Posts Tagged ‘School’

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

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. 

Introducing……Kenya Part 2!

It hasn’t escaped our notice that our blog title has read: “Our journey to Kenya and back” and that the title has seemed awkward since we have been back home here in the United States.  Ian and I have discussed if I should change the title, but there has been something in me (and him) that has been unable to let the title (and the experience) go.  I think maybe a part of us still hasn’t made it back.

We have now been home for 15 months, the exact amount of time that we spent living and working among Kenyans in Thika, Kenya.  I reflect back and already cannot believe that the woman living and experiencing that life….was me.  I read back over blogs written while there and realize how much has slipped from my memory already.  Did I really sit on benches next to laboring women in 3rd world maternity wards, travel pregnant in a public vehicle with 20 Kenyans, and navigate Ian being held & questioned at a Kenyan police station?

Many of you know Ian.  He’s great & I am so thankful that I get him as a partner in this life.  You also would know that he can be really  intense.  He says stuff that makes me want to stick my fingers in my ears while mumbling, “La, la, la, la. I don’t hear you.”  He knows this.  So instead, he chooses carefully when to share these thoughts with me & I in turn try to listen without freaking out.  He hears intensely from what we call the Holy Spirit: that inner prompting of your deepest self to take action that can be scary, challenging, and humbling.   Ever since leaving Kenya he has struggled with  knowledge that he can do more for people living in chronic & serious need.  He struggles with balancing the safety and comfort we both want for our family & listening to the quiet yet growing call to use his talents in places that other people would rather only visit and take pictures of.

Can I just say that it is downright terrifying to think of giving up all of the wonderful comforts of Portland, Oregon AGAIN to go somewhere…..ELSE?  It wouldn’t be a short-term choice if it happened again.

I’m pretty darn sure that the Holy Spirit is working on both me and Ian.  There is definitely the knowledge that this Kenya Part 2 is probably just the gate to something else amazing & scary & perhaps downright crazy….but I am so pleased to share and announce to you all that for now, from Portland, Oregon, this desire to serve globally is being done through the launch of:

                                                Ameena Project

I am thankful that Ian called on some like-hearted friends, Megan Steele and Shari Altree, to listen to his desires to continue serving globally & that they whole-heartedly jumped in with us.

Tomorrow I’ll take you on a tour of Ameena Project:  What it is, How we’ll work, What it will take and so on!  We’re so happy to welcome you on this journey with us.

Self Portrait

I had a post on facebook a while back about Eli’s self portrait drawing done at school.  It’s a pretty accurate drawing, except for the skin color.  When I asked him why he made himself black, he corrected me saying, “Mom!  I’m not black, I’m dark brown!”  If only he had seen his class picture that I had just received finally from the school.  A sea of light, medium, dark brown AND black……and a smidge of quite white.  Him.  Love that boy.

like the official class photo we received

Blog grabbing

Here in Kenya, if you use the term “land grabbing” pretty much anyone knows what you mean.  It’s the process of people taking land that isn’t theirs to sell.  They might represent themselves as real estate agents and sell you a land deed or title (that later turns out to be false), or it could be a person that just decides to put up a house on someone elses property etc.  You’ll see signs all over the place that read:

“This land is NOT FOR SALE!”

Warning people to not be tricked into buying a title or deed for the property from some enterprising individual a.k.a. criminal.

Well, I’m gonna do a little “blog-grabbing” from my Nairobi friend, Naoma.   Are you reading this right now?

I loved her most recent post on the life and sights of  Nairobi so much, and really….couldn’t top it if I tried, so I wanted to share it all with you.  She also brings a different perspective of life in Kenya that you all might enjoy….I know I do!

Go here, http://leesonthego.blogspot.com/2010/03/this-iskenya.html to check it out!

Thanks Naoma!!!

Awww

A moment of true love.

Lucy was invited to attend school all week, all day with Eli as this is the last week before a 3 week  break between terms.  No mention of me paying the insane private school fees the school charges…..so I jumped on it.

Eli has been REALLY genuinely excited to have Lucy with him at school.  He has been prepping on how to be a good brother to her at school.  It’s been almost a year since she has attended Imani, due to scheduling conflicts and tuition costs, so it was good to have a refresher course on what he might do to make her visit a little more enjoyable (for the sake of the whole family).

Don’t mind my crazy messy house, this is of course a picture from the 1st day when we were dealing with a new routine and trying to rush out the door!

All in all, I think the week of school has been good for Lucy, and more importantly, good for MOM!  I have had some much needed time to myself during the day which has been sorely lacking during our stay here in Africa.  I have even had the opportunity to chat with some of you at home in the states over Skype, which I have needed to fill my emotional reserves.  Come to  find out, it is a much different experience to live and work at the same location, especially when  the work serves people 24/7.   I thank all of you who do this kind of work day in and day out, for years on end!  It is something quite unique.

Anyhow, pray for our family as we adjust to a 3 week break from school for Eli…which means a change in our daily routine at home and in the Centre.  There are many things related to the Centre that draw my attention away from the kids daily and I  specifically hope that these weeks are a time of enjoyment for Eli and Lucy together rather than a time of bickering or chaos.   I am entering the last month and a  half of this pregnancy and we will ALL be thankful for some smooth sailing in our house!

Self image

I’m starting to think that Kenyan’s have a very  different idea on how to help children develop positive self image, well actually, a different idea on interacting with children in general.

My first clue to this was the large Kenyan man working in the toy store that grabbed Lucy’s arm and said in a not child friendly voice, “Hey little girl, come here, or I’ll take you to the police!”

Scary.  Sure, that will endear any child to you.  Absolutely.

Eli is a little short for his age.  He’s well aware of this fact especially as many locals like to point it out to him.  Over, and over, and over.  The waitress at Java House almost had Eli in tears insisting that he could only be 2 and not 4 years.  Not being that short.  He was so insistent I had to step in and vouch for him.

This is Eli’s self-portrait, and it’s actually pretty darn accurate, all the way down to his ears that stick out a little.  All the better to hear you with!

Spikey hair, check.  Short legs, check.  Biggish ears, check.  No arms.  Hmmm.  I’m no child psychologist, oh wait, I’m a school psychologist….but I’m choosing to think that for now, it’s because he’s happy letting mom help him out rather than being helpless.

Speaking of helpless, that was me when Eli came home telling me what his teacher kept saying to him the last week of school before break.  I can hear it being said in jest, but you know, this kid is getting a little sensitive about his self image when it comes to height.  His teacher said, “Eli, you must be shrinking!!!  You are shrinking.  You are getting shorter”! 

I laughed when he first told me.  Wrong response.  Bad mom.  Gotta work on that. 

He’s actually perfect, just he way he is!