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The Lord Has Something to Say

The Lord Has Something to Say

Newcomers

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.

The Lord Has Something to Say with Children sitting outside at Miruya Primary School
Fifth and sixth grade students sitting outside at Miruya Primary School

A Song

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:

Children singing the song “The Lord Has Something to Say” at Miruya Primary School

“The Lord has something to say,

The Lord has something to say.

Listen, listen, pay very close attention.

The Lord has something to say.”

Taking Notice

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.

Beautiful fields and rocky dirt road leading to Miruya Primary School
Beautiful fields and a rocky dirt road leading to Miruya Primary School in Migori County, Kenya

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.

poor students at Miruya Primary School
Fourth grade students at the Miruya Primary School

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.

Sharing lunch

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.

Students holding a Kateri's Kitchen plaque
Students holding a Kateri’s Kitchen plaque

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 to us about feeding children at Miruya Primary School
Lunchtime at the Miruya Primary 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.

Students at Lanet Umoja Primary School in Lanet Umoja, Kenya

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.

Ruth with orphaned students at Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School in Kiti, Kenya

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.

Tracy Guion with children at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi ya Moto, Kenya

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 Lord has something to say: smiling children at Miruya Primary school
Preschoolers and kindergarteners and their teacher at Miruya Primary School

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 everyoneschildren@gmail.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!

Blessings,

Ruth

Nakuru to Migori County, Kenya

Nakuru to Migori County, Kenya

The drive

from Nakuru to Migori County in Kenya takes about five hours by matatu.  The rains had not yet come to Nakuru in April, evidenced by the billowing clouds of dust that appeared anytime a gust of wind blew across the hardened, cracked fields.

Early Friday morning, two days after arriving in Kenya, my longtime friend and driver Eric Kamau Kuria and I drove away from the noise and heat of Nakuru and up into the highlands west of the Rift Valley.  We came to Kericho, where much of Kenya’s tea is grown and harvested, and most of the large-scale tea plantations are found.  Clusters of whitewashed, almost adobe-style homes with red roofs lay among wide fields of lush, green tea bushes.  “Tea picka’s houses,” said Eric as we drove by.  It seemed incongruous to me somehow, these cozy little homes scattered about the landscape, their pastoral appeal belying the wearisome labor that comes with the manual chore of picking bushel upon bushel of tea leaves.  I felt grateful as I considered how much I enjoy a good cup of Kenyan tea.

Tea picker’s homes in Kericho – a.k.a. “Tea Country”

Eric and I traveled down through the city of Kisii, where the main industry is sugar production.  It was hot and congested, a stark contrast to the acres and acres of verdant tea fields.  We were headed for Rongo in Migori County, an area in western Kenya where William Aludo and his family live.  EC had hired William to be the Kenyan Program Coordinator in March of 2016, but I had yet to meet him in person.  We finally met at the hotel in town where I was to stay for the night, and after a quick stop at a local market for supplies, the three of us drove to his home.

The Visit

William and his wife Beatrice live off the main road on a small farmstead in Rongo.  I marveled at the banana, mango, avocado and papaya trees growing on less than one acre of land that he owns.  A garden behind his house boasted of pumpkins (“We even eat the leaves!” William said), kale, spinach, and tomatoes.  Every inch of his property was being used for the benefit of others.  A large, red brick  building that William constructed sits next to his home.  His goal is to be able to use it for youth camps and programs.  Among his many accomplishments, William has coordinated the implementation of student/youth programs including mentorship, leadership, discipleship and scholarship programs.  All of this was done while he was conducting missionary work in his own country of Kenya.

Ruth with John and Synthia, newly EC sponsored students in Rongo

Ruth with John and Synthia, newly EC sponsored students in Rongo

After showing me the grounds surrounding his house, William ushered us inside his home to meet his wife.  John and Synthia, two of the students EC is now sponsoring in Migori County were there also.  Beatrice was in her tiny kitchen, cooking a meal fit for royalty: ugali, chicken, lamb, spinach and chapatti.  Synthia, a quiet but determined 15-year-old girl, brought water, soap and a basin for us to wash with.  She is in 10th grade (Form 2) and wants to be a bank manager when she grows up.  John, also in 10th grade was just as quiet and very polite.  His goal is to become a university lecturer.

The room was big and dark compared with the bright Kenyan sky, but the cool air made it very pleasant.  Members of William’s family arrived, his father “Baba Joseph”, two of his brothers and a sister-in-law with a few small children, all found their way into William and Beatrice’s home to meet this American who had come across the ocean to visit them in their country.  The conversation was slow but packed with meaning as we made an effort to understand each other.  Their hope was that EC would come to Rongo and begin supporting orphaned and vulnerable children in their area.  My hope was to find the need that most suited our vision.

It didn’t take long to discover our connection, hindered only by a sudden cloudburst that lasted for at least a half-an-hour.  Even this event was taken advantage of as large containers were placed strategically under rain spouts, catching water that would be used for cooking and washing later on.  The rain on the roof was deafening, so everyone stood in William’s entryway to watch the downpour.  Everyone except John, who zipped himself into his white winter jacket and fell asleep on the couch.

A downpour at William's home

A downpour at William’s home

The Needs

During this visit I learned that there are two pressing needs in Migori County.  One is the need for a lunch program for orphaned primary students.  All of the students go home for lunch during the school day, but for many of the orphans and poorer children there is often no food at home.  The head teacher (principal) of the Kitere Primary School in Rongo was hoping to partner with EC to provide a daily meal to these students at the school.

The second need is for a primary school in an area called Miruya (Me-ru-ya).  There are many children there, but the school that was built for them sits empty.  The County government won’t send teachers to this area, possibly because of lack of funding to employ enough Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) teachers in Migori County.  Whatever the reason, the result is that there are children who are not in school.

A Meeting

After returning to the US, the EC Board of Directors held a meeting where we discussed these needs.   A motion was passed to approve the funding of an orphan lunch program in Rongo, and a committee was established to begin looking at the particulars of building a primary school in Miruya.

Whenever I travel to Kenya I can feel the prayers and backing of those who support our programs.  Going forward, I am excited by the opportunity that lies ahead for all of us in Kenya.  My motto used to be: “There is no end to the need”, which always helped me feel better about not being able to address every need that I know exists in our world.  Now I find myself saying: “Bring on the need”, because I am confident that the One who created us is faithful to the least of them and will supply enough to meet the needs of those we meet along the way.

If you would like to join us in our efforts to help these children, whether it is to receive a meal or an education, please click here to donate to our programs.  As always, asante sana (thank you very much)!

Resources: www.kenya-information-guide.com/kenya-tea.html