Saturday, March 8, 2014

RAY OF HOPE 2014: Back with Friends


The youngest class with their morning porridge
They say it takes a village.

Today, we spent the day in what could be considered a small village. Four small classrooms with nearly 100 children crammed inside of them. And teaching them are two teachers who have done an amazing job of not only teaching the basics for school, but the basics of life.
Evelyn Waneloba and Alfred Gatimu are two remarkable teachers in this tiny learning center in the heart of Kawangware, Kenya. Kawangware is the second largest slum outside of Nairobi, home to over 400,000 people. In this small learning center called Ray of Hope and Little Ray of Hope, Evelyn and Alfred and a small group of others, make sure the children are clothed and fed each day before they go to school. The older group of children, all go to public schools during the day, and get their breakfast and tutoring at the Ray of Hope. The Little Ray of Hope is home to over 50 children from ages 2 – 7 who are being taught the basics before they can go to public school.

Kirsti with Gabriel, whose birth she attended
the last time we were here
The true story here, however, is Evelyn’s story. She is a single parent, who has adopted (brought home) 4 children, in addition to her own at home. She lives in a modest home in Kawangware and is not only raising her own children, but making a living teaching others during the day. When the funding changed for the Ray of Hope, there wasn’t a spot for Evelyn to continue in a paying job. In the midst of going to college and getting her teaching credential, Evelyn decided to open her own “Little Ray of Hope” and brought young children in to the learning center. But she made one minor change. Instead of being dependent upon the funding from an outside source, she gathered the resources of the community, and asked families to pay what they could, for their children to go to school. While sometimes the pay comes in the form of money, other times it comes as food, or clothing, or whatever a family has to give to help with the cost.

Teacher Evelyn (left) and community worker
Hendrika (left) with student Brian
Evelyn is the true story of success here. She went from being an employee of a foreign sponsored non-profit to a strong role model in the community, finding a way to make her business work for all that are involved. Yes, it takes a village. And sometimes, it just takes a strong will to move forward and  love to make it work.


Today we arrived at the Little Ray of Hope in Kwangware. This is where Glide teams have come for the last three trips. The agenda for this trip, however, is much different. Instead of providing programming, we are here to listen and learn. There have been many changes in the program since we were last here, and we want to understand the changes better, so we can best support the amazing work that is being done here.

When we arrived at the learning center, we were greeted by four of my heroes: teachers Alfred and Evelyn, community health worker Hendrika, and cook Agneta. These four have committed their lives for caring for vulnerable children: orphans and those who are HIV+. When a child loses a parent, or the parent abandons the child, these four think nothing of welcoming the child into one of their (already overcrowded) homes. Every additional child means a greater strain on their already meager resources, but that does not deter them one bit. Their understanding of family and community is far wider and deeper than anything I have ever seen anywhere else. Resources are meant to be shared, not hoarded or stored up. We at Glide say, "If someone is hungry, you feed them." Here at the Learning Center, if a child is hungry, an adult will make do with less to make sure the child has some food. Imagine a world where we all made that kind of commitment to each other!

The children welcomed us with song, as they always do. There were so many new young children! Most of them do not yet speak English, so we had fun communicating beyond words. We played together and then in the afternoon, Kirsti led them in a craft. She had brought plain t-shirts for the children to customize as their own, using magic markers.

Our newest Glide enthusiast!
After leaving the learning center, we went to a hotel to have dinner with a new Ray of Hope representative from the States, to learn more about the changes to the program. As we were eating, GLIDE member Josh Biddle strolled in! Josh was on our first Ray of Hope trip and fell in love with the people of Kenya. He is here on a Fulbright Scholarship as part of his medical training (he is studying to be a doctor at UCSF). He came here last fall and will return to the states in June.

It was great to see him and hear of all he is learning here. He will stay down here while we in Nairobi, so look forward to having more time with him.

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