Tag Archives: Kenya

Crunch Time

It’s August, and the students all over Kenya are taking a break from their studies. They call it a “holiday”, which is apt, since it will be “crunch time” once they return to school. At that point there will be three more months of the school year to test their mettle.  For now they are relaxing, just as we are, and trying not to think about what lies ahead.

CRUNCH TIME

This November Standard 8 students (8th graders) all over Kenya will be sitting for the KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education). This exam helps determine which high school students can attend.  The competition is high, and a lot of effort that goes into preparing for these tests. The goal is to end up with grades that are high enough to allow them into the secondary school of their choosing.

Enter “Crunch Time”.  Crunch time happens in late hours after school is over, when schools with electricity leave their lights on for students who have none at home, allowing them extra time to study. It also happens between 6:00 – 8:00 AM when students arrive early to get in a couple extra hours of study time before the school day begins.   Studying for the KCPE is serious business, because no one wants to fail this test.

Standard 8 students at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto
Standard 8 students at the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto

EC SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

There is no free public education for secondary students, so without a scholarship students have to pay school fees. As you may imagine, scholarships are usually awarded only to the brightest students, and typically orphaned children do not rank in that category.  While family members in Kenya frequently take on the responsibility of raising their orphaned nieces and nephews, oftentimes those families are unable to pay the school fees for anyone other than their own children.

In 2012, Everyone’s Child began the EC Scholarship Program, knowing that these students would not be able to go to high school without outside financial support.  Currently, Bishop Donovan Secondary School (BEDSS) in Lanet Umoja is the only high school in the Nakuru area that offers a full scholarship to orphans.

OUR GOAL

Since 2012, more than 40 orphaned teenagers have received a scholarship from EC, allowing them to work toward completing their high school education. This is no small thing, given that the majority of orphaned children in Kenya usually struggle just to make it through the 8th grade. The devastation of losing one’s own parents, coupled with the rejection of not being able to attend high school is often all that it takes for a child to lose hope. Our goal is to supply hope to these children, in the form of an education. Beyond that, the EC Mentorship Program, led by our Program Coordinator William Aludo, and his assistant Simon Wanjala offers life skills guidance for scholarship students who are getting ready to graduate.

Orphaned students at Lanet Umoja Primary School
Orphaned students at Lanet Umoja Primary School

THEIR GOAL

Incoming students need marks of 200 or more (out of 500) in order to be accepted into BEDSS.    I am praying for all of these 8th grade students to pass with flying colors, but am especially holding the orphans in Lanet Umoja up in prayer. With good marks they will have a shot at entering a high school that offers financial and emotional support as well as a solid education.

OUR GRATITUDE

The only way we’ve been able to do this is through the unflagging help of our supporters.  Without you the EC Scholarship Program would not be possible. We are incredibly thankful for everyone who has helped us get through our “crunch time” and reach out to students who otherwise might not have had a chance in life.  And in the long run, giving kids a chance to achieve their potential is what really matters. If you would like to make a difference in the life of a student, please click here to learn how to donate to Everyone’s Child.

Greetings from students at Nakuru Teacher's Primary School!!
Greetings from students at Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School!!

As always, from their heart to yours, Asante (Thank you) Sana (so much)!!

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 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 schoolchildren 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

Problem vs. Opportunity

The Problem

This year, for the first time in EC’s history we are stepping outside of Nakuru to offer support to secondary students in a different region of this beautiful country.   To say that we’re excited is an understatement.  Last year, William Aludo, EC’s Program Coordinator, or “boots on the ground” as we like to call him, identified several orphaned secondary students struggling to pay their annual school fees in his hometown of Rongo, Migori County.  Finding out that there are students who can’t afford to go to school in your hometown may seem like a problem, but to us it presents an opportunity.

The Opportunity

Synthia Achar and John Odhiambo are two such students.  Both are in Form 2 (sophomore year), and have one living parent.  Both have five siblings between the ages of 1 – 18 living at home, making the idea of saving $250 a year for school fees almost prohibitive.

Synthia Achar

Synthia Achar

Synthia’s mom is a peasant farmer; she has been paying some of her daughter’s fees in kind by taking maize to the school which is then converted into a cash equivalent.

