Sunday Spotlight: Sara Sakwa

Written by Village Project Africa. Posted in Children, Education, Health, Sponsorship, Stories, Women's Community

Today’s spotlight is on Sara Sakwa.

Sara Sakwa is a special member of our staff at Heritage. After her husband died several years ago, Sara found herself challenged. Her husband’s family made her life difficult, and providing for her children was hard when she was only able to find casual labor work. But all that began to change, she says, when she met Davis, the director, and he invited her to join the sewing group at Grace House. She kept going to the group more for the fellowship and support than the sewing. She found such comfort and hope in the women she met there. If it weren’t for this group, Sara is convinced that she would not be alive. They encouraged her to keep pressing forward, even in the face of difficulty. The group also helped bring her closer to God. Without God, she says her life would have been unbearable.

Not long after she joined our women’s group, she found a job at Heritage Academy as a cook, and she’s been with us since.

She said that since she joined the Heritage staff, her life has improved greatly. She feels at ease, and many of her problems have disappeared. She has a new home, which gives her a sense of security for the future.

Her five children all attend Heritage, and sponsorship means the challenge of providing for her children’s education has been alleviated. As she speaks about sponsorship, Sara gets emotional. She said that sponsorship means everything to her because it means her children will have more opportunity in life. She says she’d like to see her children work hard, be good, open doors for themselves, and have the courage to walk through those doors. She hopes for a brighter future for each of them.

Sara is so grateful for Village Project Africa and the opportunities the programs have provided for her and her children. She’s grateful for the support and love she’s received from Davis, Margaret, and so many others on staff at Heritage. But, most of all, she’s grateful to God for all He’s done in her life. She hopes God will continue to be with her as she walks into the next chapters of her life, whatever they may be.

A Year in Review: 2017

Written by margaret. Posted in Children, Education, Sponsorship, Stories, Village Project Africa

As we come to the close of each year, we take time to reflect on what the last year meant to us. We take stock of what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained, the pain and the joy we experienced over a twelve-month period that shaped us and formed us. We celebrate the growth we witnessed and the love that we shared. Through it all, we recognize God’s hand and the provisions He made. Faith, hope, and love were our constants in 2017.

Faith

Since Village Project Africa began, faith has been a driver in all that we do. Our prayer has always been that God would guide our work and give us the faith and strength to follow His plan for us.

When we started Heritage Academy, we began with faith that God would provide for the children we served, and He has. A record number of students in our school were sponsored in 2017. And as new students join both the primary and high schools, we have faith that this trend will continue. We recently admitted 10 new students to the high school: all received excellent scores on their eighth grade national exam, but would have been forced to leave school were it not for the opportunities presented at Heritage Academy through sponsorship. Many are the first in their families to attend high school. Each time we add a new student, we do so on the faith that a sponsor will step forward.

High school students listening to a teacher's lecture.

We also have faith that the teachers that are led to teach at our school will support and nurture the students in our school to help them reach high and achieve their dreams. We’ve been blessed to have a team of teachers assemble at our school who have become a stable part of our school. All but one teacher returned for the new school year, a very unusual rate for a rural school like ours. And these teachers are making huge strides with our students. Our school is ranked one of the highest in the region for performance, and three of our students earned a score over 400 on the national exam last year. This is a huge achievement considering the challenges our students have faced and had to overcome.

Hope

We have so much hope for the future as we see the commitment and dedication of our teachers and watch our students excel and grow.

All of this is thanks, in large part, to the terrific leadership we continue to have at both the primary and high schools. The new principal at the high school has been recognized as one of the top principals in the country. When we interviewed him, he wanted to pray about accepting the job. A few days later, he contacted Davis and said, “I want to be a part of your dream.”  He has already made such a difference since he joined the team, and we are hopeful as we look forward to what this leadership will do in the year to come.

Our hope for our students is that they will continue to grow and recognize their value, talents, and callings. In 2017, we had several opportunities for our students to explore who they are and who they hope to become. One of these opportunities was a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp. Our girls had the opportunity to grow their confidence, think beyond traditional gender roles, and find encouragement to be leaders in the community. There was so much laughter and fun, and we are grateful our girls were able to participate in such an empowering experience.

Picture of the girls participating in GLOW camp.

We continue to have hope for the future of education in Kenya and the strides our kids can continue to make with well-prepared teachers who have a passion for their success. Teachers of Promise, founded by Dr. Lynn Staley, sponsors 10 young women to attend the Heritage International Early Childhood Development Education Teacher’s College at both the certificate and diploma levels for college. Students come from all over Kenya, but also from right here in Makutano, to receive top-quality education to prepare to enter the classroom. College is out of reach for most villagers, so our hope is that we can continue to add college sponsors and make a college education a possibility for more students.

