Category Archives: Kenya

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:

“The Lord has something to say,

The Lord has something to say.

Listen, listen, and pay much 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

Value Added Moment

I’ve just returned from an amazing trip to Kenya with Tracy Guion of Waitsfield, VT. It was a whirlwind of activity, beginning with one “value added moment” that I continue to unpack in my mind over and over again.

Tracy & Ruth at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi - a value added moment
Tracy & Ruth at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi

Harwood Students Making Change

Tracy Guion works for Project Harmony in Waitsfield, VT, implementing an exchange program for students in the USA and several eastern bloc countries.  Last May she helped to restart EC’s Messages of Mercy writing program between students at Harwood Union Middle School (HUMS) in Duxbury, VT and William Aludo’s Mentorship students in Kenya.  William is EC’s Program Coordinator and has been running camps for orphaned and vulnerable students for the past two years. 

The response to the writing program has been tremendous, especially on the part of three HUMS girls who decided that they wanted to do more.  They had learned that students in Kenya will be sent home if they can’t pay their fee of $36 per term, so they formed a group called “Harwood Students Making Change” and spent their summer vacation reaching out to family, friends, and area businesses in VT, raising funds to help orphaned Kenyan secondary students with their school fees.  By the end of the summer they had raised over $2,000, enough to send 12 students to school for one year.  They also made a short video introducing themselves and letting their new African friends know that they had raised these funds (see below).

A Meeting

We had arrived at our hotel in Nairobi at midnight and then spent the following day traveling six hours by car to Rongo. Needless to say, Tracy and I were whipped. But we had an important meeting to attend, which was to meet with the Mentorship Camp students at William Aludo’s home.

mentorship students with Tracy & Ruth in Rongo experiencing a value added  moment
Mentorship campers with Tracy & Ruth in Rongo

Nine students met us that evening, three of whom were students that EC currently supports. It began raining not long after we arrived, and the house had a tin roof, so the sound was deafening.  Despite the storm we managed to share a meal and learn about each other. 

Connecting Students

Tracy was in her element.  She sat right in the middle of the students and began asking them about their lives – what they liked to eat, how far they had to walk to get to school, and so on.  Then she asked them to tell her what they had learned from their pen pals in America.  The answers were interesting and revealing.  Martin said, “I learned that there is not much difference between we and them.”  Gordon said, “It gave me a chance to explore America”, and Brayton said, “I learned that most Americans only have two children.”

When Josephine mentioned that her pen pal was Arianna, Tracy pulled out her cell phone and showed the group the video that three Harwood Union Middle School students had made, explaining that they had spent their summer vacations raising enough money for 12 students to go to school next year.  The children watching were amazed, and responded by saying, “Thank you for what you have given me”, and, “I really thank you for what you did for me, especially for motivating me.”  But it was Gordon’s response that floored me.  After thanking the three girls he said, “I would also like to raise funds and share it with the orphans so they can also go to school.” 

a value added moment - Tracy showing the video to the students in Rongo
Tracy showing the video to the students in Rongo

I was stunned.  In all the years that I have been coming to Kenya, very few people have ever suggested that they might want to look for ways to raise funds to help students in their country.

Value Added Moment

When I first began Messages of Mercy in 2007, my goal was twofold.  I wanted the Kenyan children who had lost their parents to know that they were special and someone across the world was thinking of them.  I also wanted children in the USA to tap into their compassionate selves and understand that there were children on the other side of the world who had the same dreams and aspirations.  Over the years I have seen these goals be achieved over and over again.  But sitting in William Aludo’s house in the middle of a thunderstorm and hearing this student express his desire to partner with students in America to raise funds for his fellow Kenyan students was a first, and something that I definitely saw as a “value added moment”. 