John Odhiambo

John Odhimabo

John’s mother is unwell and unable to earn anything towards his education.  His grandmother has been leasing portions of her piece of land to help pay for some fees.

In both cases it hasn’t been enough.  Synthia and John still have outstanding fees from 2016 and are in danger of losing the chance to remain in school.  These are very real problems that present us with a very real opportunity to respond.

The Solution

Everyone’s Child was established to help disadvantaged children receive an education.  If they are unable to go to school, we raise funds to pay school fees, and provide them with a mentoring program to teach them life skills.  If they are excited to be in school but are fainting in class due to poor nutrition, we provide lunch.  If their only drinking water comes from a muddy river, we partner with organizations to bring in fresh, potable water for the school.  All of these components add up to a sustainable model for receiving an education.

None of this would be possible without the help of the generous people who give annually and monthly to Everyone’s Child.  It’s as simple as that.  Since 1997, people have been making a difference in the lives of hundreds of orphaned and vulnerable children in Kenya through Everyone’s Child.  Plain and simple, we couldn’t do it without you.  If you want to learn how you can become a part of the solution, email us at everyoneschildren@gmail.com or visit www.everyoneschild.net.  

Thank you.

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.

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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!!)

Grateful Today

Everybody needs to be grateful.  Gratitude is what fuels us, allows us to go forward, especially in challenging times.  Today I am grateful, and more than that really, because in reality I’m overwhelmed at the many people who have given to the 2016 EC annual appeal.  Today we are just $758 short of our goal of $20,000 for this year.  However, we are already $3,500 ahead of where we were last year, so I have great hope that we will meet our goal.

I used to recoil at messages like the one I just typed, thinking that they were written to guilt people into giving or worse yet, to brag about how well an organization was doing.  I am not interested in doing either of those things here.  Instead I am rejoicing at the generosity of those who have given and continue to give to Everyone’s Child.  I know firsthand that there are many worthy organizations to give to in our world, so anytime someone gives to EC I am grateful and hopeful that they will find as much joy and satisfaction in the giving as I do in being able to pass their donation on to those who will benefit from the gift.  The benefits from this support are measurable and many: they manifest in an orphan lunch program that feeds over 300 orphaned school children in three different primary schools each day; in a school sponsorship program, and in a successful mentoring program for orphaned high school students.

Who are those who benefit?  There are hundreds, but here are a few examples from children who have received something from EC and have written to us to express their gratitude:

“I want to appreciate you for the things that you have given us…I say thank you because we can’t survive without lunch. Learning would have been so difficult to us without eating lunch.”  Joyleen, Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School student

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“The mentorship program has helped me to create friendships with my fellow students…and to know how to choose a career and to know what steps to follow towards that career.  It has helped me to know my gifts and talents and even my personality.”  Anthony, Bishop Donovan Secondary School student

“The mentorship program made me realize my worth and value in this world. It encouraged us to do better in life and even in my studies. – Silvia, Bishop Donovan Secondary School student

 “…through our study about self-esteem I am now able to understand how important I am and I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Samuel, Bishop Donovan Secondary School student

2016 BEDSS EC Sponsored students
2016 BEDSS EC Sponsored students

Moving into 2017, we have become aware of seven more orphans at Bishop Donovan Secondary School in Lanet who are hoping to be sponsored this year.   Our goal is to be able to help them and the eight others we are currently supporting, as well as to continue feeding the 300+ students who rely on us for a daily meal.  The cost of this in 2017 will be $20,000.  We are so close to making this happen.  If you are in a position to help us reach this goal, please  Click here to make a secure online donation, or send your check or money order to Everyone’s Child, 19304 Cole Road, Conneautville, PA 16406.  A one-time contribution makes a difference, and so will your monthly support.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  I am grateful for your help, but not nearly as grateful as the children who benefit from the gift of an education received at your hands.

Many blessings,

Ruth

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My Deep Gladness

Frederick Buechner wrote “Purpose is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s needs.”  I couldn’t agree more.   To the point where I will probably adopt his saying and add it to my email signature in days to come,  because it strikes a chord in the recesses of my heart.

My deep gladness is most evident around this time of year, due in large part to EC’s Annual Appeal.  You might be inclined to say that I’m happy to be bringing in the funds that support our programs, specifically the lunch program for the orphans and the sponsorship program for the orphaned secondary students.  There is truth to that, but my overarching gladness comes with being able to connect with so many friends and family members whom I rarely see anymore.

