Monday, March 10, 2014

RAY OF HOPE 2014: School Days


The first time I traveled to Kenya, I was taught (in an oh-so-loving way) that it was important to not force my Western standards on a country whose culture is quite different than mine. The lesson has been a difficult one to learn, and today I found myself really questioning my own assumptions of how “things should be.”

Josh, Teacher Alfred, Kirsti with three students
We visited five schools today, where children that formerly went to the Ray of Hope Learning Center, now attend. We saw a public school that looked and felt like it could be the twin to Ray of Hope. The classrooms were made of tin, and the rooms were filled with children as young as 2. The facilities themselves were minimal, but the children were working hard. We could hear the teachers with their styles that are still the model brought by the British. Lots of repetition and very strong, stern voices.
We visited the Kawangware Primary School, which is a public school, in the heart of Kawangware. The school is run by Milliam Kelonye, who proved to be not only a strong advocate for education, but also a strategist, financial officer, counselor and chief advocate for 1500 students, 23 teachers, and many, many families. The first thing I noticed when we walked into her office is that there is a large poster with the schools core values on it, a very specific “report card” to measure the success of the school, and a large SWOT analysis that had been done for the school. I was in heaven! A school with a plan! And a headmistress who clearly cared about her students and could speak of our 9 children from Ray of Hope by name. We also had a chance to visit with the Ray of Hope kids, all of whom seemed happy and thriving in the environment. It was an amazing testimony, again, to the vision and persistence of a woman who is determined to make the best of a hard situation, and bring the highest standard of education to the lives of the children in her school.

Today's lunch at the Little Ray of Hope was a Glide team favorite: Green Grams


Today, Kirsti, Josh and I travelled throughout
Karen, Teacher Alfred, Teacher Evelyn, and Josh
Kwangware to visit Ray of Hope students in their new schools. These students' academic journey began at Ray of Hope--a place where orphans and other vulnerable children found safety, love and family. It was where they learned how to sit at a desk, hold a pencil, and begin to discover the world beyond the slum. Once a child had a financial sponsor, the student moved to a formal school.

It was very moving to see these students: we at Glide first met them five years ago--now many are young men and women! They were proud to be met at their school and tell us what they liked (or didn't like!) about their school.

Children at the Little Ray of Hope
The Ray of Hope staff worked hard to place the students in schools near their homes.  Still, every morning at 6am, the students come to Ray of Hope for breakfast (most would not have had anything to eat since lunch the previous day). Once they downed their porridge, off the students go, walking to their schools. Many return to Ray of Hope after school for tutoring and other guidance.

Evelyn, Alfred, Hendrika, and Agneta have created a family for children. This family helps children who would otherwise be without the emotional and physical support to continue going to school. One of the schools we visited had 1500 students. The headmistress shared with us the struggles of providing education for children in the slums. Malnourishment, abandonment, HIV/AIDS, abuse and a lack of funds to adequately staff a school are all issues that impact a child's education. She told us that more than half of the children who live in the slum are not in any school--with no family support or financial resources, the children are left alone in the streets. Many turn to drugs.

Sure enough, as we left the school, we passed literally dozens of young boys with bottles and bags to their faces, sniffing glue. Stumbling, faces contorted, they called out to us, some banging on the car as we drove by. This is my fourth trip to Kenya, and I have seen so many heart-wrenching things, but seeing all these young boys high in the street right outside the school yard was devastating.

1 comment:

  1. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little, and yes, for those who are in a position to help do it with all your heart for it is that that makes or breaks. Hopefully make the kids understand the reasons to do better and achieve. Show them the future and teach them how to achieve that, May God bless the hands that give.