Bishop Donovan students enjoying a value added moment with tracy & Ruth
A visit with EC sponsored Bishop Donovan Secondary students

Another Visit

Later in the week, we scheduled a meeting with 13 EC sponsored students at Bishop Donovan Secondary School in Nakuru, six hours away from Rongo.  Over 100 students showed up for our meeting that day, but once again Tracy was in her element, holding their attention with stories about her life and the lives of students she knew in the USA. She also told them about the students who had raised funds to help their fellow students in Kenya, using quotes like “Be the change you wish to see in the world” to describe what these girls had achieved.

Mentorship students at BEDSS having a "value added" moment as tehy watch the video make by the HUMS girls
BEDSS Mentorship students watching the video made by the HUMS girls

Afterward Tracy showed the video that the three Harwood students had made to students we support. They too were amazed, having no idea that this was taking place on their behalf.  She asked them how this made them feel, and they responded with words like “Special”, “Loved”, Encouraged to study” and of course, “Happy!” Then she asked them what they had learned from their pen pals. One student said, “God can use anyone to help others.” Another said, “No matter where you come from, no matter your race, someone somewhere is thinking of you”. Tracy replied by saying, “I have been thinking of you 13 students since I first heard of you last March!” Once again, a value added moment was tucked away in my head and heart, showing me that the Messages of Mercy writing program had far exceeded my expectations.

Three BEDSS Mentorship boy students
Three mentorship students from Bishop Donovan Secondary School

We ended the meeting by going outside and taking pictures. Tracy also videoed the 13 sponsored students to show to the HUMS girls back home. Two of these are inserted below:

Being the Change

That value added moment was one of several that occurred during our Kenyan adventure, all of which will be written about in the months to come. I left Africa with the hope that EC’s work is reaching Kenya’s youth in a new way, inspiring them to also get involved and be the change that makes the difference for their country.

Next year we expect there will be 25 to 30 orphaned secondary students who will need help with their school fees. If you would like to make a difference in their lives, please click here to learn how you can make a secure donation to Everyone’s Child.

We are grateful for your help, and echo the voices you have heard and seen above: “thank you so much for what you have done for us”.

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!

EC’s Matching challenge

This month’s blog presents a matching challenge to our readers. EC’s Board of Directors is launching a 30-day Matching Challenge for the purpose of building a much needed classroom at the Miruya Primary School (pronounced Me-ru-ya) in Rongo, Kenya.

matching challenge for the Miruya Primary School
Miruya Primary School

No Teachers, Books or Learning

When William Aludo, EC’s Kenyan Program Coordinator discovered the school three years ago, he found 25 children sitting on a dirt floor, playing games to pass the time. There were no teachers, desks or books. Classrooms were unfinished. Worst of all, no learning was taking place. The government had started building the school but had run out of funds, so parents and guardians scrambled to hire untrained caregivers to stay with their children each day. Payment was iffy, so there were times that these helpers didn’t even show up.

Matching Challenge Children playing outside with their teacher at Miruya Primary School in Kenya
A circle game with students and a caregiver at Miruya Primary School

A Thriving School

Today the school is thriving. With the help of a generous grant from CBN’s Orphan’s Promise, teachers have been hired, a kitchen has been built, and the laughter and singing of 129 children can be heard inside and outside the walls of this humble compound. Many of these students are orphaned, most live in poverty. The exciting news is that all of them are learning!

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

The Need

From 25 to 129 students, it’s clear that the school is growing, and more classrooms are needed. Start to finish, each classroom will cost $10,000 to build. Our goal is to begin building a classroom by the end of 2019. This new classroom will cut down on overcrowding and will open the doorway to greater opportunities for learning.

Teacher manuals for Miruya Primary School

The Challenge

In response to this need, between July 7th – August 5th, the first $5,000 in new donations will be matched by personal contributions from EC’s Board of Directors. If you are in a position to help build this classroom, please click this link to make a secure online donation. Or send your check/money order to Everyone’s Child, P.O. Box 563, Linesville, PA 16424.

one happy kid!

As always ~ Asante sana!! Thank you for your support!!