Every November I send a letter out to EC supporters, telling them what has happened with the donations they sent throughout the year, and asking them to please consider contributing again so we can continue supporting the 300+ orphans who benefit from the daily school lunch program and the 10 – 15 secondary school students who we sponsor.  I also tell donors about my aspirations for the coming year.  This past November I shared the exciting news of the two new preschool buildings that our donors built in Lanet.  I also wrote about the hope we have of bringing our mentoring program for high school orphaned students into new areas of Kenya with the help of our new Program Coordinator, William Aludo.

The responses have been arriving in my mailbox and via Paypal since the second week of November, usually accompanied by a smiley face, hand-drawn hearts or “xoxo”.  Sometimes people have included a short note with their contribution telling me about their lives and families, and almost always they have something encouraging to say to keep us going.  This year I wanted to share a few of the responses I have received from people who have a heart for what we are doing for the orphans in Kenya.  I’ll use first names (or first letters) to maintain anonymity.

Adam: [My wife] and I would love to support Everyone’s Child!  A cause that will always be close to my heart.

Carole: Keep up your wonderful work!

Alison: You can count on me for a donation prior to year-end.  Thank you for explaining some of the costs as it gives me a better idea of how much I should donate.  I’m so proud of you for spear heading such a great cause.

Cynthia:  I’m planning to give a donation to your passion and am happy to help.  I admire you for dedicating yourself to helping these kids.  It must seem overwhelming at times but heartwarming to see the successes.

Ellie: Wonderful organization Ruth. I know your heart is with these children. My contribution will go out in the next week.

N: It is especially meaningful to me to help out your organization where I know the money goes directly to the kids!!!

Dancing angels

Elizabeth: Keep up the great work for the children.

Catherine: I know it’s not much, but hopefully every bit counts!  (Me: It definitely does!!)

Dave: So happy to support these children who can use our help.

Linda: Yes. I will donate now! Thank you Ruthie!!

Carrie 😉 : Done!

Martha: What great work you do!  Amen and thank you!  We will continue to support what you do, so count on us!

Some people donated in the memory of a loved one.  Here are two such cases:

One of my nieces: Aunt Ruthie, I am so proud to be your niece. The work your organization does is incredible! I opened your letter today and around the holiday season, donating in the name of others to such a wonderful program is a very special gift for everyone involved!

Connie: Heidi was a dynamic, caring person.  As  her friend you must really feel her loss.  Even those who didn’t know her well feel sad and depleted.  She is missed but she lives on in love – and in your work for others.

So there it is, an example of why I have such deep gladness in my heart.  In the past eight years I have found my purpose in the carving of this work, which has been nothing more than an opportunity to express my faith in God and in the seed that is sown in all of us to serve and care for those less fortunate than ourselves.

We are a little over halfway to our goal of $20,000.00 for this year’s Annual Appeal.  The funds we raise help us to continue our orphan lunch program and our secondary school sponsorship program.  Currently it costs $30 per month per student to fund the orphan lunch program which is feeding between 250-300 students a day in three separate locations.  The school sponsorship program costs between $250 – $400 per student per year, depending on the grade they are in.  Next year we expect to be supporting between 8 – 10 students in Nakuru, and hope to be sponsoring additional students in new areas of Kenya as well.  If you would like to donate to Everyone’s Child and help us reach our goal before the end of 2016, please click here.

I pray that you all have a wonderful and blessed holiday season.  I look forward to talking and serving with all of you again in 2017.

Mary, Joseph & Jesus!

escaping poverty

The only opportunity they have of escaping poverty is through education.

Those words were seared into my consciousness as I conducted my doctoral research for the University of Vermont in 2007 – riding around Kenya boda-boda style on the back of my interpreter’s bicycle, meeting with villagers and teachers in Lanet in order to explore the connection between the primary school and the surrounding village. I was learning about the way this relationship affected the reciprocal development of one with the other.

In looking at the ways that the community affected the school, I examined how the villagers supported the school. From the school’s perspective, I pursued questions related to improved housing, the creation of new employment, and the general quality of life in the village. As I interviewed parents, shopkeepers and teachers in this poverty stricken area, one after another strongly supported the existence of the school, saying that the only hope that the next generation had of escaping the poverty that surrounded them would be through receiving an education.

