Thanks to a very generous private donation intended for this specific purpose, HCIC was able to send some of their committee members over to Kenya this summer. This provides the opportunity to check up on the welfare of the children in person, touch base and interact with the people who are caring for the children, and attempt to discuss and tackle some of the issues coming up like how to oversee a building project and what is the best ‘exit strategy’ for the orphans who are graduating high-school. Below are the series of reports from Kenya written by Kay Alden. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us.
June 30, 2014
Yesterday we had church at Etora. The place was full…even without the bishop there! I can really see the growth since our last visit. The orphans looked healthy and happy. Both Fred and George who were with some of the children in Riounde testify that there is a huge difference in how the children behave and how relaxed and happy they are here in Etora. Athena Child’s Fleisher came to church with her brother Benjamin. She has been working in Kenya and is just leaving the country now. After church she got up and spoke to all the children about how important education is and encouraged them to work hard at their studies and be kind to each other. Then she invited them up to sing the Lord’s Prayer with her. It was very moving and I imagine healing on her part. This was then first time she was seeing them since she left at the height of the trouble. Samson, George, Lazarus and Fred all still feel quite keenly the effects of this trouble as well. After church we all played circle games on the newly purchased land. It was great fun to witness young and old enjoying each other’s company and laughing and singing.
I am more than impressed with how things are going for both the orphanage and the school. Samson showed me the results of the latest testing for the school district which has 57 schools in it and his school came out number one. Each subject was evaluated and if it wasn’t first place it was close. The report also listed the top five students in each subject and his students sometimes swept all five places and were always listed as some of the top five. He and George are doing good work. Very good work. They really feel like a team. They are loving and kind toward the students and say the good test results are due to a well managed school where administration and staff are working well together. The GC materials that have been sent in the past are all handy in Samson’s office and are obviously being used. They are thrilled with what we have brought. We actually don’t have all the materials here yet since our husbands are bringing what we couldn’t fit.
The four orphan high school boys were home this weekend for mid term break. Kathy interviewed them. They spent the day helping around the school and playing soccer. We will see them again when we visit their school in Kisii.
Kevin, one of our orphan high school graduates is interested in teaching at the school. He asked me if there was money for him to go to college and I said we only had funds for 2 years of vocational training. Working out an exit strategy will not be easy. We have already had some discussions with Samson but I am waiting for Roger and Mark to get here before we really delve into it. This week we are focusing on the teacher training program and going over how to use the resources we brought.
Kathy made song books with some of the informal songs we use at home to share. They have been a real hit (Kathy is always a hit!). Samson’s oldest daughter Dorothy has finished training in computers and came home from Nairobi with us. She has been such a help. She is a lovely young woman. She is willing to use the computers we brought to teach computer skills to the older children.
I purchased a SIM card for my iPad and it has been so much easier to communicate with all of you at home!!!!! no need to rely on wireless. It feels strange to sit in a corrugated metal office with no electricity or running water yet still be able email and browse the web.
July 2, 2014
Kathy and I have been gone almost a week. Our teacher training sessions are going well. We meet with about 11 teachers in the morning from 9:00-12:00. These are the ones who have a New Church background and include one of the orphans who has graduated from high school and is interested in teaching at the school (though he really wants to be a doctor!) we are spending a lot of time having them read the resources they have from GC Ed and they are enjoying them very much. Their knowledge and joy are deepening visibly every day.
Today the high school girls (8 of them) came home for their mid term break. They looked so smart in their uniforms. We welcomed them with hugs and warm words. This afternoon Kathy will be interviewing them and perhaps starting to write their notes to sponsors. It is so good to see the faces that are familiar in photos shining with real live smiles and questions.
We are viewing firsthand the time and commitment Samson and Jackline give to the children. Samson stays with them at night until they are all in bed at 9:00 and then he comes home for dinner. he gets up at 4:00 every morning to get to school before they are up. I don’t know how he survives on the sleep he gets. His daughter Dorothy lovingly joked to me last night that his own children often think he loves the orphans more than them! It is obvious this isn’t true. He is loving to all. I wish you could just watch him walk through the school yard and tenderly reach out to the children he passes. The small ones especially look up to him with tender devotion.
The school and orphanage are very well structured. Samson has a way of setting things up that is unusually organized. He has checks and balances for what he does and involves staff in the work rather than doing it all himself. He is especially careful to document expenditures and food and is eager to learn any new techniques that will assure us that all is being spend as it should. I plan to meet with Jackline next week to have her show me her records and perhaps teach her how to use excel on the computers we brought.
Samson and Jackline’s devotion to looking to the Word and Lord as the starting point for all they do it truly humbling to witness. Often times we go to give them advice and find that what they are already doing far exceeds what we were going to suggest. We are the ones being humbled.
As I sit here writing this report in one of the offices at the school I can hear the children’s laughter outside and some adults are practicing learning the religious songs we brought with us in a songbook (we didn’t bring enough!)in the room next to us.
We are looking forward to our husbands and Brian and Gretchen joining us this weekend. We will move from Samson’s home to a nearby hotel when they come. We will miss the evening times in their home playing and visiting with their children. Andy has been sick with pneumonia, malaria and flu yet still went to school! He has exams to take. The doctor gave him a series of three injections and he is responding well to the treatment. Eunice came down with malaria yesterday and Samson took her to the clinic where she received treatment as well.he found out he was in the early stages of having malaria as well. He had treatment and is responding well too.