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye can often be difficult, and this past week has been no exception.

Passing on

Early in the morning of June 8th, our dear friend and former EC Board member Sr. Kateri (Dyan) Walker passed from this life into an eternity with her beloved Lord.

Serving

Sr. Kateri served on the EC Board from our beginnings in 2009 until September 2015 and was a champion of the Orphan Feeding Program, bringing it to where it is today – feeding over 500 children per day at five primary schools, two preschools and several secondary schools in eastern and western Kenya.

saying goodbye to the one who started a feeding program for these orphaned children
orphaned children lining up for their daily meal

Praying

Sr. Kateri dedicated her life to prayer and was EC’s designated prayer warrior.  Her love and prayers for children in general, but especially for the orphans in Kenya has had a tremendous impact on all of our programs over the years.

Kateri’s Kitchen

Last June we were blessed to dedicate the new kitchen at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto to her honor, naming it “Kateri’s Kitchen”.   The July 2018 blog describes her life and the influence she has had on the children we serve.  Shortly before she passed, she learned that we will be dedicating a new kitchen at the Miruya Primary School in Kenya to her name as well.  As part of her legacy, Everyone’s Child will continue to dedicate to her memory future kitchens that provide meals for orphans.

saying goodbye to Sr. Kateri
Sr. Kateri with her plaque

Saying Goodbye

As I wrote above, even in the best circumstances, saying goodbye is difficult.  Sr. Kateri will be greatly missed by those who knew her, loved her, and had the privilege of serving with her.  A memorial service will be held for her at her church in Moretown, VT this Friday.
More information can be found in her obituary: https://www.perkinsparker.com/obituary/dyan-walker.
Kwaheri Kateri, we will miss you.
Blessings,
Ruth

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

 

 

 

Providing Scholarships

Supporters of Everyone’s Child

have been providing scholarships in Kenya for orphaned high school students since 2012.  On average, 14 students per year have had an opportunity to receive an education through EC’s Student Scholarship Program.

Common Denominator

These students come from a variety of backgrounds, but the common denominator for all of them is that they have lost either one or both parents.  The reasons for their losses vary.  “According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in 2016, the top leading causes of death were pneumonia, followed by malaria, cancer, HIV/AIDS, anemia, heart disease and lastly tuberculosis in that order…”  Road accidents are another more sudden and unanticipated cause of death in Kenya.

Providing scholarships for children who have lost one or both parents, such as this lone child by a post
Children who lose a parent face many challenges

No matter how it happens, the impact is universally the same for everyone coping with the loss of a parent.  For adults, there is often great sorrow, confusion and a feeling of powerlessness.  Children who lose one or both parents experience those same feelings. They are also forced to confront challenges that they are usually unprepared to face, mostly dealing with basic survival and completing their education.

The Cost of Education

In Kenya, most orphans are placed in the care of family members who often lack the resources to help them complete their education.  Orphaned children are frequently sent home from school if they are unable to pay school fees or fulfill uniform requirements.  However, in 2018, the Kenyan government made it possible for students to attend high school free of charge.  This unprecedented move made it more affordable for children to complete their education.  Nevertheless, there are some fees that the government does not pay.

Currently Kenyan students pay $108 per year out of pocket to attend secondary school.   For many of us this cost would not be considered an issue.  But $36 per term is prohibitive for these orphaned children and their adoptive families.  The cost of their required uniform is between $50 – $75, another expense that they are typically unable to pay.

EC is providing scholarships for students like this young boy who struggles with school fees and uniform costs
This young boy struggles with school fees and uniform costs

Providing Scholarships

Five students recently submitted scholarship applications to EC for the 2019 school year.  Their stories are heart rending.  I’ve shared some of their requests below so our readers can see the situations they face:

Joseph – 17; no parents

My school fee is paid by my brother with a lot of challenges because he has no job. My parents passed in 2003. The challenges that I face are all about school fees and some of school uniforms.

