Blog Confusion

Hello all, I hope you can bear with us as we try to figure out how our new website works and the best way to keep in good communication with everyone.   We are so excited about Ameena Project and in an effort to support the amazing work there all of our future blog posts and updates will be posted there at http://ameenaproject.org/blog/.  We will no longer post to the May Family blog.  Please adjust your bookmarks or subscribe to the new blog by clicking the RSS feed in the upper left corner of the site.

Two weeks after opening … brief update.

After two short weeks, our Kiang’ombe school is full to capacity and things are going better than we had ever expected.  Mercy and Hillary held a parent meeting on Monday to both check in on how everyone feels things are going and to continue to educate the community on the program and how they can best support their childrens’ success.  All of the local elders showed up along with 45 parents and community members.   Everyone is very supportive of the program, grateful for the opportunity, and feeling a new sense of hope for their children and the community as a whole.

They also began discussing how Ameena Project might be able to further support  positive change for Kiang’ombe families in the future.  Some of the community’s ideas for what they need are:  HIV/Aids education, education in rabbit rearing, vocational training, adult basic literacy education, and mentoring for parents to help motivate and encourage them to create positive changes for their lives.    These are great ideas to think about and develop together over the next year.   For now,  we are focused on effectively implementing the school and working out efficient, sustainable operations there.

Already,  Ameena Project  is inspiring the community of Kiang’ombe to discuss and dream about creative solutions to the many challenges they face.  Our Mission in action.

Take a look:

It’s aLIVE!

With much anticipation and after hundreds of volunteer hours, I am so pleased and honored to announce that the website for Ameena Project is up and running!

ameenaproject.org

We encourage you to tour this site!  You’ll find a lot more detail about Ameena Project including background information, our mission and some of the core values driving the way we work.  You’ll also be able to learn more about many of the people involved in facilitating Ameena Project, and the volunteers who have helped it get past the dreaming stages!

You’ll also see that there is a nice tab linking to the Mayfamily blog (what you are now reading!) located within the webpage.  While you can still get our blog updates the old fashioned way through mayfamily.wordpress.com, we wanted to make it easy to obtain information all in one location too–so now you can access it via the webpage as well!   We will continue to share in depth information about our projects on the blog, and you’ll be able to get regular, short snippets of information via our Facebook page.

If you have comments, or wish to be on a regular email/snail mail list, leave your contact information at the bottom of the webpage (not here on the blog) under the contact area, and we’ll get back to you.

Are we really doing this?

Ian here, sometimes I get a bit of inspiration and hop on here to share my thoughts.  Today I was woken up way too early by a text message from teacher Mercy and have spent the morning working with her to finalize a few things.  Why?  Because she has been frantically working to get everything ready to START Kiang’ombe school project in less than a week.  Is this really possible?  I find myself sitting here feeling pretty weird about it all.  Humbled, proud, and more than a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility as well as the support we have received.  In fact, Anne just got the mail and there are two new donations, both unsolicited support.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of the amazing people who have come around us to make Ameena Project come to life.  You give us the confidence to push ahead.

School supplies purchased – check

Feeding program supplies purchased – check

Registration complete – check

Staff hired – check

50 lucky kids ready to have the best year of their life – check.

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Big load of supplies heading to the Kiang'ombe

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Mercy and Hillary picking up the portable blackboard and misc. supplies

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Off site store room

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Mercy and Hillary unloading some supplies

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Working hard to inventory and organize the new supplies

It’s really coming together.  I am grateful to play a part.  Ian

Giving thanks for toilets

I sit here a week after Thanksgiving, and am giving thanks for so much.

Family, friends, face book acquaintances, people I  have never met.

I have to admit, that since sitting down to seriously start Ameena Project at the end of August that I have had some serious moments of DOUBT and FEAR and ANXIETY.

I knew  that Ameena Project  could commit to the people and community of Kiang’ombe.  But what I didn’t trust was whether we could rally the support and financial means to provide the resources to do so.

With faith even as small as a mustard seed, amazing things can still happen….

Not knowing if we would continue to draw in the financial support needed to cover subsequent monthly expenses, we wired funds to Kenya in November to buy all start up supplies and to begin paying staff salaries.