I agreed with them, but wondered about the older children I saw walking on the road or working in the fields, kids who were obviously too old for elementary school but too young to be a part of the work force. I learned that they were mainly orphans, children whose parents had died from AIDS, or car accidents (a primary killer in Kenya), or tribal warfare. Most of them lived with family members, but these families were already paying for other children to attend secondary school and couldn’t afford to pay school fees for another child who wasn’t a part of their immediate family. The big question that kept coming back to me was what will happen to these children if they don’t have the opportunity to receive an education?

Primary school is free in Kenya, but secondary school is not.  For many Kenyan youth, my question was moot. These children are from families who can afford to send them to secondary school. But for hundreds of orphans, 8th grade is the end of the line. These children wind up at home caring for their younger cousins, or in the fields alongside adults, tilling the soil for the rest of their lives. Opportunity and hope snuffed out at the age of 12. I knew there had to be a way to help these children, but didn’t have the resources to make it happen.

Toward the end of 2009 our church built a secondary school next to Lanet Umoja Primary School and named it Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School (BEDSS) after the late Bishop Edward V. Donovan of Pittsburgh, PA. The school opened with 75 students, 5 of whom were orphaned. In the following years the enrollment grew, and each year a few more orphans joined the ranks. They were being supported by funds raised at Juniper’s Fare, our church–run restaurant in Waterbury, Vermont, but resources there were hitting the proverbial ceiling. In 2012, two years after EC was incorporated and established as a 501(c) (3), I conducted the first EC School Tour with several teachers from a local primary school in Vermont. They were amazed at what they saw, both in the schools and villages. At the end of the trip each one of them pledged to support between one and as many as seven high school students who otherwise would not have been able to go to school. The BEDSS sponsorship program had begun! Since 2012,  12-orphaned students have had the opportunity to graduate from BEDSS, receiving a high school education, thanks mainly to the generosity of people like you who are reading this blog.

This December, two of the students we have been supporting will graduate from BEDSS. These students have also been a part of EC’s first Mentorship Program for secondary students. I asked William Aludo, EC’s Program Coordinator to get each of them a gift, a token showing that we are proud of them for completing the mentoring program as well as four years of higher school. He asked them what they could use. Apart from asking for more education (driving lessons and additional schooling for computer skills), Alice said she needed a basic cell phone, and Anthony said he could use a pair of shoes. William was able to bring a phone with him to Nakuru last week, but as the photos show below, at the time of his visit he had not yet gone shopping for shoes with Anthony.

Anthony receiving his Certificate of Completion of the EC Mentorship Program
Anthony receiving his Certificate of Completion of the EC Mentorship Program
Alice receiving her certificate of completion from William Aludo
Alice receiving her certificate of completion from William Aludo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am humbled by their requests and wish in my heart that we could do more for them. Ultimately however, I’m grateful that we have had the opportunity to give them something that they will have for the rest of their lives. Each of them has gained skills, relationships, and understandings that would not have been theirs if their only choice had been to stay at home.

Education in and of itself is not THE answer. But when a child is taught to read, he or she can make up their own mind about some of life’s bigger questions, such as who to vote for, or how to pursue their life’s passion. The greatest gift we can give any child is to provide them with the tools they will need to find success, an opportunity to escape the poverty that is so pervasive in their world. To that end we have created the EC Student Sponsorship Program that funds the education of any orphaned student attending Bishop Donovan Secondary School.

In 2017 there will be 8 orphaned students in their final year at Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School.  Their tuition costs are $250 per student.  If you would like to help them to complete their education, please CLICK HERE to make a secure online donation, or send your check or money order to Everyone’s Child, Inc., 19304 Cole Road, Conneautville, PA 16406. (Please note that this is a new address as I moved to PA in June!)  Your gift makes a huge impact in the lives of these young men and women who are just starting their life’s adventure.  By  giving them the gift of an education, you are giving them a chance to escape poverty in their lifetime.

With warmest wishes,

Ruth Young, Ed.D.

Executive Director

Alice with her new phone
Alice with her new phone!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

– Nelson Mandela

 

 

 

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 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…

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To this…

Phase One

and this!

