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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Above all, I solicit your prayers and continued assistance as we work through this global challenge. Your concern and support for Everyone’s Child is valued and welcome.
For those of us living in the developed world, the promise of an education is something we own. We can bank on it. In fact, very few of us ever consider what it would be like not to have access to primary or secondary (high school) education.
Opportunities to Learn
When I think about my years as an elementary school student, I remember jump rope games and skinned knees. I remember circling pictures in a row that matched pictures in the left column. Learning how to write my name in cursive was another milestone. My high school memories include learning about Argentina in a 9th grade Current Events class and the smell of formaldehyde in Biology. I remember parallelograms in Geometry and left hand turns in Driver’s Ed. There were so many opportunities to learn.
However, for many children and families living in Africa, the promise of an education is not guaranteed.
Last January, an article in the Africa Report stated: “[a]ccording to UNESCO, in sub-Saharan Africa one-fifth of children between six and 11 are out of school, one-third between 12 and 14, and 60% between 15 and 17. Though the reasons are various, ranging from conflict to corruption to lack of provision, poverty is now identified as an overwhelming factor.”
Today, free primary school education is legally guaranteed in 42 of 54 African nations*. Primary education was made free to all Kenyan students in 2003, and in 2017 the Kenyan government introduced free secondary education. A catalyst for free schooling in Kenya began with the dedication of organizations like EC who are committed to making education available to Kenyan children.
The Cost of an Education
For both primary and secondary school, Kenyan parents are still required to pay for school lunch programs and uniforms, a cost that puts a financial strain on many families. For children without parents, the promise of an education becomes even more elusive. Children who have been orphaned are usually taken care of by family members who often can’t afford additional costs. The hope they once had becomes uncertain, and their potential for a successful future is at risk.
Lunch programs typically cost $12 a month per student, and school uniforms cost about $60 annually. These amounts certainly seem affordable, especially for those who are used to paying high fees for children’s programs. But for families who are subsisting on less than $25 per month, these costs can be prohibitive. Sadly, Kenyan students who don’t have lunch money or a proper uniform are suspended from school. Furthermore, preschool in Kenya is not free, and many families wind up paying 20% of their annual income to cover this expense.
The Promise of An Education
In 2010, Everyone’s Child was established to provide an education for Kenyan children who had lost their parents. Since then, thousands of children have received an education, thanks to the generosity of donors who understand their plight. What this has done for them is immeasurable. It has given them a future full of hope.
Today, over 600 orphaned and vulnerable children in Kenya are supported by EC. These students range between the ages of 3 and 18. All are either orphaned or belong to families that are unable to afford school fees.
Ways of Contributing
The good news is that we have found a way to help these students. EC’s sponsorship program pays school fees for orphaned and vulnerable secondary students based on donations we receive. The Orphan Feeding Program is sustained by people committed to making sure that orphaned primary students receive a daily meal while they are in school.
Many EC donors choose to give on an ongoing or monthly basis. A continuing contribution makes it possible for many children to enjoy their education without the stress of being sent home for lack of lunch money or improper attire.
If you would like to become a monthly supporter of EC, please click on this link and select the second “Donate” option. One time donations are also welcome and a vital part of maintaining EC’s sponsorship program.
As I look ahead to the rest of 2020, I am anticipating a year of fulfilled dreams and expectations for children who have lost hope. I am also looking forward to working alongside people who have a heart for children who want to be educated but lack the resources for that opportunity.
Thank you so much for joining us in this effort of giving every child the promise of an education.
What you do to the least of them, you do to me. Matthew 25:40
*At the writing of this blog, I was unable to find statistics comparing African countries that do and don’t provide free secondary education.
There is exciting news to share! Everyone’s Child has a new opportunity for the year ahead. But first, here is an update on what our supporters have accomplished in 2019.
Kenya: School Lunches and Sponsorships
The Orphan Feeding Program offered daily meals to600 orphaned children at five different primary schools in Kenya. Everyone’s Child now partners with several Kenyan school administrations to bear the cost of this project, a major first step in developing self-sustaining programs. Our average monthly cost for this program is $1,200, totaling over $14,000 annually.
