A Better Way to do Education in Kenya

A Better Way to do Education in Kenya

Arsons have burned over 100 public high schools in Kenya this year, affecting over 6,000 students. These aren’t terrorist attacks. It seems to be the work of some of the students themselves. And speculation about possible motivations is flying around without any clear conclusions.

What is clear is that this is very bad news for the government schools that are already underfunded and overcrowded. It also clearly highlights the value of supporting good schools like Samro School.

Rhoda Teimuge in Oakland in June.

Rhoda Teimuge in Oakland in June.

A Dream Come True

When Rhoda Teimuge, director of Samro School, spoke at our 20th Anniversary party in June, she shared how a dream called her to start the school. Two years after the dream, in 1998, the school opened. And it took on the special mission of serving the mind, body, and spirit of each student.

“The only thing that lasts a lifetime is what is in your brain – education,” Rhoda said, her strong voice conveying her passion and dedication to the work. Many of the students, some of whom are orphans from the adjacent Empowering Lives International, are dealing with challenges outside the school and so the encouragement and mentoring at Samro School are essential to their success.

The newer kitchen and dining room for the students when it is raining. The dining room doesn't have tables or seats yet but it keeps the students dry.

The newer kitchen and dining room for the students when it is raining. The dining room doesn’t have tables or seats yet but it keeps the students dry.

Student and Teacher Success

This past year, SIA grants to Samro helped pay school fees and support the teachers. Paul Karanja, a 6th grader, recently came to Samro from another school. He is older than most of his classmates and has some challenges reading, affecting his confidence. Rhoda reports that the teachers are giving him extra attention to help him improve.

The SIA grant covers the room and board and school fees for Gloria Jepchuma, a 7th grader. She is the school’s head girl and very active in classes and after school. However, Rhoda reports, family issues are disrupting her studies. It’s not just enough to pay for school. True caring and encouragement are critical to better future for Kenya.

Teachers are central to creating this nurturing environment. Rhoda met with them to discuss raising the standards of the school. She came away from the meeting encouraged. “They have even offered themselves to do their best in dealing with slow learners and also to develop talents amongst the students. They have come up with ideas to help learners broaden their minds through various Clubs like Gardening, Environment, Home Economics, Poultry, Animal Raring, Debate, and Christian Union. Teachers want to have Samro to be the best School.

It’s clear that dedicated teachers, a caring administrator, and encouraged students will make for a good and safe learning environment.

Training leads to jobs in Nairobi

Training leads to jobs in Nairobi

“This is an opportunity for me to change my life from idling and gossiping around in the community. I am happy that the number of cases involving me with other women will now reduce with this lifetime opportunity to gain embroidery and tailoring skills. I would like to specialize in school outfits like track suits and girl’s skirts. Thank you so much Progressive Volunteers.’’

Rosemary Ochieng is 19 years old and dropped out of school after elementary school. She lives in the Ruaraka community – one of the poorest areas of Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi. There aren’t a lot of good opportunities for women like Rosemary to turn their lives around. The opportunity that Rosemary credits for changing her life is attending the Mathare Dressmaking Training Centre. The centre runs classes for four months with skilled training in tailoring, machine embroidery, and fashion design.

Rosemary is not the only one to benefit. She is one of 168 women and 13 men who have completed the training course.

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Trainees gather around a table to practice their sewing.

Training leads to jobs

Of the 181 trainees, 124 have managed to secure employment with Ruaraka Clothing Industries, a large employer in the area. In most cases these women and youth are working as skilled machine operators, meaning that the classes directly opened this employment opportunity for them. There are also 27 trainees who are working for independent dressmaking businesses. Four more are remaining in the Dressmaking Centre to help with training and management.

George is one of the instructors and is a skilled machine operator.

George is one of the instructors and is a skilled machine operator.

With a Community Grant from Spirit in Action, the Mathare Dressmaking Training Centre rented a place to hold the trainings. They also bought high-tech sewing and embroidery machines, and hired instructors to develop the training curriculum.

The Centre continues to improve their offerings by changing as they learn from each training cycle. They found that many women were missing the evening classes because of family obligations. For the next round of classes, they will focus on morning and afternoon classes to better accommodate the busy schedules of their students.

The training team is also looking into ways to make their program more sustainable and they are considering a Sharing the Gift component. This would encourage the trained students to give back to the Centre, especially after they have been able to secure steady jobs.

Congratulations to the Mathare Dressmaking and Training Centre for truly empowering poor women and giving them hope for the future.

 

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you to all who attended our 20th Anniversary party on Saturday! It was a wonderful gathering with both people who have been part of Spirit in Action from the beginning and new members of the SIA community!

My dream is that in our next 20 years we approach our work recognizing the power, knowledge, and vision that already exists in the people we serve. My dream is that Spirit in Action, with our wide international network, dedicated Board members, passionate volunteers, and amazing donors, will serve as a catalyst for people reaching their dreams of sustainable, fulfilling, comfortable lives. And that we each always interact with others in a way – like Del did with me 12 years ago – that lets them know that they are valued and have something to contribute to the world.

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We gathered at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, which is also part of SIA’s history! This was where Marsha Johnson, our Administrative Coordinator for SIA’s first 12 years, first met Del Anderson. She was impressed with his joy, and the prayer he put into his work.

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Rhoda Teimuge, SIA partner from Kenya, told stories of two successful students who have graduated from Samro School. Rhoda is director of the school. Samro focuses on encouraging, empowering, and loving each student to help them succeed. (Stories to come in a future blog post!)

