20 years of Spirit in Action, 1996-2016

20 years of Spirit in Action, 1996-2016

(Del Anderson in the SIA Office in 2004.)

Save the date! You’re invited to join us for Spirit in Action’s 20th Anniversary Celebration!

Saturday, June 25th, at 2-4pm at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland, CA.

We decided against the traditional china, rejected the modern platinum, and chose instead to host a great party! We will be celebrating past, present, and future, with special guests Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge, from Eldoret, Kenya. (More details and invitations to come soon.)

Past

Did you know that Del was 90 years old when he founded Spirit in Action? SIA was part of his vision and passion for serving the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. Serving the spirit without acknowledging the needs of the mind and body was incomplete to Del.

In his 1997 Christmas letter, Del introduced his friends to Spirit in Action, “My intent to continue to assist some of the wonderful, dedicated persons in developing countries who are effectively helping people to help themselves as they serve the hungry and the poor has encouraged me to share this news with you.

“I have put in motion a non-profit corporation to continue to carry this work on after I have made the transition to a new life. Incorporated in California, “SPIRIT IN ACTION” is alive and serving, with board members committed to assist in helping people to help themselves.

“I am excited with the real probability of the continuation of this ministry to effectively help our world, through assisting people to become serving, productive, responsible, growing persons. I feel very privileged to be participating with our Creator and with persons desirous of bringing forth a world of the people, by the people and for the people, where caring and acting for the common good is the way of life.” (Read more about Del.)

Del and Tanya at Del's desk in 2006

Del and Tanya at Del’s desk in 2006. Del was 100 years old and still sending letters to friends in the US and abraod.

Present

Since 1996, and the early days of figuring out how we were going to operate, SIA has grown into a strong network. We have granted over 650 Small Business Fund grants in Kenya, Malawi, India, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, and the DR Congo. We have supported over 35 community-based organizations across Africa and in Sri Lanka, India, Peru, and Philippines. And these programs are on-going and growing!

Samuel and Rhoda and their Samro School were some of the first SIA grant partners and they continue to inspire us with their passion for educating and encouraging the next generation of Kenyans. It will be wonderful to be hear from the Teimuges about their partnership with Del and their experiences of building a successful school and agricultural development training centre in Kenya.

Samro Students performing at the 8th grade graduation in October, 2015.

Samro Students performing at the 8th grade graduation in October, 2015.

Future

I am excited about Spirit in Action’s future! We are poised to enter a new stage of our organization and we are moving forward with a broad base of support. As we grow and expand our programs, we rejoice in the strength that already exists in African communities, and we serve as a catalyst for local solutions to help communities thrive.

I celebrate that the SIA network is strong with passionate donors and dedicated partners – and I hope you will be in Oakland on June 25th to celebrate with me!

Local organizations like the Manyamula COMSIP savings and loans cooperative is a SIA partner that is serving the mind, body, and spirit of its members.

Local organizations like the Manyamula COMSIP savings and loans cooperative is a SIA partner that is serving the mind, body, and spirit of its members.

Grant Update: Samro School in Kenya

Grant Update: Samro School in Kenya

Last week I wrote about SIA’s partners – the people who are implementing change in their communities with our support – and I mentioned that we like to create long-lasting relationships with these partners. Del Anderson’s partnership and friendship with Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge began even before Spirit in Action was officially formed in 1996. Talk about a long-lasting relationship!

Over those 20 years, the Teimuges’ Samro School has gone from a dream, to a single student in an informal classroom, to a well-respected elementary school where 214 students (including several refugees from South Sudan) are challenged and encouraged. “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.

Samuel and Rhoda show Tanya the 6 classrooms that SIA built in 2002.

Samuel and Rhoda show Tanya the 6 classrooms that SIA built in 2002.

Last year, SIA supported 16 Samro students with their school fees. The funds were used primarily for staff salaries, with some also going to school supplies, food for the students, and occasional class trips. Paying the teachers on time and with competitive salaries helps ensure that there is no interruption in the teaching schedule (Kenyan public school teachers were on a month-long strike this fall), and that the students are getting the attention and high-quality education they want and deserve. Over the weekend, the school community held a graduation and Prayer Day for the 8th grade students.

Samro students performing for parents, teachers, and community members at the 8th grade graduation last weekend.

Samro students performing for parents, teachers, and community members at the 8th grade graduation last weekend.

