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The Situation in Kenya

The Situation in Kenya

The Situation in Kenya

This past week I learned about the situation in Kenya from William Aludo, EC’s Program Coordinator. He gave a sobering account of schools being closed, people being out of work, and markets being shut down. At this writing there have been 122 cases of COVID-19 in Kenya.

In Nakuru, William learned that while some people have vegetables in their gardens, many still rely on their local markets.  The situation is becoming dire for many families.

Kampi Ya Moto

Normally, schools in Kenya are closed during the months of April, August and December.  However, Everyone’s Child has always continued to feed students at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto even when school isn’t in session as food insecurity is a major issue in that region.  

Last week William spoke with Mrs. Chesire, the Head Teacher (Principal) at that school to see if it would be possible to continue feeding the students there during this epidemic.  She told him that the government was not allowing anyone to return to the school, so feeding the children would not be possible.  This was bad news, since these children rely on meals they receive from EC during the months that schools are closed.

Children receiving bags of food in Kampi Ya Moto

A Blessing

But then, a few days ago William sent me photos of children in Kampi Ya Moto receiving bags of food! Mrs. Chesire and Sarah (the cook) had managed to hand out 81 bags of dried maize, beans, maize flour and porridge flour to students.  They plan to repeat this in two weeks as well. Needless to say, it was such a blessing to know that these children wouldn’t go hungry.

Whatever is Necessary

Everyone’s Child is in a position to help students in need during this pandemic. The situation in Kenya has propelled us to act quickly to alleviate suffering of the children in our care. This past week, the EC Board of Directors gave William the go ahead to connect with school administrators in each of the five schools where we currently feed close to 600 children. Our goal is to do whatever is necessary to provide food to students in need. These administrators will be working with their local governments to ensure that provisions will be distributed to these children and their families.

Children practicing social distancing in Kampi Ya Moto

Your Continued Support

We understand that the impact of the coronavirus will likely lead to a spike in the number of people needing help. As I stated above, EC’s goal is to do whatever is necessary to provide food to students in need. That is why I am reaching out to you today to ask for your continued financial and prayer support for our programs, and specifically for EC’s Orphan Feeding Program.

Change Brings Opportunity

So much has changed. But change also brings opportunity. We are looking for every way possible to continue helping the children enrolled in our programs, while keeping the door open for meeting an even greater need.

I want to thank those who have already reached out to see how they can help make a difference. If you are in a position to help financially, please click here to make a secure online donation. You can also send a check to Everyone’s Child, P.O. Box 522, Linesville, PA 16424.

An Added Bonus

For those who can give financially, there is an added bonus to consider. On Friday, March 27th, the US Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. A provision of that bill makes it possible for American taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions when filing with the IRS, to deduct from their AGI up to $300 in cash contributions to qualifying organizations. For those who do itemize, they will be able to deduct 100% of their donations in this tax year.

As always, asante sana (deep thanks),

Ruth

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

Meeting the Challenge

Meeting the Challenge

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!

Matching the Challenge for EC
EC’s First Annual Matching Challenge goal has been reached!

Overcrowding

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

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.

Matching the Challenge - an overcrowded classroom at Miruya Primary School
An overcrowded classroom at Miruya Primary School

Thank You!

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,

Ruth

PS

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!

A Handwritten Letter

A Handwritten Letter

When was the last time any of us received a handwritten letter?    Nowadays people almost never take the time to write a letter or note.  It’s so much easier to send a quick text or email.

The Activity

This past month William Aludo held a mentorship camp for students from his hometown of Rongo in western Kenya.  One of their activities was to compose a handwritten letter to send to students at Harwood Union Middle School in Duxbury, VT, rebooting our Messages of Mercy Writing Program between students in the USA and Kenya.

A Handwritten Letter: April 2019 Mentorship Camp (William Aludo in the middle)
April 2019 Mentorship Camp (William Aludo in the middle)

The students who wrote these letters come from varied backgrounds, but they hold a few things in common.