Mercy, our head teacher, emailed immediately with this response as the work began on the construction of necessary new toilets at the school location in Kiang’ombe:

“….we are avoiding expensive materials since the villagers are eager that the project commences and they don’t want the toilet to be a hindrance. They were even ready to construct and leave it uncemented so long as it starts…..The place [of the toilet]  is more of a quarry [heavy rocks ] and digging [down] feet is a task of it’s  own kind , but they are hard working I can’t complain.  We’ve opted to continue and know where  it will take  us .  Meanwhile, we are shopping on start ups , only priorities and the rest can wait, and also trying  to shop before the prices are affected due to the festive season.  Blessings to those of Ameena Project.”

There continues to be great excitement among the community of Kiang’ombe, and among the staff supported by Ameena Project.  Already, in this partnership, Hillary & Mercy are learning to work together, look for local solutions (rather than just  answers from us, the wazungu), and to problem solve and administrate within their means.  They are increasing in their ability to lead change in their community and in their own lives.

This is something to be incredibly thankful for!

And, to encourage it all, and to put my doubt, anxiety and fear at bay……support for Ameena Project came in this month in unexpected ways and amounts.  I hope to share more of those stories soon!

Ameena thoughts

Ian laughs every time he sees the picture of this little girl.  We wondered tonight what she might have been thinking when this picture was taken.  Do you think she was thinking, “Go away, I don’t want your help”?  I can’t imagine that she was.  I imagine that she was wondering what this white person was doing in her neighborhood/village, or what this white person was snapping at her OR whether this white person might be kind and help her?

Lucy, our 5 year old asked me today how to say Ameena’s name in Swahili.

I said, well, it already is Swahili.  It’s Ameena in Swahili and translated into English it would be “Amen” or it means honest and trustworthy.  She seemed so puzzled by my explanation.  In her mind, Ameena was just English and American like everything else she knows.

Using this name in our organization title has a history.  There is of course the whole bit about Ameena and the other babies all being born in the same place yet having different opportunities that I talked about here .  But there is also the drive of our Kenyan teachers pushing to use the name Ameena.  There is a deep connection between these staff and us.  In Kenya, as in other African cultures, relationship is everything.   The importance we  Americans place on doing, accomplishing, being efficient, and checking things off the list……it’s equivalent in Kenya….is how you treat and interact with others.   It is the highest honor and acknowledgement of relationship to name your child (or organization!) after another.  And then, there is the meaning of the name.  The fact that it means honest and trustworthy speaks to the values that we have in our relationships with the people we partner in country with, and with those of you who support us here at home.  We will work hard to be honest and trustworthy in the work we are carrying out.

With that being said….several of you have stepped in & have partnered with Ameena Project to support the Kiang’ombe preschool financially.  One family of teachers sent a donation to buy the educational supplies for the preschool program, another family used inheritance money to give a year’s worth of monthly support in honor of the grandparents who had passed away and yet another family gave a donation acknowledging that while they might never make it to Africa, it didn’t mean that they couldn’t be involved IN Africa.  Others of you have indicated that you are interested in supporting this project which is incredibly encouraging!  We are sending the first amount of funding for the teacher salaries and some of the basic supplies with the hopes that by the end of November we’ll have 50% of our annual budget pledged and received.  It really is important to those of us behind Ameena Project to know that we will be able to sustain this project for the next year.   If you’ve had the tugging at your heart that you would like to be involved in some way, please leave a comment or email one of us!  Your thoughts, words of encouragement, and financial gifts remind us that we are not crazy for embarking on this endeavor.

The nitty gritty of Ameena Project

It started the moment we arrived home from Kenya.  The usual calls from friends, former employees and acquaintances in Kenya.

“Can you help with school fees?  A new business?  Food for my family?  Building a  house on land that was gifted to me?”

And in our relative abundance, we have given, knowing all along that we desired something more structured and focused.

And then this summer, two teachers that we had worked with in Kenya were looking for work.  I told them to go ahead and look for work in a local school, that we had nothing for them.  I hated saying it, but these are persistent folk and they just need to hear it straight, the first time.

And then one of them emailed back and said she couldn’t go back to just teaching anyone.  That after working with these vulnerable kids and seeing the change in them….that this was her calling.

“Could we please help?”

I hated hearing that.  It stressed me out.  Didn’t she know work was unsteady for us, finances unsure, our life still in transition from returning home?  How could she possibly think that WE could help HER?  I think we must have said no a few more times.  I know I let a few calls from Kenya go to voice mail rather than having to say “no” yet again.

But she persisted.

And joined forces with another teacher we had employed and trained.

Ian being the person he is, called their bluff and told them to go find some vulnerable kids then.