EC’s Sponsorship Program supported 30 orphans in preschool and high school. This summer three middle school students from Vermont raised over $2,000to help orphaned high school students with their school fees. Our goal for this coming year is to sponsor at least 10 preschoolers and 30 secondary students, for an annual cost of $6,000.
Sweaters for India
In northern rural India earlier this year, temperatures dipped into the low 60’s. EC supporters provided sweaters to over 200 needy children living in Orissa, offering relief during the cold snap. In southern India, donations helped to pay school fees for five impoverished orphans. The total cost of both efforts was $2,500.
Opportunity in Western Kenya
This past September I traveled to Kenya to visit with students, teachers and administrators at each of the schools where Everyone’s Child provides support. One of the schools we visited was the Miruya Primary School, located in a poor rural area in western Kenya.
The needs there are numerous, including the continued provision of daily meals, a security fence, leveling the schoolyard, and a new classroom. Enrollment is expected to increase in the coming years, so additional classrooms will also need to be built. Thankfully this summer’s Matching Challenge raised $10,000 to build a classroom! The cost of the remaining projects there could well exceed $20,000.
EC’s Board of Directors and I are very excited about the new opportunity that lies ahead for us to help the children at this school, with an eye toward building a successful partnership and eventual self-sustainability.
Everyone’s Child Now
Everyone’s Child now reaches over 800 orphaned and vulnerable children globally, providing education, meals, potable water, clothing and connections to those in need. None of this would be possible without your prayers, involvement and financial contributions.
Our goal for this year’s Annual Appeal is to raise $32,500, enabling us to sustain and grow our current programs.
During this season of giving, I am writing to ask you to please work alongside us as we encourage the orphans and vulnerable children who are counting on us for their education and their future.
Donations can be made online by clicking here or by sending a check to EC’s new mailing address: P.O. Box 522, Linesville, PA 16424. All contributions are tax-deductible, used for and appreciated by the children we support.
In the words of one of EC’s sponsored students, “No matter where you come from, someone somewhere is thinking of you.” On behalf of these students, our deepest thanks to everyone who is thinking of these children. With your help we will continue changing a generation through education.
If you’ve had a chance to read EC’s September blog, you may remember reading about the “value added moment,” when a student named Gordon said that he wanted to raise funds to help orphans go to school. His enthusiasm was contagious – other students in the room that night said that they also wanted to find a way to raise funds for peers who struggle to pay their school fees. They had all been encouraged by the three girls at Harwood Union High School in Vermont who had raised funds for EC during their summer vacation.
Three ideas, two months, and one student
William Aludo, EC’s Program Coordinator in Kenya, recently held a brainstorming session with these students, asking them to lay out their ideas for raising funds. They came up with what I call a “3,2,1 plan”. Their proposal involved three ideas, two months and one student. Their three ideas were to sell milk and hardboiled eggs, make and sell homemade potato chips (a.k.a. french fries), and open a barber shop. They challenged themselves with spending the next two months raising funds. Their goal is to raise enough money to send one orphaned secondary student to school in 2020.
A lofty goal
This is a lofty goal for students who haven’t yet joined the work force, don’t receive a monthly allowance, or haven’t got a savings account to dip into. But I believe those blocks won’t deter them from reaching their objective. During the first weekend of November they began peeling and cooking potatoes, and by the day’s end had already begin to make sales! In an age where “peer to peer fundraising” is all the rage, these students are putting this concept to work!
During this season of giving and gratitude, my hope is that the passion these students have for helping their peers will encourage others to want to give. If you want to support an orphaned student next year, please click here to make a secure donation. Your gift will help a child go to school, and will also encourage these students who are trying to make a difference!
When Tracy Guion, EC’s Messages of Mercy Program Coordinator, William Aludo, EC’s Kenyan Program Coordinator, our driver David Kiboi from Nairobi and I visited the Miruya Primary School in Migori County last month we were treated to a song called “The Lord has Something to Say”. The students who sang it were shy, waving at us from a distance but clamming up when we got close to them. That made sense; their worlds involve home, school and the 3 – 4 km walk between those two places. The sight of these newcomers was a bit startling, especially given the differences in our skin color and vocal accents.