Kind regards to all. Please feel free to pass on these reports to anyone who you think might be interested.
Kay Alden and Kathy Schrock
July 7, 2014
Over a full work week has been completed and we have been joined by Brian and Gretchen and our husbands Mark and Roger. Last Friday we completed a very fruitful week working with the leadership team at the Etora school. We focused on creating a teacher training program and mentoring them on using the resources so generously provided by General Church Education. This week we are focusing on the orphans. Our work has been somewhat hampered by the fact that out of the four suitcases Roger and Mark brought to Kenya only one of them made it. They both were missing all of their clothes and some of the supplies we were hoping to use this week. Rogers two suitcases have been located and are supposedly being transported the hotel we are staying at. It is quite a long journey from Nairobi to where we are so we will see if they actually arrive. Mark and Rogers car broke down on the trip here and they had to hire another car and driver to take them the rest of the way. It turned out Brian and Gretchen stayed in Nairobi an extra day because British Air lost her two pieces of luggage as well. They were all traveling together to join us.
Yesterday (Sunday) we had church in Etora. The church was full. I would estimate that there were over 100 adults and about 250 children. Three men were ordained into the priesthood and one was recognized as a lay leader. Brian had been told that there would be a couple of infant baptisms during the service but when the time came about 28-30 moved forward to be baptized. We were in the church from 9:00-2:00.
Saturday while we were waiting for the traveling party to arrive I sat with Samson and went through each of the orphan children’s names and he told me what he knew about how the children were orphaned. The information about the former LAM children that Nicole Ollenu gathered when she was here several years has all been confirmed as correct. Samson and George were very diligent about verifying this information and in many cases had to travel to interview people who knew their situation. We went through all the other children and the tales were difficult to hear. A large portion of the children witnessed their parents being murdered with machetes in the night and were left to die during the tribal clashes in 2007. Police picked them up and brought them to towns and just release them to the streets. These were good children from good homes. Samson and Jackline took a group of them in a distributed them to the congregation members of their small but growing church and paid for their needs from their own funds. Others were infants that no one would care for because their parents were murdered and considered cursed. Another was a newborn infant discarded in a latrine. These stories were difficult to hear. When we were done I just wanted to put my head down and weep and weep. So much pain has been suffered by these little ones. The funds from HCIC are not only changing lives, they are saving the lives of the children. In rural Kenya children are just a breath away from living a life of abuse and death on the street. This became very apparent as I listened to the stories. As awful as the stories are to hear I really believe they must be heard. To suffer so much and not listen because it is difficult would just be a second tragedy. The other thing that came through loud and clear is that Samson and Jackline have a deep seated calling to help children in need and to do so with a flavor of loving kindness that well represents the life we are called to live in the Heavenly doctrines. This amazing couple and their children welcome others into their home and provide them not only with food and clothing but with love as well. Truly all the children in their care are treated as their own.
Roger is focusing on what it will take to build the two dorms and eating pavilion. He is looking at how buildings are constructed and plans to interview builders, locate plans, etc. We hope by the end of the trip we will have a somewhat realistic figure of how much funding is needed for a capital campaign. Roger is also taking updated individual pictures of the children to send to sponsors. We completed all of the high school students this weekend when they were home from boarding schools to attend the bishop’s service.
Kathy has had all of the children write letters to their sponsors. This was no easy task. We had to have then done in small groups. The children eagerly did them. They are so grateful for the support they receive. Some sponsors sent little gifts to the children and we have not given any of them out yet because some of them are in the lost luggage and we want to give them all out at once. We have gifts for all of the children, even those whose sponsors didn’t have a chance to send something. We are planning a big dinner for them our last night here. Samson said he wanted it to be the last night because the children would all be crying and at least this would give them something happy to look forward to.
Kathy and I are hoping to update each child’s information sheet. She is well into the interview process and we want to get all information onto one master sheet. If this doesn’t get completed the interns coming in August can work on it. They will be here long enough to really get to know the children. I hope they can write a little vignette for each child that paints a word picture of what they are like.
Today the high school girls went back to school after their mid term break. We went with them and got a full tour of the school. Got lots of pictures. We noticed Keziah quite a deep leg wound. Mark treated it but it really needs to be seen by the school nurse daily because it is growing and goes through all layers of the skin tissue. We gave them their gifts because we won’t see them again. When I think of what these young women have gone through and how polite and kind they are now it amazes me. It was hard to say goodbye.
Our next big thing to tackle is a workable exit strategy for when the children graduate from high school. We have been gathering information on what options the children have. My hope is that we can create something workable that gives the children a sense of HOPE about their future. If they just think they will dig ditches or sell mangoes at the side of the road it really won’t motivate them to work hard in school. I will save the information we have gathered about that for a layer report.
At one point I asked Samson if he though the children in the orphanage would be New Church when they left. He looked at me and said, “Honestly, considering all these children have been through, Jackline and I will be happy if they are good people.” We loved that answer .
Again, feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested.
With grateful heart to those who support the work we are doing,
Kay Alden, Kathy Schrock, and Roger Schrock