All of them speak at least three languages: English, Kiswahili and their native tongue.  They enjoy football (soccer), basketball, politics, acting and singing.  Several of these students have lost if not both, then at least one parent, and almost all of them have faced the challenge of coming up with sufficient funds for school. Each one of them have dreams and ambitions far exceeding those I had at age 14 or 15.  Some have large families that include cousins who have lost their parents and have nowhere else to go.  Many say they want to help others who are in need by building health centers, feeding the hungry and helping people who have less than themselves.

Joyce - another Mentorship camper who sent a handwritten letter
Joyce – a Mentorship camper who sent a letter.  She enjoys acting, playing basketball & singing.

William scanned their letters and photos to me, and this week Tracy Guion, EC’s new Messages of Mercy coordinator brought the letters and photos to students at Harwood to introduce them to friends on the other side of the world.  William even wrote one to Ms. Jacki McCarty, the classroom teacher!

Tracy Guion a handwritten letter Messages of Mercy coordinator
Tracy Guion – Messages of Mercy Coordinator

The Update

Tracy called to give me a quick update after the presentation was over.  She said she had put all the scanned letters from Kenya into envelopes and printed photos of the students who wrote them.  When the Harwood students began to open their letters, the anticipation in the room went from excitement to engagement.

a handwritten letter - two Harwood Union middle schoolers reading letters from their pen pals in Kenya
Harwood Union middle schoolers reading letters from their pen pals in Kenya

One of the letters opened was from a 14 year old boy named Martin, the youngest in a family of five. Both of his parents are gone.  His hobby is fixing electrical equipment and he says that he wants to become “one of the greatest electrical engineers in the world”.  He can speak and understand three languages and is learning a fourth. Martin knows that his career choice needs creativity and perseverance.

Martin - one of the students who sent a handwritten letter
Martin – one of the students who sent a handwritten letter

Martin's handwritten letter page 1
Page 1 of Martin’s letter

Martin's handwritten letter page 2
Martin’s letter page 2

The Impact

Tracy walked around the room, asking students what they learned about their pen pals.  She heard comments like: “Wow, this is beautiful handwriting!”; and “She loves novels, I already love this girl”; to “He speaks three languages!”; and “She loves to sing and dance, which are my my favorite things too”.   By the time she left the students had already started to write their replies.

students at Harwood Union Middle School reading their handwritten letters from Kenya
students at Harwood Union Middle School reading their letters from Kenya

Tracy spent a year teaching in Thailand, so true to her profession, she has given them until this Friday to respond, and hopefully sometime next week we will be able to scan their replies to Kenya.
I’m pretty excited to get this program off the ground again.  I’m also very glad to have found someone who loves to see connections happen!

a handwritten letter - Lavender Achieng - a Mentorship camp student who wrote a letter to a student at Harwood
Lavender Achieng – a Mentorship camp student who wrote a letter to a student at Harwood

Tracy contacted me again at the end of this week to tell me that the Ms. McCarty at Harwood Union held parent conferences this week.  All of the parents were supportive and grateful that their children could participate in this work, and kept thanking her over and over for the opportunity.      

reading a handwritten letter
reading a handwritten letter

If you would like your young adult to write a letter to a student in Kenya, click here and let us know and we’ll help you get connected.  Friendships like this can last a lifetime.
Blessings,
Ruth
Challenges

Challenges

Challenges

The loss of a loved one is one of the greatest challenges that people face.  No matter if we hail from Botswana or the Bronx, the angst of losing someone close to us can be overwhelming.  Kenyan women who lose their husbands find that these challenges are further compounded by the daily struggle of making sure their children are fed, clothed and safe.

Orphaned children have their own challenges to contend with, and their survival is often related to fitting in with their peers.

As is true with most schools in Africa, Kenyan parents are required to provide their children with a school uniform.  For single parents, this need often goes unmet as the cost is too much for their meager family budget.

challenges of having no uniform
a child in Lanet

This past year, Orphan’s Promise partnered with EC to provide orphaned students at the Miruya Primary School in western Kenya with brand new uniforms.  In this blog, William Aludo, EC’s Kenya Program Coordinator provides us with insight into the identity of an orphaned child. He also writes about the positive impact that something as simple as a school uniform can have for these children who don’t want to be any different than their classmates.