A group of fifth and sixth graders were seated outside when we arrived, their desks balancing precariously on the rocky ground. These students share a classroom in the school building, but they had taken their desks out into the school yard to make space for a meeting that would take place later on with “the visitors” (i.e. – us). Despite their displacement and timidity, they managed to sing a call and response song for us. I’ve posted a video with the lyrics below:
“The Lord has something to say,
The Lord has something to say.
Listen, listen, pay very close attention.
The Lord has something to say.”
I’ve been around young children too long not to sit up and take notice when a child says something that sounds like a message directed at me. There have been many times when a student has said or done something that catches my attention. Educators call this a “teaching moment”, which usually pertains to an adult teaching a student and not the other way around. After the second chorus I decided that I was the student and this was one of those times to be especially attentive. The message eluded me at the time, but in the days that followed their song came back to me over and over again.
A Scenic Area
This was the second day of our trip and Miruya Primary School was the first of several schools we planned to visit. I had been to Migori County in western Kenya one other time and was once again awestruck by the beauty of this area. The hillsides were covered with a checkerboard of fields, looking for all the world like a scene from Ireland or Vermont.
But the moment we stepped onto the school grounds we became aware of the challenges that people living in this rural area face every day. The schoolyard was riddled with rocks, making walking hazardous and a game of tag an impossibility. Classrooms held little more than a chalkboard and rough wooden benches attached to planks that served as desks. Two or three students shared dog-eared books. The windows had glass, but there were no educational posters on the walls and teacher’s desks were non-existent. Most of the 165 students enrolled wore the school uniform of green and blue, but children who had just joined the school wore hand-me-downs or whatever was available at home.
As we moved through the classrooms, children reacted timidly to our small group, some smiling shyly and waving, but most viewing us with wide eyes. It was plain to see that they knew William, who is Chairman of the Board of Management at the school, but we were unfamiliar to them.
Not long after we arrived it was time for lunch. We went behind the school where children were lining up at the new kitchen that EC supporters helped to build last year. We had brought along a “Kateri’s Kitchen” plaque to put up on the building, dedicating this kitchen to the memory of our dear friend Sr. Kateri Walker who was so instrumental in building EC’s orphan feeding program.
The children ate their meal outside, leaning against the wall of the building, some waiting for others to finish so they could share the bowls which at that time were too few for the growing enrollment. I shuddered at the thought of the germs that were also being shared among the children. (Since then, 200 cups and bowls have been purchased and brought to the school.)
The Lord Has Something to Say
After leaving Migori County, William, David, Tracy and I spent the next four days visiting other schools where for the past ten years supporters of Everyone’s Child have provided meals, uniforms, clean water, classrooms and connections with peers in other countries. As we traveled from school to school, I thought about the song I had heard at the Miruya Primary School and wondered what I was meant to learn from those shy children and their little tune.
Everywhere we went we were met with smiles and laughter. Students were pleased to show us what they had learned in school. It was encouraging to see the changes that had taken place, especially as several of the schools we visited had started in rocky fields with less than a hundred students and few resources at hand. Enrollments have increased, and children are happy and proud of their schools, as evidenced by the smiles on their faces and the high scores they receive on their national exams.
Another major change has been the establishment of partnerships between EC and the school administrations. Several of these schools now share the financial responsibility of supporting orphans in their programs with us, a first step in building self-sustaining programs on the ground.
Every Journey Begins with One Step
As our trip came to a close it became clear to me that the message hidden in that song was for us to stay the course and continue building at the Miruya Primary School. The children in this area are poor and need a school within walking distance of their homes. The changes I had seen in the other schools we visited reminded me that every journey begins with one step, and that rather than be discouraged by the enormity of the task, we should be encouraged by what has already been accomplished.
Addressing the Needs
There are many needs to be addressed at Miruya Primary School; the most pressing being to continue providing students with a daily lunch program. The school yard needs to be leveled and a security fence has to be installed. The funds raised with this summer’s Matching Challenge will build a classroom for next year’s seventh graders. The administration expects the enrollment to increase each year, so additional classrooms will need to be built.