Six of the students supported by the SIA funds are Samro Polytechnic students, in the tailoring and dressmaking program. Over the past two years, they have learned to make skirts, trousers, shirts, lab coats, pajamas, kitenge (east African casual wear), jackets, and children’s clothing. They are preparing now for their final exams in the first week of December.

Boyd is measured for a t-shirt, to be sewn on sewing machines purchased with the SIA grant. The teacher is on the right, wearing a shirt he made. This student is the class leader.

Boyd is measured for a t-shirt, to be sewn on sewing machines purchased with the SIA grant. The teacher is on the right, wearing a shirt he made. This student is the class leader.

Samuel Teimuge reports, “This year has been one of the best years when our teachers, pupils, parents, and the committee members celebrate the students’ performances with great joy. Our teachers were very committed and the pupils did their best both in academics and extra curricula activities. We realized that a lot of talents were brought forth and we are closing the year with very high self esteem!”

samro_grade5_student_10-15

One of the Grade 5 students supported by SIA this year.

We look forward to continuing this partnership with the Teimgues and supporting their blossoming vision for Samro School as a supportive environment for Kenya’s youth.

Traveling in Kenya

Traveling in Kenya
Kids at Samro School and Empowering Lives International play baseball in the mud.

Kids at Samro School and Empowering Lives International play baseball in the mud.

For World Storytelling Day on Thrusday, and as a way of officially announcing my trip to Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda this July, I wrote down a story from my last trip in 2011.

We visited Eldoret in the rainy season of August 2011. The rain falls almost every day and the dirt roads, once they can no longer absorb any more water, become mud pits, with trenches of water flowing on either side and rivers crossing the path. 

With this reality it is best to learn early on that there can be no rush when traveling in Kenya.

Birthday party! Kiprop with his wife and her brother.

Birthday party! Kiprop with his wife and her brother.

One afternoon, Dennis Kiprop, took us to visit his wife and family. Dennis, who is one of SIA’s Small Business Fund coordinators, had just organized and led our 4-day Coordinator’s Conference, which gathered SIA partners from Uganda, DR Congo, Rwanda, and Malawi together in Eldoret. He has an energetic personality and likes to see the world as a glass half-full with blessings abounding around him.

After the party – he hadn’t told us it was his wife and brother-in-law’s birthday that day – Laban, Boyd, and I climbed into the Jeep from Samuel Teimuge’s Ukweli Training Centre, where Dennis works as a host and event manager, to head back to our lodgings. We set off without a care in the world, thinking not about the drive, but the moment we’d be back at the Centre.

Before there was really time to react or think, we found that the left side of the vehicle was sliding off the muddy road into the river that was the road shoulder. Laban tried going forward and back to get back up the embankment. We were able to go forward a bit, but we soon found ourselves in a river running across the road. We would just have to push forward until we reached the other side of the river.

Boyd and the road of water.

Boyd and the road of water.

Skidding forward and back.
No traction.
Water right up to the exhaust pipe.
Mud sludge seeping under the side doors to meet our feet.

To get across would require more than machine power. Boyd got out of the car to push. But there was still not enough for the tires to grip. There was a woman and two teenage boys walking down the road and Laban called out to them. They dropped their bundles and came over. Now all four were pushing, rocking, dragging the jeep. I held up my feet and prayed.

Soon (actually, it wasn’t very soon – it was at least half-hour later), by sheer force they managed to get the jeep to where it could gain traction and drive on. We shouted with joy and called our thanks to the helpers! Boyd was wet up to his waist and drained from the experience.

 

The jeep getting packed up the next day. It still works!

The jeep getting packed up the next day. It still works!

It is a classic travel story: at the time of the event I only noticed the stress and it was only with time that it became a story to tell. But even right after we were safe I realized how amazing it was to meet people who were willing to drop what they were doing to help us out.

I came to depend on that kindness of strangers when traveling in Kenya and Malawi. There were plenty of hiccups along the way – broken down buses, missed connections, roadblocks – but just as often there were people to help. 

This July, I will return to meet SIA partners in Kenya and Malawi (and Uganda this time). And I’m sure I’ll have many more moments when I’ll be reminded that travel is a practice of going with the flow and expecting angels along the way.

Related Posts:

A transformative education

Learning computer skills on the computers purchased with a SIA Community Grant

Learning computer skills on the computers purchased with a SIA Community Grant

I saw an inspiring film last month. It wasn’t one that won an Oscar. Rather, it was a documentary about a pair of architects who taught high school students in rural North Carolina about how to design and build things.