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A timeline of SIA’s history crossed the hall of the meeting hall. I read through 20 years of SIA Board meeting minutes and was humbled by all that we’ve accomplished and the amazing people who have led and contributed to SIA! (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

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Samuel Teimuge, of Kenya, and Rob Hanford, son of Lucile Anderson, chatting. In the early days of SIA, Samuel and Rob wrote to each other about improving Kenyan agriculture with compost and worms.

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“If you hear My voice and obey Me, I will use this very small organism called SPIRIT IN ACTION as leaven, as a mustard seed, as Light.” ~ From “God Calling…” by Del Anderson

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The ripple effect of SIA represented on pretty metal water bottles!

Meet SIA Partners Face-to-Face this June

Meet SIA Partners Face-to-Face this June

Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge hosted me during both of my visits to Kenya, 2011 and 2014. Their campus in the rural outskirts of Eldoret is simultaneously a vibrant hub and a peaceful retreat. Friendly people, working as teachers, gardeners, house parents, and cooks welcomed me, showing me the sustainable agriculture training garden (with fish ponds, compost piles, mushroom greenhouses, and more), the elementary school and daycare centre, meeting hall and dining room, guest huts, cow and chicken pens, and the children’s home (run by Empowering Lives International).

Touring the Samro School gardens. This kale will be used in the school lunches.

Touring the Samro School kitchen gardens. This kale will be used in the school lunches.

Evidence of Spirit in Action was all over the centre – SIA helped build the first school classrooms (they were some of SIA’s first grants!) and the Ukweli Training Centre farms were conceptualized by Del and Samuel. The encouraging messages on classroom walls seem to echo Del and Lucile’s words of hope. And yet, I credit the many successes of the school and training centre to the dedication and leadership of Samuel and Rhoda. They embody Spirit in ACTION. 

When I visited the Teimuges in 2011 with the SIA Small Business Fund Coordinators, Samuel told us how SIA encourages people to act, not just talk, “You know many times people talk, talk, talk, talk, but the Spirit in Action business plan starts from where you are, so instead of talking you do something that will really help, not only to your family, but also to others.”

Honored Guests

The Teimuges have been such wonderful hosts to me and other SIA friends and so perfectly represent the aims of SIA and Del that it is with great pleasure that we will welcome them to Oakland on June 25th as honored guests as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Spirit in Action’s founding.We hope that you will take this opportunity to meet face-to-face some of SIA’s partners and hear their stories of serving the youth and working to reduce poverty in Kenya. It is sure to be an inspiring afternoon.

For more details about the event, click here. Or email Tanya for more information or to RSVP.

Encouraging words in the Samro School computer lab.

Encouraging words in the Samro School computer lab.

"We have seen that seed of faith and vision grow, which were powerful gifts from Del and Jim [Thomas]," Rhoda told me when I visited Samro School in Eldoret, Kenya in 2014.

“We have seen that seed of faith and vision grow, which were powerful gifts from Del and Jim [Thomas],” Rhoda told me when I visited Samro School in Eldoret, Kenya in 2014.

A peaceful moment of stillness with the Teimuges, in the midst of a crazy travel schedule (2014).

A peaceful moment of stillness with the Teimuges, in the midst of a crazy travel schedule (2014).

P.S. For a fun travel story, read my Kenyan, muddy-road, adventure tale!

P.P.S. I’m working on a timeline of SIA’s 20 years and I realized that I have been writing weekly blog posts since June 2010! Wow! Thanks for reading!

4 things making me happy this week!

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Malawian Coffee at Starbucks

What a fun surprise to see coffee from Malawi at my neighborhood Starbucks shop! I sent a WhatsApp message to Canaan, our partner in Malawi, to tell him about it and let him know it was good. “What?? Malawi coffee in Toronto!!! Very exciting. We are really a global village,” was Canaan’s joyful response.

Poem calling for unity in Kenya

“Stand up. Get up. Show up.
And say no to violence, no to terrorism, no to instability, and live as one.”

I first read the full poem, written by Shanize Njeri Wanjiku (age 10), who lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Nairobi, Kenya, in this blog post from the New York Times. Later I watched the video of her reciting it. An inspiring and hopeful message, indeed. Join me in praying now for peace during Kenya’s election season next year.

New Businesses in Nairobi

In the same Nairobi neighborhood, Mathare, Spirit in Action has supported three new family businesses with $150 start-up grants. One of them is named “Mama Laban Veggies” and they will sell vegetables along the roadside.

The mother of the family – and the business leader – is named Violet. She is called Mama Laban as a sign of respect. In Kenya, parents are called Mama and Baba followed by the name of their first child. Violet’s son is named Laban, and so she is called Mama Laban. The family is planning to use their profits for school fees for Laban, who is six years old.

flower bouquet

Poem about how we are a beautiful bouquet

We come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.
Some of us grow in bunches.
Some of us grow alone.

Some of us are cupped inward,
And some of us spread ourselves out wide.

Some of us are old and dried and tougher than we appear.
Some of us are still in bud.

Some of us grow low to the ground,
And some of us stretch toward the sun.

Some of us feel like weeds, sometimes.
Some of us carry seeds, sometimes.
Some of us are prickly, sometimes.
Some of us smell.

And all of us are beautiful.
What a bouquet of people we are!

by Thomas Rhodes

Thank you for being a part of the bouquet of Spirit in Action!

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