The EC Board of Directors and I are excited about the opportunity that lies ahead for us to help the children at this school, with an eye toward building a successful partnership and eventual self-sustainability.
If you would like to contribute to this effort, or to any of our programs serving orphaned and vulnerable children, please click here to make a secure online donation. Feel free to send us an email at email@example.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!
I’ve just returned from an amazing trip to Kenya with Tracy Guion of Waitsfield, VT. It was a whirlwind of activity, beginning with one “value added moment” that I continue to unpack in my mind over and over again.
The response to the writing program has been tremendous, especially on the part of three HUMS girls who decided that they wanted to do more. They had learned that students in Kenya will be sent home if they can’t pay their fee of $36 per term, so they formed a group called “Harwood Students Making Change” and spent their summer vacation reaching out to family, friends, and area businesses in VT, raising funds to help orphaned Kenyan secondary students with their school fees. By the end of the summer they had raised over $2,000, enough to send 12 students to school for one year. They also made a short video introducing themselves and letting their new African friends know that they had raised these funds (see below).
We had arrived at our hotel in Nairobi at midnight and then spent the following day traveling six hours by car to Rongo. Needless to say, Tracy and I were whipped. But we had an important meeting to attend, which was to meet with the Mentorship Camp students at William Aludo’s home.
Nine students met us that evening, three of whom were students that EC currently supports. It began raining not long after we arrived, and the house had a tin roof, so the sound was deafening. Despite the storm we managed to share a meal and learn about each other.
Tracy was in her element. She sat right in the middle of the students and began asking them about their lives – what they liked to eat, how far they had to walk to get to school, and so on. Then she asked them to tell her what they had learned from their pen pals in America. The answers were interesting and revealing. Martin said, “I learned that there is not much difference between we and them.” Gordon said, “It gave me a chance to explore America”, and Brayton said, “I learned that most Americans only have two children.”
When Josephine mentioned that her pen pal was Arianna, Tracy pulled out her cell phone and showed the group the video that three Harwood Union Middle School students had made, explaining that they had spent their summer vacations raising enough money for 12 students to go to school next year. The children watching were amazed, and responded by saying, “Thank you for what you have given me”, and, “I really thank you for what you did for me, especially for motivating me.” But it was Gordon’s response that floored me. After thanking the three girls he said, “I would also like to raise funds and share it with the orphans so they can also go to school.”
I was stunned. In all the years that I have been coming to Kenya, very few people have ever suggested that they might want to look for ways to raise funds to help students in their country.
Value Added Moment
When I first began Messages of Mercy in 2007, my goal was twofold. I wanted the Kenyan children who had lost their parents to know that they were special and someone across the world was thinking of them. I also wanted children in the USA to tap into their compassionate selves and understand that there were children on the other side of the world who had the same dreams and aspirations. Over the years I have seen these goals be achieved over and over again. But sitting in William Aludo’s house in the middle of a thunderstorm and hearing this student express his desire to partner with students in America to raise funds for his fellow Kenyan students was a first, and something that I definitely saw as a “value added moment”.
Later in the week, we scheduled a meeting with 13 EC sponsored students at Bishop Donovan Secondary School in Nakuru, six hours away from Rongo. Over 100 students showed up for our meeting that day, but once again Tracy was in her element, holding their attention with stories about her life and the lives of students she knew in the USA. She also told them about the students who had raised funds to help their fellow students in Kenya, using quotes like “Be the change you wish to see in the world” to describe what these girls had achieved.
Afterward Tracy showed the video that the three Harwood students had made to students we support. They too were amazed, having no idea that this was taking place on their behalf. She asked them how this made them feel, and they responded with words like “Special”, “Loved”, Encouraged to study” and of course, “Happy!” Then she asked them what they had learned from their pen pals. One student said, “God can use anyone to help others.” Another said, “No matter where you come from, no matter your race, someone somewhere is thinking of you”. Tracy replied by saying, “I have been thinking of you 13 students since I first heard of you last March!” Once again, a value added moment was tucked away in my head and heart, showing me that the Messages of Mercy writing program had far exceeded my expectations.
