Lanet Umoja

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153 million children

153 million children

There are more than

2.2 billion children in the world today.  It is estimated that 153 million children of these are orphans (UNICEF).  That moves my heart.  But caring for all of those children is beyond my reach, beyond my capabilities.

Everyone’s Child serves over 500 orphaned and vulnerable students.  That’s a lot less than 153 million, but it’s still a large number of children to keep track of.  We rely on our staff, as well as the teachers and administration we partner with to let us know how they are all doing in their studies and in their lives.  Thankfully, whenever I travel to Kenya I have the opportunity to meet many of these children.  And there is always at least one who captures my attention each time I am there.

Simon Wanjala

This was the case with a young man named Simon Wanjala.  Simon was one of EC’s first scholarship students at Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School (BEDSS) in Lanet Umoja.  This scholarship allowed him to complete his high school education.  I met him once or twice while he was enrolled there, but it wasn’t until after he had graduated that I began to learn about his life.

Simon was an orphan and was also a victim of the post-election violence that took place in Kenya in 2007.  He and his brothers were displaced five times in the span of four years.  He wound up living with family members who mistreated him as he struggled to complete his high school education.  Despite these hardships, upon graduating Simon found a job teaching in a primary school, and eventually was able to find a place to live.  He brought his two youngest brothers into his home, and gave them an opportunity to complete their education together.

young Kenyan man with a new t-shirt bearing the cross
Simon showing off a new t-shirt in 2014

His story

The overriding aspect about this young man is his attitude.  In spite of the difficulties he faced, the loss of his parents, his home, and his struggles to survive while completing his education, Simon has always been upbeat, positive and thankful.  After graduating from BEDSS he went out of his way to thank EC for the education he received.  That single act made a lasting impression on me.

a map of Simon's Story
Simon’s journey from 2006-2010

Today Simon is a successful entrepreneur who owns a shop selling kitchen wares in Nakuru, Kenya.  He also volunteers his time for Everyone’s Child, taking food to the orphans in Kampi Ya Moto and assisting in EC’s Mentoring program each month.

Simon Wanjala and William Aludo - dressed to educate!
Simon Wanjala and William Aludo in 2017

Last year I wrote a story about Simon’s life and mailed it to all of our contributors.  It’s a story full of hope, and shows the difference that supporters of Everyone’s Child make in the lives of those who count on our help.  The story can be downloaded here.

Caring for children

I’ve thought about caring for children for as long as I can remember.  As I grew into adulthood that transpired into serving the needs of orphans and vulnerable children.

There is no doubt that supporting all of the world’s orphans would be an overwhelming mission.  But I do know that each one of their lives is important.  And I’m grateful to be able to help even one of the 153 million who are alive today.

Everyone’s Child begins by focusing on the one.   But a task is always easier when others join in to help.  Please click on this link if you would like to help to make a difference too.

As always, thank you for partnering with us to make life easier for people like Simon.  I hope you enjoy his story.

everyone’s child.  changing a generation through education.
Lanet Umoja Preschool Phase Two Finished!

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 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

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.

kenya water tank

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

Kampi kids drinking water

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

school garden

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:

school building project

The materials arrive

moving rocks

Fr. Paul Stewart helps move the stones

shaping rocks

A stone worker carves the blocks

moving rocks

Moving them to the building

stacking rock walls

Putting up the walls

school building project

Laying the steel girders for the roof

first classroom

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)!!

Health Center update for Lanet Umoja

Health Center update for Lanet Umoja

Mercy and her son SamuelMercy and her son Samuel

Ruth shares a laugh with MercyRuth 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.

Building materials for Lanet Umoja Health CenterBuilding materials for Lanet Umoja Health Center