School Uniforms

Widows in Kenya face several challenges. One of the major challenges confronting them is the economic burden of providing for their orphaned children. Like all children, these orphans have need of food, shelter and clothing. Apart from “home clothing”, school-agers need a school uniform.

challenge of being in class without a uniform - children fitting in with their classmates
Standard 2 students at Miruya Primary School

At Miruya Primary School in western Kenya, the full uniform includes shoes, socks and a sweater. In this poor rural community, it is common to find orphaned children going to school in their home clothing. This has been the case for several orphans in this community. Because their widowed mothers and guardians cannot afford the school uniforms, they have to attend school barefooted and in their home clothing, which are often in tatters. During the rainy season when it’s very cold, these children have no sweaters to keep themselves warm.

Challenges of Children playing at the Miruya Primary School
Children playing at the Miruya Primary School – some with and others without uniforms

Standing Out

It is easy to spot orphaned children in a class or at school assemblies because they stand out. From observation, it is apparent that they are conscious of being the odd-ones out. Their appearance affects their self-esteem and willingness to socialize freely with the other children. Sometimes their demeanor seems to exhibit unintentional aloofness. This in turn affects their learning and participation in class.  There is a definite stigma attached to their status as orphans.  Everything about them says that they don’t belong.

Consequently, these orphaned students are found to register a high rate of absenteeism and often drop out of school. If an intervention is not found early enough, the eventual result is that they become members of the Miruya community who might not attain their full potential in life. This in turn, leads to a perpetuation of poverty in that community.

solved challenges of having a new uniform
Orphaned children at Miruya Primary School with new uniforms

Standing In

Today I thank God for the partnership between the Orphan’s Promise and Everyone’s Child. The funding that came from this partnership has provided full school uniforms for 25 orphans at Miruya Primary School. Vincent, Clinton, Felix, Sheryl and Bonvicar (shown above) were blessed to be the first five children to benefit from this kindness.  Now instead of standing out, these children stand in school with their classmates and are proud to be identified as school children. This solution is helping to keep them in school with beautiful smiles on their faces!

If you would like to contribute to our ongoing effort to put smiles on children’s faces, please visit Everyone’s Child to make a secure donation today.

Many blessings,

William Aludo

Exciting Developments

Exciting Developments

Exciting Developments

Everyone’s Child has some exciting developments to report!  First, very early on Saturday morning, September 8th, I was honored to join (via Skype) a meeting of the first official EC Kenya Board of Directors.  Men and women from different tribes and different parts of Kenya participated in this historic meeting.  Their group is made up of a school principal, a school counselor, a nutritionist, an accountant, teachers, an urban planner, and other highly qualified professionals.  However, their best common qualification is that they are all committed to making a difference in the lives of Kenyan children who have the greatest needs.

The meeting took place at William Aludo‘s home in Rongo, which is in western Kenya. Four Board members are from Rongo, and three Board members live in Nakuru, a six hour trip from eastern Kenya. I was grateful for a good connection and clear reception, despite the sudden rainfall that drowned out the conversation for a while.  EC USA is looking forward to working with this stellar group of people!

exciting developments of a new board of directors in Kenya
EC Kenya Board of Directors left to right: Director Dorcas Njorge of Nakuru, Director Joseph Rayudi of Rongo, Secretary Collins Awuor of Rongo, Director Josephine Kinuthia of Nakuru, Director Baraka Someh of Rongo, William Aludo, EC Program Coordinator of Rongo, Treasurer Josephine Omwanda of Rongo, and Chairman James Maina, principal at Bishop Donovan Secondary School in Nakuru