We ended the meeting by going outside and taking pictures. Tracy also videoed the 13 sponsored students to show to the HUMS girls back home. Two of these are inserted below:
Being the Change
That value added moment was one of several that occurred during our Kenyan adventure, all of which will be written about in the months to come. I left Africa with the hope that EC’s work is reaching Kenya’s youth in a new way, inspiring them to also get involved and be the change that makes the difference for their country.
Next year we expect there will be 25 to 30 orphaned secondary students who will need help with their school fees. If you would like to make a difference in their lives, please click here to learn how you can make a secure donation to Everyone’s Child.
We are grateful for your help, and echo the voices you have heard and seen above: “thank you so much for what you have done for us”.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, however, the photo below is worth $5,000! Not long after extending EC’s First Annual Matching Challenge, our fabulous donors came through – meeting the challenge that EC’s Board of Directors presented us with last month! This means that soon there will be a new classroom for students at the Miruya Primary School!
As any elementary school teacher knows, an overflowing classroom means that students and teachers lose the opportunity to connect. In an online article titled “Classroom Overcrowding: It’s Not Just a Numbers Game”, Laura Preble explores the effects of overcrowding in schools. Her research points out that “…overcrowding is seen as the root cause for failed schools as well as teacher dissatisfaction.”
My sense is that happy students are usually found in classrooms where there are happy teachers. We all knows what it feels like to be overwhelmed. There is a tipping point when too many children in one space can cause even the most patient, seasoned teacher to feel inundated. When this happens, children, staff and families suffer.
The plan is to build a new classroom at Miruya Primary School where overcrowding has become an issue for students and teachers alike. William Aludo, EC’s Kenyan Program Coordinator, recently shared photos of children at the school with me. It’s easy to see that the classrooms are filled beyond capacity, but not for long! Plans for building a new classroom there are underway. Prayerfully the children will be comfortably sitting in their new space by January 2020.
A HUGE Thank You is in order for everyone who contributed, meeting the challenge to get us to $10,000 – the cost of building a new classroom in rural Kenya.
If you still want to give, it’s not too late! Please visit our website to make a secure online donation anytime, or see how and where to send us a check. And as always, asante sana (thank you very much) for your awesome support!
Many blessings always,
I’m super excited to announce that next month I’ll be meeting these students and their teachers when I visit Rongo! I’ll be posting my monthly blog from the beautiful country of Kenya, so stay tuned!
This month’s blog presents a matching challenge to our readers. EC’s Board of Directors is launching a 30-day Matching Challenge for the purpose of building a much needed classroom at the Miruya Primary School (pronounced Me-ru-ya) in Rongo, Kenya.
No Teachers, Books or Learning
When William Aludo, EC’s Kenyan Program Coordinator discovered the school three years ago, he found 25 children sitting on a dirt floor, playing games to pass the time. There were no teachers, desks or books. Classrooms were unfinished. Worst of all, no learning was taking place. The government had started building the school but had run out of funds, so parents and guardians scrambled to hire untrained caregivers to stay with their children each day. Payment was iffy, so there were times that these helpers didn’t even show up.
A Thriving School
Today the school is thriving. With the help of a generous grant from CBN’s Orphan’s Promise, teachers have been hired, a kitchen has been built, and the laughter and singing of 129 children can be heard inside and outside the walls of this humble compound. Many of these students are orphaned, most live in poverty. The exciting news is that all of them are learning!
From 25 to 129 students, it’s clear that the school is growing, and more classrooms are needed. Start to finish, each classroom will cost $10,000 to build. Our goal is to begin building a classroom by the end of 2019. This new classroom will cut down on overcrowding and will open the doorway to greater opportunities for learning.
In response to this need, between July 7th – August 5th, the first $5,000 in new donations will be matched by personal contributions from EC’s Board of Directors. If you are in a position to help build this classroom, please click this link to make a secure online donation. Or send your check/money order to Everyone’s Child, P.O. Box 522, Linesville, PA 16424.