With the motto “Design. Build. Transform,” If You Build It wasn’t about a regular ol’ shop class. The “shop class +”  introduced the students to concepts like design, creative solutions, model-building, incorporating feedback, and using their hands to make the final product. Students who weren’t comfortable drawing stick-figures at the beginning were amazed at what they could design and build together.

Together they made a beautiful, functional farmer’s market space for their town and it was so exciting to see the town embrace the finished project.

What was really inspiring, though, was to see the transformation in the students and the newly-felt  sense of pride, accomplishment, and confidence.

So what does this have to do with Spirit in Action? Halfway across the world from North Carolina, Samro Polytechnic School is also providing technical training – with a blend of creativity and craftsmanship – in Eldoret, Kenya.

Samro Poly students in front of a classroom.

Samro Poly students in front of a classroom.

“We are going to make a difference in Kenya by producing professionals out of Grade 8 graduates,” announces Director Samuel Teimuge. So far there are twelve students (9 girls and 3 boys), many who graduated from 8th grade and were unable to attend a traditional high school, because of their grades or inability to pay the fees. The technical school gives these students an opportunity to continue their education and to transform their lives and communities.

Students will take classes for one full year, learning tailoring, sewing, and/or computer skills. Each of these skills are marketable and valuable. Already, there is high demand for Samro Poly-made school uniforms for schools in the area!

Those students who come from other villages, or who don’t have family, can live in dorms onsite. The dorms are ready for use but students will use their design and building skills to help construct kitchen building.

Kennedy Onyango, future  tailor

Kennedy Onyango, future tailor

One new student is Kennedy Onyango. Kennedy is 20 years old and he traveled from Lake Victoria, which is six hours away, to get to Eldoret. Both his parents died before he was 10 and his grandmother, who was caring for him, died in 2012. His goal is to start tailoring business and become self-employed.

A SIA grant, and the strong, nurturing leadership of Samuel and the other Samro Poly teachers is helping to make this goal a reality. 

For more about Samro Polytechnic students, read about Gladys, a Kenyan woman who gave up her illegal brewing business to learn how to sew

Watch the If You Build Ittrailer. 

Samro Poly students play volleyball after classes are done for the day.

Samro Poly students play volleyball after classes are done for the day.

Education and a New Job for Gladys

Five classic sewing machines and one high-tech machines are available for students.

Five classic sewing machines and one high-tech machines are available for students.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. Even more than in the US, people in Kenya are desperately seeking jobs that pay the bills and help their families thrive. Also like the US, people in Kenya turn to education to increase their job opportunities.

Samro Polytechnic school in Eldoret Kenya, supported in part by a SIA grant, is focused on providing training in marketable skills, like tailoring, sewing, and computer skills, to help people transition to more steady jobs.

Gladys is learning to sew dresses, shirts, and blazers. Machines and cloth are provided at the school.

Gladys is learning to sew dresses, shirts, and blazers. Machines and cloth are provided at the school.

 

One student at Samro Poly is Gladys.

Gladys is a single mother of four children: one son and three daughters. Until recently, she was renowned for making the best (illegal) brew in the area. But too much drinking by her husband led her to separate from her husband and go to live with her parents. Last month, Gladys was one of some 80 brewers who were invited to Samuel Teimuge’s Ukweli Training Centre for a workshop in alternative business skills and development.

Ukweli and Samro Polytechnic are on the same site and there is lodging as well as a supportive community for people wanting to change their lives. Gladys started classes in tailoring. She was even able to bring her daughter Irene, who had been doing housework away from home, to join her in training at Samro Polytechnic.

Gladys' daughter Irene is also learning about sewing and alterations at Samro Polytechnic school.

Gladys’ daughter Irene is also learning about sewing and alterations at Samro Polytechnic school.

Samuel Teimuge, who is head of centre and school shares his gratitude, “Thank you SIA for helping us purchase these items. We hope many like these two ladies will find their way to Samro Poly.”

Gladys does not know what will happen after the three-week training is over. However, she is grateful to be on her new path toward being a tailor; on her path to a job that is respectable, stable, and enjoyable. Isn’t that what most of us are looking for in life?

For more from Samuel Teimuge read my post “Leading with Honesty and Integrity” here: http://godsspiritinaction.org/leading-with-honesty-and-integrity

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...