WHO WE SERVE
Stories convey the reality beyond statistics and organizational mission statements. These are real people, in a real place, who need to know they are loved.
The staff affectionately call him “Paulie” His grandmother enrolled him in the preschool at three years old, dirty and malnourished. We were delivering mattresses to some of the children, a prize commodity to spare them from the bugs and cold of the dirt floor. Paulie’s house was one dark mud room with a leaky roof, rotten food in one corner and dirty clothes in another. Paulie was alone, and so proud to show the neighbors he was getting a mattress. We learned that his grandmother, herself starving, had moved in wtih someone else, leaving Paulie’s older brother and sister to care for him. They were not much older than Paulie, and often had to miss school to hunt for scraps of food for them all to eat.
On “uniform day”, we noticed that the teachers had ordered two uniforms for Paulie, so they could wash one set at the end of each day. Each morning one of the staff would stop by his home to make sure he got to school early, bathe him and put on his clean uniform. They have since convinced the grandmother to move back in with the children, and have been assisting her as they are able.
Jane was 3 when the social worker found her riding on her sister Charity’s back as they searched for food in Tuwan slum. Jane couldn’t walk due to malnutrition, and Charity’s fingers and toes were infested with jiggers, potentially dangerous parasitic bugs. Charity was 11 years old, and neither she nor Samuel, her 7 year old brother, had ever attended school. Their mom was chronically ill and addicted to the local brew; she had basically given up.
The staff enrolled Charity into the preschool, though she was technically too old. By the end of the year, Charity had progressed quickly to top class and Samuel, found to be an exceptionally bright boy, was enrolled in middle class. Jane started walking, and with her siblings, found a place of food, safety and nurture in Graceway Victory Academy preschool.
Charity and Samuel have been sponsored to attend Seed of Hope Academy through the Ian Memorial Sponsorship Program. Jane recently reappeared with her mom from their home village, and after two years of living at home in dangerous conditions, has been sponsored to attend Seed of Hope as well. The mom? Well, we won’t give up on her.
Our first memory of Naomi was in 2010, sitting with a group of Kenyan widows listening to her story. Her husband had contracted HIV through infidelity, but as often happens in Kenya, she was blamed by the family. One day they came, took all her possessions, chased her off the farm and left her to fend for herself and the five children. She had nowhere to go but Tuwan. Soon after, Naomi became the first student of our tailoring program, held after school in one of the preschool classrooms.
In 2016, we went with our social worker to visit the home of Angel, one of our newly sponsored students at Seed of Hope Academy. It was a comparatively nice home, a three room cement structure on a small plot owned by Angel’s grandmother. It was clean and well furnished and comfortably housed Angel, her mom and sister, and her grandmother, who was happy to show us the new addition housing her tailoring business.
As the grandmother shared her journey, I realized that this was Naomi, the same woman so devastated and hopeless a few years earlier. She glowed as she thanked God for enabling her not only to survive, but to sustain herself and her family. Through her new found tailoring skill, she had been able to also go to Bible School and become a class instructor. She was so loved by her students, that they raised the funds to buy her a plot of land, and later helped her to build her house. She is now a self-supported Bible teacher and evangelist, ministering throughout the Kitale region, and a profound example to many other women in similar circumstances.
Catherine was a divorced mom, living in a rural slum with her three children in a two room mud home, with no chairs, bed or mattress. It was 2008, and two of her four children had been admitted to the new preschool on the Graceway compound, a five mile walk each day from home. Katherine’s only skill was farming, and she loved it. She paid the rent and bought a little food by caring for the gardens and livestock of those more fortunate. But she needed more to sustain her family.
Later that year, heavy rains destroyed the school outhouse, and the staff and students were forced to use the Western-style toilets that we had installed, a totally counter-cultural solution.
With ninety little ones, it was a messy proposition, and was overwhelming the teachers. Catherine volunteered to clean the toilets every morning and night and did so faithfully for two weeks. The staff began paying her out of their own modest salaries; when we heard, we put her on the payroll and she has been caretaker for the preschool property ever since. She has not only kept the church compound clean, but she has made it beautiful, planting many bushes and flowering plants throughout the property.
Two of her children have continued their education beyond preschool through Ian Memorial Sponsorship Fund and recently were joined by Catherine’s adopted niece. Catherine joined AC sponsored literacy classes, and in 2009 she decided to go back to school and finish 8th grade. When AC partners introduced organic agriculture techniques to the parents, Catherine became a leader and recently was one of two parents chosen by Organics for Orphans to attend a month long “Growing Health Seminar”. Catherine now leads the Organic Agriculture Business Group, a project promoting a healthy and self-sustaining lifestyle through gardening. Her determination and willingness to work hard are an inspiration to all of our parents, and to us as well.