They hunted.  They found.  They reconsidered.  And hunted some more.  And found.

The result is Kiang’ombe, an isolated slum village about 3km off the main road in Thika, Kenya.

Kiang'ombe

Community members and elders were thrilled to hear from these teachers.  Overjoyed with the fact that the idle school building they had built themselves within their community…might find life again through the funding of teachers and materials.

This is what we have hoped for all along in thinking again of how we might make a difference in Kenya.

Idle community school building in Kiang'ombe

Ameena Project will be a US based, 100% volunteer run organization made up of individuals who have been deeply and permanently impacted by encounters with extreme poverty.  We will come alongside talented and passionate individuals who have a demonstrated commitment to working with the neediest children within their communities.  We desire to work in developing and undeveloped countries.  Simple and focused, it is our goal to recognize that to whom much is given, much is required.

By carefully choosing opportunities that fulfill our mission we reduce the risk of financial mismanagement,  loss of community culture/knowledge, and dependence on outside leadership.  While our group grew out of the wish to partner with these Kenyan teachers and enable them to serve the community of Kiang’ombe, we also recognize that the future might bring other partnering opportunities.  But for now, this is how you can help.

We need people willing to fund this program for the 1 year trial we’ve committed to.  Village elders have offered the free use of the facilities and are ensuring community protection of any program supplies that are brought in.

Kiang’ombe Nursery school will provide full day preschool for 50 children ages 4-6 as well as a full feeding program for enrolled children.  We have seen from our previous work in Kenya the powerful effect this type of program can have on a struggling community.  The change in the children is profound when they get the combination of regular nourishment, academic instruction, and structured social activities.  Children in extreme poverty literally come alive when they are given these three basic elements of healthy development.  The effects of this type of program also impact the local community, sometimes in a dramatic way.  When parents know their children have a safe & nurturing place to spend their days, they are often freed up to seek employment themselves, multiplying the positive impact on family systems.  When the youngest & most vulnerable children in the community begin to do better it has a tremendous impact on the community as a whole.  Adult lives that were consumed with worry over their children who were malnourished and only just surviving are transformed when they hear the sounds of singing, see children playing together again (or maybe for the first time), and feel the relief that comes from seeing joy in their child’s eyes.

In order to maximize direct benefit to sponsored programs, Ameena Project values simplicity in all operations and management procedures.  This will allow us to operate programs at a lower cost than more elaborate American derived programs.  This will be a Kenyan preschool that looks like a Kenyan preschool.  No fancy American supplies and equipment.  But, because of this concept, we will be able to fund salaries for 2 teachers, a cook, and a security guard; and schooling and meals for 50 children 5 days/week for less than my monthly take home!  And I only work 2 days  a week!

Here are the specific ways in which you can choose to join this cause:

Make a one (1) time financial contribution towards the start-up program costs:

educational supplies – $555.00      toilet renovation & construction of chalk board – $278.00     cooking, food service & cleaning supplies – $445.00

55 student chairs, 4 adult chairs, and 10 tables – $834.00     1st month’s salaries & operation  costs – $1200.00

or, make a year-long commitment to the monthly costs of running this program.  We would LOVE to challenge you to commit to giving & joining in this project in exchange for the benefit of being uniquely connected to this community and 50 specific children.  You can send a check to us monthly, quarterly, or in a lump sum.

While we work on acquiring non-profit 501c3 status, we have a fiscal sponsorship contract with Nomad Charities out of Bend, Oregon to allow for tax deductible contributions.  If  you desire  a tax write-off, you would write checks to:  Nomad Charities with Ameena Project in the subject line.  If you don’t want to go through our fiscal sponsor, you can make checks out to Ian and/or Anne May with Ameena Project in the subject line.  All checks (including Nomad checks) can be mailed to:  Ameena Project, 1455 SW Huntington Ave, Portland OR 97225.  Your monies will go toward the program in Kenya, all members of Ameena Project volunteer their time/services.

We anticipate the launch of our website, with more specific Ameena Project information in the next couple of weeks, but also recognize the need that is immediately present in Kiang’ombe, and wish to begin funding the preschool & feeding program as soon as possible.

These children are waiting:

If you have more specific questions about our budget, financial arrangements, giving, and/or volunteering opportunities, please feel free to email any of the Ameena Project members directly:

iansmay00@yahoo.com;  ianandanne1@yahoo.com, altreead@easystreet.net or meganjsteele@yahoo.com

We also welcome those of you who wish to contribute through volunteering your professional skills.