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.


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!!)


It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog about a tragedy in Kenya.  A message to our congregants came from the Bishop of my church yesterday, much of which is copied below.

Early in the morning of July 8th a fire broke out at Holy Cross Prayer Community (the mission house in Lanet Umoja), which is the home of Fr. Thomas Mugi, the head teacher of Lanet Umoja Primary School.  The residences attached to the church experienced a bad fire and most devastating of all, a young five-year-old girl, Jane Peter, was killed in the fire.  Jane was the granddaughter of Joseph Ounde, one of the church elders, and the daughter of two members of the Holy Cross Community.  Fr. Thomas and his family were away in Nairobi and Fr. Thomas’ sister-in-law was staying at the residence (pictured above) with the young girl who was visiting for the night.

Our hearts grieve for them and for the loss of precious little Jane.  At this time there is an ongoing investigation into the cause of the fire.  There is some speculation that it possibly was an electrical fire since there were some power outages and surges in the area early that morning.  The residences attached to the church are badly burnt.  The church hall has some damage but apparently is still somewhat structurally sound.  Church authorities are still trying to determine the extent of the damage at this time.   Here is a link to a news source about the fire, although I will warn you that it contains some misinformation about the child who lost her life during the fire:

You may ask: “What can I do?”

Right now you can:

1.      Pray for the family of Jane Peter.

2.      Pray for the family of Fr. Thomas and all the members that were present during this horrific event.

3.      Pray for the entire Holy Cross Community.

4.      Pray for wisdom for the authorities to discern how best to help the Holy Cross Prayer Community move forward.

A “Go Fund Me” website has been set up for anyone who would like to help financially. Please feel free to forward this information to others in your circle of influence who may be compelled to help also. The first website is a memorial fund for the little girl who passed away in the fire. The second website is for the rebuilding of the church.

Thank you for your prayers and your generosity in the midst of this tragedy.

With hands lifted high,


Phase One completed!

Phase One of the Lanet Umoja Preschool building project has been completed!  It’s incredible to think that after 20 years of waiting, praying and hard work we are finally seeing the children move into a new space.  They have been praying and waiting while people on both sides of the planet have been praying and waiting too, hoping that the time would come when the funds would be available to begin this project.

It’s no small irony that this month I am moving with my family to a new space as well.  On June 18th we’ll be leaving our apartment of 26 years in Vermont and heading to our home and a new life in Western Pennsylvania.  The day to day operations of Everyone’s Child will continue from my desk in rural PA, and while I will miss my friends and the beauty of Vermont very much, I am excited about new beginnings for my family and myself.

I love that the video below shows the children marching past their old classroom  into a bright, clean, new classroom!  (I also love the bright orange windows & doors!)  Listen closely and see how long it takes before you can understand what they are saying – it’s precious!  The photos and video below are a testimony to persistent prayer, generous and giving hearts, and a belief that it would get done.  Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to this project – you all make our work and hearts soar!

We are moving onto Phase Two now, raising funds for the second of what will become a three classroom block.  This weekend EC Board member Laura Viens and I will be holding a Tag Sale in order to begin raising funds for the second classroom.  Will you please consider helping us continue this project?  Click here to send your tax-deductible donation today.

Lanet Umoja Preschoolers!

From this…

old Lanet preschool

and this…


To this…

Phase One

and this!

Phase one inside

Be blessed, and 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.


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.


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


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


a school garden,


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:


The materials arrive


Fr. Paul Stewart helps move the stones


A stone worker carves the blocks


Moving them to the building


Putting up the walls


Laying the steel girders for the roof


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)!!


Lunch for orphans

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

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

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

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

Image 15
Licking the container clean

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

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

Sr. Kateri Walker helping to feed the children

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

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

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

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

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

Kenya 2012 143

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


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.


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.


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.


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!


“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!


Water. Not enough, too much, then not enough again.


Collecting water from the river in Kampi

a dusty schoolyard shows in this child's hair in Kampi Ya Moto

A dusty schoolyard shows in this child’s hair

Clean water at last!!


The tank & rain harvesting system


Water = Life ~ a  garden begins.


Abundant smiles from kids in Kampi


The rain harvesting system



Water has been an issue in Kampi Ya Moto long before I knew this place existed.  For years children in this area, many of them orphaned, have had the daily task of walking the hot and dusty two-mile trek to a river to collect water that was then used for drinking and cooking.  I’ve been told that the water was usually boiled before it was consumed, but the mere fact that the mortality rate in this area was 50% or higher leads me to believe that boiling alone didn’t remove the incidence of water borne illnesses.

Kampi Ya Moto is an arid region of Kenya that literally translates to “Camp of Fire”.  I used to walk to the river in this area with the children every time I visited their school.  In a word, it’s repulsive.  The water is brown, and the shore is filled with mud-pocked holes made by the hooves of the cows and other animals that share this water hole with members of the village.

