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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.

“Umoja”

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!!)

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…

IMG_3384

To this…

Phase One

and this!

Phase one inside

Be blessed, and as always, ASANTE SANA (great thanks)

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)

preschoolers on the slide at Lanet Umoja
preschoolers on the slide at Lanet Umoja

boy with a tire
boy with a tire

When I first came to Kenya in 1997, the preschool (behind the kids pictured above) was the only building on this plot of land in Lanet Umoja.   The same building is still being used as a preschool today.  75 children ages 3 – 5 are enrolled here.  Just across the road is Lanet Umoja Primary School.  It was built in 1998 and started with 75 students in 1999.  Enrollment has now reached 1040 students in grades 1 – 8.  Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School, built in 2010, is also across the road, home to 250 students in grades 9 – 12.  The achievements at these schools have been many, from National awards for academic performance to government funding for new classrooms and lab equipment.  But my focus for this blog is on the preschool.

When I first visited Kenya in 1997 there was no slide on this preschool playground. In fact, there were no playground toys at all. There was a swingset, but the swings had been removed because the teachers were afraid that the children would get hurt if they used them.  The children often used the chains to swing from, which to me seemed far more dangerous than sitting on a seat to swing.  Children played with inner tubes or old tires during recess – rolling these with a stick and pretending that this was their vehicle. They also played running games like tag or “football” (soccer) using several plastic shopping bags tied together with string. Necessity has always been the mother of invention, no matter the age or place.

Last year (2014) I noticed that the swings were up, and this past May the swings and slides were in full use during preschool. The teachers still put the swings away on weekends and during vacations, but these preschoolers now have much more access to age appropriate toys than their older siblings ever had.

Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) in rural Kenya is looked at more as using common sense than following a specific  protocol. (If you research DAP Kenya online the top hit is “Drivers of Accountability Programme”). I still believe that a combination of teacher training and access to equipment accounts for this change, both of which requires funding and understanding from the government about the importance of implementing developmentally appropriate equipment and teaching techniques.

The preschool building here also needs some serious attention.  Preschools in Kenya are not funded by the government, so parents are expected to pay tuition, which in turn pays the teachers and occasionally allows for limited supplies for the classrooms.  Unless there is outside funding preschools often lack appropriate materials and more importantly, less than adequate space for the children and teachers.  Floors, windows, walls, all the things we take for granted are severely compromised here.  Teachers have told me stories of children napping on the dirt floors and having to be woken up and moved because rain was coming in through the wooden slats in the wall and soaking the floor.  Although we think of Kenya as a warm climate, the temperatures in May, June and July can be chilly enough to warrant warm coats and hats throughout most of the day.   Children wear their coats and hats throughout the school day because the wind comes through the slats as well.  Bottom line, this preschool building is in dire need of replacement.  When we think about the environment where our children are being educated today, even the most run down building is 100% more appropriate for children than this preschool.

Everyone’s Child is committed to improving the conditions for children in impoverished situations.  The preschool children attending Lanet Umoja Preschool fit into this category, so our plan is to begin raising funds for a new preschool building in the coming year.  If this catches your attention and you would like to join us in this effort to make a difference for small children in Kenya, please shoot me an email at everyoneschildren@gmail.com.  I welcome your help!

Faith on a swing
Faith on the “swingset” in Lanet