying connected to friends near and far has also been an important missing piece for these students. Over the last two months, William and Tracy Guion from the USA teamed up to ask young adults on both sides of the globe to write letters about how the pandemic has affected their every day lives. Kenyan students started by writing and then scanning their letters to students in Vermont. Their stories are poignant, as seen in the quote at the top of this blog and in Judith’s letter to Jonah below:
Jonah and the others who have received letters have yet to write back to their Kenyan friends. But one thing is clear, this pandemic is affecting these Kenyan students as well as countless others in their country. Sharing their experiences is one way of coping.
Everyone’s Child is trying to make a difference every day for students who have lost their parents and are now facing new challenges due to restrictions imposed from COVID-19. Your support will help us to continue providing them with food and hope during these uncertain times. Please consider giving today by visiting www.everyoneschild.net .
Thank you in advance for your help. Every gift counts.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And just like that – in the blink of an eye – my “Kenya girls” have graduated high school.
If you’ve followed EC’s blogs and announcements over the years, you’ve likely heard about Erin Elwell and Arianna ‘Ari’ Clark. I met them when I visited their eighth grade English class to introduce a pen pal letter writing program between Harwood students and students in Kenya. Both jumped at the chance to partner with me on other EC endeavors, which led to the creation of a club called Harwood Students Making Change (HSMC).
Harwood Students Making Change
HSMC, over the last few years, has implemented three fundraisers and raised nearly $15,000 to assist orphaned high school students in Kenya. The girls implemented a crowdsourcing fundraiser in 2019, followed by an online raffle in 2020. In 2022, HSMC led a Walk for Water fundraiser to raise funds for a well at Miruya Primary School. Because of the leadership demonstrated by these young ladies, there are students across Kenya who have been able to continue their high school education and Kenyan students who have been inspired to support their own peers.
It was incredible to attend Ari and Erin’s high school graduation a few weeks ago and watch them walk across the stage. To celebrate their years of involvement and impact, the EC Board of Directors voted to make them Ambassadors of Everyone’s Child, a title and certificate I had the honor of presenting to each of them after they graduated.
While my “Kenya girls” have graduated from Harwood Union High School, I have no doubt that they will continue to make a difference in the lives of others during their college experiences.
Erin and Ari are prime examples of what a lot of heart and never-ending motivation can accomplish. They have been such an inspiration to me over the years. And do you know the craziest part?
Some of you may have already received and responded to ourannual appeal in the mail. For those of you who haven’t received or responded to this appeal yet, this is a gentle reminder that each year Everyone’s Child asks for support for our Orphan Feeding Program and Secondary School Sponsorship Program. To keep these programs running, we rely on the generosity of people like you, who understand that it is through consistent, generous contributions that we can feed and educate these orphaned and vulnerable children each year. We are now asking for your support for these initiatives.
A Daily Meal and an Education
Despite pandemic restrictions, this past year EC was able to provide a daily meal and an education for close to 700 orphaned students in Kenya and India. This was all possible because of the generous donations from people who give on a monthly basis or gave during last year’s Annual Appeal.
School Supplies, Uniforms, and a Daily Meal
In the coming year, EC will continue providing daily meals to students at six different schools throughout Kenya. This program costs $25 per school year for each student. With the help of our partners, we also plan to sponsor up to 40 orphaned secondary students, providing them with school supplies, uniforms, and a daily meal. The annual cost to sponsor one secondary student is $200. We also plan to support up to 25 vulnerable students in northern and southern India who want to attend school.
Asking for Your Support
This year, the Board of Directors and I are asking for your support to help us raise $35,000, enabling us to sustain, build and grow our current programs.
If you would like to participate in this goal, donations can be securely made online by clicking here.
Everyone’s Child is a registered 501 C3 corporation, and 90% of our administrative costs are covered by those on the Board of Directors, therefore close to 100% of your donationwill go directly to our programs.
As always, thank you for your support for Everyone’s Child.