Kateri’s Kitchen

The second of these exciting developments is that Kateri’s Kitchen is 99 % of the way finished!  Many of you contributed to get this project off the ground.  The chimney and a cookstove are the final pieces that need to be put in place before the building is officially declared open for use.  Altogether we need an additional $300 to finish the job.  The cost of a cookstove (a.k.a. “jiko”) is $50.00.  The cost to build the chimney is $250.00.  Please click here if you would like to help see this project through to the end.  Once it is finished, Kateri’s plaque will go up.  But best of all, the children will be fed from a sound building, showing them that there are people who care and want the best for them.

exciting developments of Kateri's Kitchen - a stone building that is almost completed!
Kateri’s Kitchen as of early September 2018

As always, Asante Sana (thank you very much) for supporting Everyone’s Child.  Your efforts truly are helping to change a generation through education.

Blessings,

Ruth

Educate, Connect and Care: EC’s Mission

Educate, Connect and Care: EC’s Mission

EC’s Mission

When EC was established in 2009, our goal was to educate where there were no schools, connect where there was isolation, and care where there was great need.   We took over an orphan feeding program that had been established through Kids in Kenya, an offshoot of CCO Ministries in Moretown, Vermont.   A writing program between Kenyan and American students was up and running.  Both of these efforts had a positive impact on students, but we wanted to do more.

In 2010, Juniper’s Fare, a church-run restaurant in Waterbury, Vermont began raising funds to pay the school fees of orphaned students attending Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School (BEDSS) in Lanet Umoja, Kenya.  Prior to that, orphaned primary school graduates usually wound up staying home.  They worked in the garden or took care of cousins or siblings too young to go to school themselves.

In 2012, Everyone’s Child established a scholarship program to help the orphans attending BEDSS.   Since then, more than 35 orphaned students have received scholarships from EC.  At first we were thrilled just to be able to educate these children.  But after a few years it became clear that something was lacking.  Students were graduating, but only a few were able to attend college or university.  Most were left to find their way.  Some found jobs, usually involving menial labor.  Girls often got pregnant or in some cases were married.  The majority had received no training or preparation for life after secondary school.

classrooms at BEDSS
classrooms at BEDSS

A Mentorship Program

Last year EC ran a pilot mentorship program for the Form 3 and 4 (11th and 12th grade) scholarship students at BEDSS.  William Aludo met with these students once a month, and using a training manual called 27 Things You Must Do to Get and Keep Your Dream Job by Kenyan author Grace Wanjohi, he began preparing them for what to expect after graduation.  The book is chock full of inspirational quotes from historical figures like Thomas A. Edison: “We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation,” and Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  Chapter headings such as “Pinpoint Your Unique Selling Point (USP)”, “Research the Potential Employer”, and “Be Sure to Write Thank You Notes” all help students to focus on how to go about achieving their goals.

Ruth with Grace Wanjohi, author of 27 Things You must Do to Get and Keep Your Dream Job
Ruth with Grace Wanjohi

The response has been tremendous.  Earlier this year James Maina, Head Teacher of BEDSS, told me that the students are very encouraged by this program.  William, a former pastor, also uses a curriculum he developed specifically for this program, introducing them to their Heavenly Father who cares deeply for them.   The encouragement is important for these orphans as they don’t often receive support from family members.  William and Simon Wanjala, a graduate of the EC scholarship program, not only educate these students about what to expect, but they also tell them that they matter, that they can make it, and that God is on their side.  In addition, they listen to these students, which is just as, if not more important than the dissemination of knowledge.

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

Educate, then Graduate

This December, eight students receiving scholarships will graduate from BEDSS.  They will be the first group of students who have been a part of the EC Mentorship Program for two years.  Next year a new group of students will join the class, and plans are currently underway for introducing the program in new areas of Kenya.

How You Can Help

Real life can be scary.  Our goal with this mentoring program is to educate by addressing fears and preparing for the future.  Our hope for these students is that they will be able to apply what they have learned in these mentoring sessions, from matching their passion with their ability and understanding what their strengths are to knowing how to dress for an interview.  All of this takes time, effort, and funds.  Please click here if you would like to join us in our endeavor to support orphaned students with their high school education.

As always, thank you for your support.  You are the reason we can successfully do what we want to do most in life.