Phase one inside

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

Lunch for orphans

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Autumn Benjamin, a student at UVM helps out with the orphan lunch program in Kampi Ya Moto

The orphan lunch program started in mid-2003.  In January of that year, approximately 75 bright-eyed children wearing new or hand-me-down brown, white and black checked uniforms hurried down dirt roads and through fields to the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto (which translates to Camp of Fire), eager to learn and proud to be able to say they were just like their peers who attended primary schools in nearby towns and villages.  Their school had been built by funds raised through the Community of the Crucified One (CCO) based in Pennsylvania, USA.  The children in Kampi Ya Moto were thrilled to finally have a school they could call their own.  But there was one major distinction with these students; many of them were orphaned and most were too poor to bring a lunch to school.

By mid-morning the hot African sun beat down on the tin roof of their classroom, causing it to pop and crackle with the expansion of the metal.  The same children who had run to school in the morning began to faint, due less to the heat and more to the fact that they hadn’t had a real meal since the day before, or in some cases, for the past couple of days.

Fr. Joseph Steger was a missionary in Kenya at the time, and it was his responsibility to oversee the maintenance of each of the schools that the CCO had built.  When he learned that these children were passing out from lack of food, he asked for help from his friends and family back in the USA to get a lunch program started for them.  People responded in spades, and before long, students were receiving a daily meal of porridge (uji) made from maize, millet, milk and sorghum.  All of the students at the school lined up at noon to receive this meal, and in some cases children would quickly close the lid to their container in order to bring home what they could for family members who were going without.  Despite the dirt floors and unscreened windows in the classrooms, the Lord Ranjuera Primary School in Kampi Ya Moto became known in the area as a “wealthy” school because they offered lunch to the students.

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Licking the container clean

The success of the program was immediate and widely publicized, and before long the two other primary schools built by the CCO also asked for assistance with a lunch program for orphans attending their schools.  By 2006 over 250 students in three locations were receiving a daily meal.  Fr. Joseph’s family and a few faithful supporters maintained what became known as “the orphan feeding  program” (OFP) through an organization called “Kids in Kenya”.  In 2009, they asked Everyone’s Child to take over the funding and running of the program.  In the years that followed people going on tours of our schools in Kenya were allowed to participate in serving lunch to these children, experiencing first hand the results of a fundraising program that includes donors from all over the USA and Canada.

Sr. Kateri Walker of Moretown, Vermont went to Kenya a few years after the initiation of the OFP.  She was deeply moved by the people she met and sights she saw.  However, after her visit she decided that rather than return to Kenya again she would use her resources and connections to upgrade the OFP, moving it forward so more people could become aware and involved.  She remains a regular sponsor to the OFP to this day.

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Sr. Kateri Walker helping to feed the children

Today, 310 students between the ages of 3 and 13 line up in the three primary schools to receive a daily meal that is paid for by supporters of Everyone’s Child.  In addition, orphaned children in Kampi Ya Moto receive a second lunch of rice and beans to carry them through the rest of the day.  All told, EC is providing over 360 meals per day to students in Kenya who would otherwise go hungry.

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Letter of appreciation from a student in Kiti

The letter above is one I received during my trip to Kenya in May 2015.  In it Cliff Olendo (a student from Nakuru Teacher’s Primary School in Kiti) expresses his appreciation for a program that has fed hundreds if not thousands of children since 2003.  I wanted to share it with you – the real supporters of this lunch program.  For those of you who give to the OFP, you need to know that your gift does and is affecting lives right now – today – in real time.  I hope you read and take to heart the prayer he bestows on you; that you truly do receive twice what you ask for as a blessing and reward for what you are giving to the least of them.

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Moretown Elementary School (VT) teacher Joni Clemons empties out her bucket of uji (porridge) into a student’s bowl

For those of you reading this who would like to join in this effort of sustaining orphaned children with a daily meal at their school, welcome to our ranks!  Currently this program costs EC close to $900.00 per month.  A donation of $30.00 will feed six students for a month.  $100.00 will feed a single student for an entire school year.  You can send your tax-deductible donation to Everyone’s Child, 20 Vermont Route 100 South, Moretown, VT 05660, or for a secure online donation, click here.

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Thank you.  By contributing to this program you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made it that much easier for an orphaned student to stay in school.