For the past several years we have tried to have a borehole dug, but were met with obstacles at every turn.   It’s been an uphill climb since we’ve started this process, from the purchasing of the land to the conducting of two geological studies (yes, that’s plural – the first one was lost along the way!), and ending with the unfortunate circumstance of hiring a company who claimed to be Living Waters International but made off with our hard won funds instead.  In June 2013, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) – our partners in this project, hired a company that drilled down 215 meters before experiencing “high borehole collapse”.  At that point it was determined that the well was dry.  After some research and deliberation a rain harvesting system was set up as an alternative, a spigot was installed outside the school and today the children are able to get clean drinking water whenever they are thirsty.  This is a HUGE change for these kids, and the presence of the tank has revolutionized their school.  During our visit last May I immediately noticed two big differences, first in the appearance of the children – they met us with smiles and waves, despite the relentless heat. The second thing I noticed was that there was a small garden started outside the school.  This was a novelty, as prior to this time nothing planted there would have survived the trip up through the soil much less the searing temperatures at the surface.

By last May the 10,000-liter water tank had been in place for over a year, so the teachers and students had been through both the rainy and the dry seasons that dominate that region of Kenya.  At that point in the year they hadn’t run out of water, but the previous year they had watched the tank overflow during the rainy season, only to be used up during the months of hot, dry days that followed. The frustration of having more than enough water for a few months and then not enough throughout the remainder of the year, meaning that children would once again have to make the trek to the river for muddy water helped us make the decision to install a second 10,000-liter tank this year.  It’s a fairly straightforward process to purchase and install the tank, but one that requires funding, oversight and faith in the people in charge.  This is just one of the major projects EC is embarking on in 2016.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Health Center update for Lanet Umoja

S5003412Mercy and her son Samuel

DSC01462Ruth shares a laugh with Mercy

putting baby on backMercy and her friend demonstrate how to carry a child Kenyan style

These photos are from a trip I took to Kenya in 2009 when EC conducted our first set of medical clinics.  The young mother is Mercy.  She was from Kampi Ya Moto, a very dry area where we built The Lord Ranjuera Primary School – our third primary school in 2003.  This school has the highest percentage of orphans and is also the place where the first orphan feeding program was established.  Mercy came and sat with me one afternoon on the school porch while the clinics were wrapping up in side the school.  She was curious about the differences between life in Kenya and life in America, especially when it came to child rearing practices.  She wound up giving me a gift that I still treasure – a small hollowed out gourd used for carrying milk and making yogurt.  Every time I look at it I am reminded of Mercy and her son Samuel and the conversation we shared that day.

That year I had the privilege of bringing several doctors and medical professionals with me to conduct the first set of medical clinics in three different locations.  Our team collaborated with the Kenya Ministry of Health to bring health care to over 1,000 individuals that week.   The following year I brought a second group of medical professionals from the USA to conduct another medical clinic – again in three different locations.  They were able, once again, to see and treat over 1,000 individuals who otherwise would not have had access to medical care.  An AIDS clinic was included in these clinics, allowing men, women and children to be tested for the disease that has taken Africa by storm in the past three decades.   Dr. Carol Vassar, an internist who traveled with us both years called these trips “reconnaissance missions” as they gave us an idea of the level of need in the areas where our medical clinics were held.  As a result, last year Everyone’s Child and the Waterbury Vermont Rotary Club raised close to $10,000.00 to initiate the building of a full-scale Health Center that will serve 28,000 residents of Lanet Umoja.  The clinic will be built next to the preschool and across from the primary and secondary schools that  we built in 1999 and 2010 consecutively.  Construction has begun, but only haltingly as they are only able to build when funds are available.  The initial phase required the building of a latrine that will serve the preschool, a trench (footing), and a fence to protect the children who are frequently on the playground next to the clinic.

Everyone’s Child is dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned and impoverished children around the world.  Our mission reaches out to children everywhere: to educate where there are no schools, to connect where there is isolation, and to care where there is great need.  Our main focus is education, we believe strongly that an educated child has a better chance at making positive changes in our world than one who is left with no education.   We are no longer actively fundraising for the health clinic, but we still believe strongly in the need for a clinic in this area.  The nearest hospital is 15 miles away, which is not much by American standards, but in Kenya this usually means a trip by matatu (bus) or on foot over very bumpy and often impassable roads.  Chief Francis Kariuki (Chief of Police in Lanet Umoja) owns a car that often doubles as a hearse.  Pregnant women are carried by wheelbarrow to the matatu stage (station), and in many cases people who make it to the hospital spend the entire day in the waiting room before being seen by a health care professional.

We are very much looking forward to the day when the people of Lanet Umoja can walk a short distance from their homes to receive medical assistance.  Our hope that the success will lead to a clinic being built in Kampi Ya Moto as well.

IMG_20151027_112321Building materials for Lanet Umoja Health Center

Ten Thousand Villages Holiday Shopping Benefit for Everyone’s Child!


Ten Thousand Villages info for website

Hey Vermonters!   Ten Thousand Villages at 87 Church Street in Burlington is donating 15% of the proceeds of their sales from 3 – 7 PM on Thursday, December 10th to Everyone’s Child!  This is a great way for you to do some gift shopping AND support what we do.  We’ll have a raffle with great prizes 🙂  I hope to see you there!

Ten Thousand Villages mission is to create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.