EC Scholarship Students
EC Scholarship Students

“Success consists of doing the common things of life uncommonly well.”  Unknown

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

TO DO Lists – Preparation the American Way

TO DO Lists – Preparation the American Way

TO DO Lists:

Packing lists – check.

Travel itinerary – check.

Meeting schedule – check.

Menu for the boys (& dog & fish) – check.

Dr. appointments – check.

“Honey-do” lists – check.

Preparation:

The lists are multiplying.  They tend to appear whenever I go somewhere – whether to the grocery store or across the world, and this time is no exception. I haven’t been to Kenya for some time, so in my excitement I’ve started the preparation process using the American way of thinking – by creating a list for every conceivable thing that needs to be done before, during and even after my trip.

For now my hastily scribbled notes are divided between things to take care of at home and things I hope to accomplish in Kenya, but as my date of departure draws closer the balance will shift.  So much has happened since my last visit, and since I’ll be in the country for less than two weeks there’s a lot of ground to cover.  I expect the Kenyan list to soon be the longest.

At the top of this Kenyan list is visiting with old friends, meeting our new Program Coordinator, and seeing the new preschool classrooms in Lanet for the first time.  Each of these items vies for first place.

Lanet Umoja Preschool 2016
Lanet Umoja Preschool

Dedication:

Not long after I arrive, one of the new classrooms will be dedicated to the memory of Heidi (Sr. Eurosia) Keyworth Albanese, who passed away suddenly a year ago this May.  Heidi spent much of her life caring for people of all ages in Vermont’s Mad River Valley.  She is most commonly remembered as a loving mother, a compassionate friend, a creative chef and an imaginative individual. As a member of a lay Franciscan community in Vermont, Heidi was also known as “Sr. Eurosia”. It was in that capacity that she taught French to children in the small Christian school I directed.  She was a friend to many children, and she used to tell me how much she loved the vision of Everyone’s Child. It’s fitting to be dedicating one of our new spaces for children in Kenya to her memory.

Heidi (Sr. Eurosia) Keyworth Albanese
Heidi (Sr. Eurosia) Keyworth Albanese

Congregation:

Another aim of this trip is for me to meet William Aludo, EC’s Program Coordinator in Kenya.  William has been instrumental in carrying out EC’s programs in Kenya for the past year, including the development of a successful secondary school mentorship program that is in its second year of operation at Bishop Donovan Secondary School.  I’ll be traveling to his hometown of Rongo in Migori County, where William plans to introduce me to the students EC is now supporting, thanks to the generosity of many donors in the USA. I also hope to meet his friends and associates who are interested in learning more about EC’s programs in Kenya.

William Aludo
William Aludo – EC’s Kenyan Program Coordinator

I’m also looking forward to meeting and visiting with the orphaned secondary students we are supporting and mentoring this year.  We will be congregating at Bishop Donovan Secondary School where they will receive letters from American students, one more effort on our part to give these students a “leg up” in their journey to adulthood.

William Aludo with 2017 BEDSS Form II orphans
William Aludo with 2017 BEDSS Form II orphans

Organization:

There is never enough time to do everything that I like to do in Kenya. I’ll enter the country on “American time” with my lists in hand, but chances are by the time I leave I’ll be on “Kenyan time” – where a cup of tea with friends could turn into a daylong event. For now, I will organize by planning on meeting old friends, making new ones, and seeing the progress of Everyone’s Child in Kenya, something that I will never, ever grow tired of.

That progress is due in large part to the sustained and one-time gifts from people who want to give children a good start in life.

Heidi Keyworth Albanese was one such individual who cared about children in the core of her soul.  Next week her legacy will be remembered once again at a dedication ceremony in a classroom filled with eager faces and curious minds.  I am incredibly grateful to her family and friends who decided that gifts to Everyone’s Child would be a worthy way of memorializing her life.

If you would like to help make a difference in the life of a child, please consider contributing to our programs by clicking here.  Your donation goes toward the education and care of orphaned and vulnerable preschool, primary school and secondary school children in Kenya.