Carolyne – 15; no parents

I am an orphan living with my grandmother and my younger sister. My grandmother is unable to pay both my school fees and for my younger sister. She does not have a suitable job but just runs a small kiosk selling sukumu wiki (cooked kale). I kindly ask for a scholarship from Everyone’s Child, and if you accept God will bless you.

Michael – 14; mother living, father dead

My main aim for applying for a scholarship is as follows: my father passed on year 2005 in a road accident, leaving behind a widow and four siblings. Due to the situation my mother decided to stop renting home and we all shifted to our grandmother’s home. After a year my mum faced a hardship and disappeared and left us under our grandmother’s care. My grandmother is suffering and old. Food and school fees are a big problem to me. I am always in and out of school.

Where you come in

Everyone’s Child relies solely on donations from individuals to help support students like Michael, Carolyne and Joseph.  If you are in a position to contribute to their education, please click here to make a secure donation.  Feel free to email us at everyoneschildren@gmail.com for more information on how to provide orphaned students with scholarships.

providing scholarships: Tracy Braun from EC helping a student in Kenya
EC Director Tracy Braun helps a student in Kenya

As always, thank you for making life easier for these children who are relying on Everyone’s Child to help them with challenges that children should not have to face alone.

Blessings,

Ruth

Sources: Institute of Economic Affairs  http://www.ieakenya.or.ke

The Art of Giving

I believe that one of the best gifts we can leave our children is to teach them the “art of giving”, something that many of our supporters do every time they give.

The Art of Giving

During my years as an early childhood educator I looked for opportunities to teach children how to give.  Like many preschool and elementary teachers of today, I tried to instill the concept of “otherness” in them – helping them to see how their actions affected others in their immediate world.  I also introduced them to other cultures and places around the globe, letting them know about some of the challenges facing children in developing nations.  There were positive impacts when parents and families supported these ideas and discussed them at home.

the art of giving - Erica as a preschooler
Erica Dow 2005 – she and her sister Emily held an EC Fundraiser in their home

An Event

I saw the effects of this home-school connection before I left teaching in 2015 to become a full-time executive director of Everyone’s Child.  Several years ago, Emily and Erica Dow, two sisters who had been my students decided to do a fundraiser for EC in their home.  They asked me to come and talk about EC to whoever might show up, then invited their entire family and spent the day baking cookies and cakes for the event.  It was a small gathering, maybe 8 – 10 people in all, but their enthusiasm was so infectious that they raised more than anyone had expected them to that evening.  More important than the funds raised though was the fact that these girls were involved in learning the art of giving, a concept I knew their parents both strongly supported.   Their mom even came to Kenya on an EC School Tour seven years later!

EC School Tour
EC School Tour: Ruth Young, Nancy Chase, Joni Clemons, Pam Dow, Autumn Benjamin, Sara Baker and Lynn Mason

Helen & Jackie teach Autumn how to dance
Helen & Jackie teach  Autumn Benjamin (former preschooler) how to dance

A Letter

Many of the children I taught have stayed in touch with me over the years, and I’ve even had the privilege of traveling to Kenya with former students.  Earlier this week I received a letter with a donation from two brothers who were prior preschool students of mine.  The younger one – now a 3rd grader – wrote the letter.  I checked with their mom, who told me it was fine to share their note and their photos online, so I’ve attached these below:

the art of giving - a child's letter to ec
page 1 of Connor’s letter

the art of giving - page 2 of Connor's letter to ec
page 2 of Connor’s letter

(And now for) The Translation

Dear Sr. Routh (sic) Michael and I, (Connor) are donating $57.27 to you and your orfanige (sic).  This is some of Michael and mines leftover money that we each bought something with.  We wanted to ask you if you had any technoligy (sic) needs.  Please write back.
Sincerely,
Connor and Michael

the art of giving - Connor & Michael school photo
Connor & Michael

Needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed and so proud of them for this unsolicited gift.  I was also once more convinced that a child’s heart knows how to give.