As always ~ Asante sana!! Thank you for your support!!
Saying goodbye can often be difficult, and this past week has been no exception.
Early in the morning of June 8th, our dear friend and former EC Board member Sr. Kateri (Dyan) Walker passed from this life into an eternity with her beloved Lord.
Sr. Kateri served on the EC Board from our beginnings in 2009 until September 2015 and was a champion of the Orphan Feeding Program, bringing it to where it is today – feeding over 500 children per day at five primary schools, two preschools and several secondary schools in eastern and western Kenya.
Sr. Kateri dedicated her life to prayer and was EC’s designated prayer warrior. Her love and prayers for children in general, but especially for the orphans in Kenya has had a tremendous impact on all of our programs over the years.
Last June we were blessed to dedicate the new kitchen at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto to her honor, naming it “Kateri’s Kitchen”. The July 2018 blog describes her life and the influence she has had on the children we serve. Shortly before she passed, she learned that we will be dedicating a new kitchen at the Miruya Primary School in Kenya to her name as well. As part of her legacy, Everyone’s Child will continue to dedicate to her memory future kitchens that provide meals for orphans.
As I wrote above, even in the best circumstances, saying goodbye is difficult. Sr. Kateri will be greatly missed by those who knew her, loved her, and had the privilege of serving with her. A memorial service will be held for her at her church in Moretown, VT this Friday.
When was the last time any of us received a handwritten letter? Nowadays people almost never take the time to write a letter or note. It’s so much easier to send a quick text or email.
This past month William Aludo held a mentorship camp for students from his hometown of Rongo in western Kenya. One of their activities was to compose a handwritten letter to send to students at Harwood Union Middle School in Duxbury, VT, rebooting our Messages of Mercy Writing Program between students in the USA and Kenya.
The students who wrote these letters come from varied backgrounds, but they hold a few things in common.
All of them speak at least three languages: English, Kiswahili and their native tongue. They enjoy football (soccer), basketball, politics, acting and singing. Several of these students have lost if not both, then at least one parent, and almost all of them have faced the challenge of coming up with sufficient funds for school. Each one of them have dreams and ambitions far exceeding those I had at age 14 or 15. Some have large families that include cousins who have lost their parents and have nowhere else to go. Many say they want to help others who are in need by building health centers, feeding the hungry and helping people who have less than themselves.
William scanned their letters and photos to me, and this week Tracy Guion, EC’s new Messages of Mercy coordinator brought the letters and photos to students at Harwood to introduce them to friends on the other side of the world. William even wrote one to Ms. Jacki McCarty, the classroom teacher!
Tracy called to give me a quick update after the presentation was over. She said she had put all the scanned letters from Kenya into envelopes and printed photos of the students who wrote them. When the Harwood students began to open their letters, the anticipation in the room went from excitement to engagement.
One of the letters opened was from a 14 year old boy named Martin, the youngest in a family of five. Both of his parents are gone. His hobby is fixing electrical equipment and he says that he wants to become “one of the greatest electrical engineers in the world”. He can speak and understand three languages and is learning a fourth. Martin knows that his career choice needs creativity and perseverance.
Tracy walked around the room, asking students what they learned about their pen pals. She heard comments like: “Wow, this is beautiful handwriting!”; and “She loves novels, I already love this girl”; to “He speaks three languages!”; and “She loves to sing and dance, which are my my favorite things too”. By the time she left the students had already started to write their replies.
Tracy spent a year teaching in Thailand, so true to her profession, she has given them until this Friday to respond, and hopefully sometime next week we will be able to scan their replies to Kenya.
I’m pretty excited to get this program off the ground again. I’m also very glad to have found someone who loves to see connections happen!
Tracy contacted me again at the end of this week to tell me that the Ms. McCarty at Harwood Union held parent conferences this week. All of the parents were supportive and grateful that their children could participate in this work, and kept thanking her over and over for the opportunity.
If you would like your young adult to write a letter to a student in Kenya, click here and let us know and we’ll help you get connected. Friendships like this can last a lifetime.