Appreciation:

All donations are tax-deductible, used for and appreciated by the children we support. With your help we truly can change a generation through education.

With warmest wishes,

Ruth

The Orphan’s Foot Soldier: Tiring but Worth it

The Orphan’s Foot Soldier: Tiring but Worth it

Getting There

As the foot soldier for Everyone’s Child (EC) in Kenya, I always look forward to my monthly trips to Nakuru with joyful expectancy. The journey to Nakuru takes about six hours by public transportation (via matatus and bodaboda traveling on the back of a bicycle) from my home in Migori County. I normally change vehicles twice on the way. The trips are physically tiring, but the satisfaction from serving the orphans makes it all worthwhile.

William Aludo

William Aludo on the way to Nakuru in a matatu

Serving There

EC is currently providing meals to a total of 350 orphaned students in three schools within Nakuru. The schools are Lanet Umoja Primary School, Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School and the Lord Ranjuera Primary School.

Unlike the first two schools, breakfast and lunch is served at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto throughout the year due to the desolation in this arid region of Kenya.  This meal program is more important than ever for these children as the drought this year has made food scarcity the number one issue in their lives. Here, food supplies get replenished on a monthly basis. My responsibilities include procuring the food supplies and arranging the logistics of getting the same to the school.  I also ensure that the lunch programs at Lanet Umoja Primary School and Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School are being conducted for the orphans in those schools, visiting the students and staff in those schools several times throughout the year as well.

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Picking up the food at Crater Flour Mills in Nakuru

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Eager helpers unloading the truck at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School  in Kampi Ya Moto

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Children receiving their breakfast in Kampi Ya Moto

Being There

At the Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School (BEDSS) in Lanet Umoja, EC is currently sponsoring 15 orphaned students in Forms 2, 3, and 4 (sophomores, juniors and seniors). During my first visit this year, I made sure that the Term 1 school fees were paid for each of these children so they would be able to enjoy learning without the interruption of being sent home for lack of school fees. The six Form 2 students whose applications were approved for an EC scholarship this year are pictured below. Getting these students to Nakuru town to be measured for new school uniforms is part of my to-do list for next month’s trip.

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Form 2 orphans at Bishop Donovan Secondary School

Mentoring There

I’m excited to be starting the second year of EC’s Mentorship Program for the orphaned juniors and seniors at Bishop Donovan Secondary School. This program is aimed at assisting these students in making good life and career choices. We meet on a monthly basis, holding our second session early this February.

During that meeting, I invited Simon Wanjala to meet and encourage the students in the program. Simon is an alumnus of BEDSS and one of the first beneficiaries of the EC Scholarship program. He lost his parents when he was a young teenager and was left to raise his younger brothers while remaining in school himself.  Despite these challenges his teachers remarked that his attitude was always positive.  After graduating from BEDSS Simon found a job at a nearby primary school helping students who were struggling in class.  Simon understands loss very well and knows firsthand how difficult it is to be a child, an orphan, a student, and the sole bread winner in a family.  He talked about the hardship he experienced as a young adult, telling the students that he never lost his faith in God,  and sharing with them how he continues to experience God’s providence in his life.

Simon Wanjala

Simon Wanjala – former BEDSS student and beneficiary of the EC Student Scholarship Program

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Simon meeting with the BEDSS Mentorship Program students

Blessed There

I am coming up to my one-year anniversary as Program Coordinator for Everyone’s Child in Kenya.  My gratitude and appreciation goes to those who support EC financially, through prayers and otherwise in order to make my monthly trips to Nakuru possible. It is a blessing to be a foot soldier serving these orphaned students. I am always thrilled!

Keep blessed!

William Aludo

PS  If you would like to help the orphans that William sees every month, please consider giving to Everyone’s Child by clicking hereYour gift will be gratefully applied to either the Orphan’s Lunch Program or to the EC Student Scholarship Program and will have an immediate impact on the lives of the orphans we serve in Kenya.  As always, Asante Sana!!  (Thank you very much!!)