The HeArt of Giving

A giving heart begins in the home.  These boys belong to a family that serves in our military, so they are familiar with the meaning of sacrifice and helping others.  I would say it shows, and in spades!

It’s Better to Give

During my childhood, my mom was forever tossing out wise sayings, one of her favorites being “It’s better to give than to receive”.  She was right, of course, and for our family of seven that was an important concept to grasp.  As a child it took me a while to learn that I always felt more alive when I gave.  Today I am so grateful to those who taught me that as the giver, I wind up receiving the greater gift.

Joining Forces

I know that those who support EC understand the art of giving, something for which I am deeply grateful.  I want to thank each of you for your constant support, and for sharing with those who are following in your footsteps the importance of learning how to give.
If you would like to join forces with those who contribute to Everyone’s Child on an annual, monthly or one-time basis, please click here to make a secure donation.  I promise you that the benefits you will reap from having a giving heart will far surpass the challenges you face each day.

Blessings,

Ruth

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

 

Jedidah’s Journey

Dear readers,

“Jedidah’s Journey” is the story of a young orphaned Kenyan girl whose hopes and dreams came to an abrupt end shortly after she graduated from high school.  It’s a tale of heartache and brokenness, but also one of hope and resilience.  It’s a story that has been told throughout history, and one that must be told again.

Earlier this year I sent her story in booklet form to EC’s supporters.  This month’s blog makes her story available to a wider audience.  Even if you already received this via snail mail, please don’t let that stop you from reading her amazing story again online.

Jedidah’s Journey

“Jedidah’s Journey” was garnered from a series of emails between Jedidah and me during the early part of 2018.  There were many questions and edits, followed by more questions and more edits.  In the end, however, I felt confident that her story was one that she would feel good about sharing with the world.

Jedidah of Jedidah's Journey with her grandmother
Jedidah with her grandmother in 2007

Responses and Reactions

An hour after emailing her my final draft, I received a text from Jedidah.  She wrote: “Waoh, waoh [wow wow] am lack of words i just could not hold my tears reading my story.”  Moments later she continued with this note: “…it touch my heart soo much. i just hope with my story there [will be] some kids there that will benefit from it. i know there [are] those who go through much more in life.  it will be my greatest achievement in life to know i am able to help them.”

Needless to say, I was humbled by her reaction, and found myself hoping that those who read her story would want to find a way to help young women who find themselves in similar circumstances.

I wasn’t disappointed.  In the weeks that followed the printing of “Jedidah’s Journey”, I received wonderful feedback from people whose hearts were touched by this narrative.  Many people took the time to thank me for publishing it.  Some even donated to our Mentorship Program in hopes of helping orphans who often find themselves feeling unwanted or unloved.  It was encouraging to hear from readers who wrote words such as these:

“I enjoyed reading Jedidah’s story. The challenges she faced were heartbreaking, and yet by the end of the booklet I felt moved and inspired by her words. There’s undeniable strength and hope in her story; her journey. Thank you for sharing it with me.”

Jedidah reading her story Jedidah's Journey
Jedidah reading her story in 2018

Read her Story, Help a child

While Jedidah’s story isn’t picture perfect, it illustrates the struggles that face so many of the children we serve. Instead of ignoring them; we need to be the hand that helps them up.

Everyone’s Child relies on your help, not just to get children to the finish line, but also to keep them on the track. we need to encourage them so that they, like Jedidah, will keep getting back up, even when life throws them down. With your support, we can reach many more orphaned and vulnerable students who need to learn how to make good decisions in their lives.

You can click on Jedidah’s Journey to read this story online.  And please click here to learn more about how you can make a difference in a child’s life.  You’ll never be sorry that you did.

As always, Asante Sana (thank you so much) for supporting what we do by serving the orphans and vulnerable children who are counting on us for their education and their future.

Blessings,

Ruth