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.

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!

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!”

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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.

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