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.