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!
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!!
Our goal now is to continue fundraising efforts to complete two classrooms at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto, Kenya – the extremely dry area where EC helped to install a rain harvesting system last year. These two classrooms require walls, floors, windows, doors and desks. In order to make this dream a reality for these students we need to raise an additional $8,000.00. Any contributions toward this effort will be gratefully accepted! Click here to make a secure online donation.
This past November and December we had a significant response to our annual appeal, raising over $15,000.00 in two months! Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed so generously. Your donations help us to start the new year off on strong footing, positively impacting the orphan feeding program that feeds over 200 Kenyan children in five different locations per day, and allowing 15 orphaned boys and girls to attend our secondary school this year.