Love

Love changing lives is not just a motto or tag line, it is a statement of what we see every day of the year. We see examples of God’s immeasurable love all around us as we walk through our classrooms, watch our kids skip to the cafeteria for lunch each day, hear the joyful voices of our students as they master new concepts and share their knowledge with others.

Love was an ever present part of our 2017. We saw it in Peter, an eleventh-grader who would have been forced to drop out of school were it not for his sponsor. Peter stays behind during school vacations to care for the pigs and acre of land we have set aside for farming and greenhouses, passing the love from his sponsor forward.

Peter reading a note from his sponsor.

Peter reads a letter from his sponsor.

We saw love in a family reunited after the mother found a job at Heritage Academy. When her husband died, Brenda had to send some of her children to live with other relatives because she did not have the means to support them, and it broke her heart. With a steady job, she is finally able to better provide for her children. And we saw love in the way that so many of our friends and partners stepped in to support us, answering needs we may or may not have recognized. Each one of you was generous in your prayers, in your support, and in your giving. Because of you, we are able to meet the needs of the people of Makutano and the surrounding area more than ever before. All these efforts are building a community that will continue to grow and sustain long into the future. The impact of your love will continue to reverberate and ripple here.

We look ahead to 2018 filled with more faith, hope, and love and a dedication to continue to run the race set before us. We know that love will continue to change lives in so many ways in 2018 because of you and all our supporters and volunteers. In you, we see that love never fails. Thank you.

Sunday Spotlight: Brian Kavogi

Written by Village Project Africa. Posted in Children, Education, Sponsorship, Stories

Today’s spotlight is on Brian Kavogi.

Brian came to our school in 2013. When his mother remarried and moved away, Brian was left behind to live with his uncle, an experience not uncommon for children whose mothers remarry. Not long after she left, Brian’s mother died, leaving him a total orphan.

There was never enough money for food, much less school fees in his uncle’s house, and Brian found himself hungry in two ways: for food and for opportunity. A chance encounter with Director Davis Otieno Reuben’s mother opened just the sort of opportunity Brian was seeking to feed his hunger in both ways: she brought him to Davis, and Brian immediately found a home at Heritage Academy.

Brian was placed in the boy’s dorm and was introduced to the music program at Heritage when the choir director, Titus, singled him out and introduced him to singing. Brian had never performed before, but he had heart, passion, and rhythm. After much practice and hard work, Brian has become one of the lead singers, and he hopes to continue singing, dancing, and playing the drum as he gets older.

At Heritage, Brian has flourished. He says that he is learning well and that all his needs are being met. He gives credit to his sponsor and to God for providing the means for him to work toward becoming the man he hopes to be. He is grateful, and so are we, for how far he has come and all that he has and will continue to do.

Sunday Spotlight: Belvin Soli

Written by Village Project Africa. Posted in Children, Education, Sponsorship, Stories

Today’s spotlight is on Belvin Soli.

Belvin has been a part of our school for a long time. He is now part of our high school as a ninth grader and is looking for a co-sponsor to help cover the costs of this advanced level of education.

Belvin is doing extremely well in school. He loves the library and his teachers at Heritage. He says that Heritage is the best place for him to be, and he is happy there. He studies hard because he hopes to one day become a pilot. Belvin asks for prayers that he may continue to work toward that dream. In his free time, Belvin likes to play soccer with friends.

Belvin says his favorite Bible story is that of Job because it teaches about having faith in God. He is thankful for the sponsor who has provided so much for him already and he is thankful for the co-sponsor who will step forward to help him continue on the road to his dreams. Belvin says, “I am glad to say thank you, and may God bless you abundantly.”

If you are interested in co-sponsoring Belvin, click here or visit our website.

Project 5+2: Blessing Many

Written by lauren. Posted in Children, Missions, Stories, Village Project Africa

Guest blogger Audrey Armstrong shares her experience distributing 5+2 bags assembled and shipped by Church at the Crossing last year as a special partnership with VPA.

Have you ever wondered how the people (especially the children) on the hillside that day reacted when Jesus blessed the lunch of loaves and fishes and started passing them out to the thousands?  The Bible doesn’t go into detail, but I have the feeling I experienced it this past summer.

It happened at the end of that school day back in July.  We had barely recovered from the eReader celebration and were measuring feet for a “new shoe” project coming up.

   “When out on the lawn there arose such a shout, 
     We sprang from our tables to see what it was about!”

 Delivery of gifts to AfricaNo, it wasn’t Christmas, and it wasn’t Santa Claus.  It was better than that.  A huge open truck filled with brown, slightly travel-worn boxes was pulling into the gates of the school.  From every corner came shouting, waving, leaping students.  They surrounded the truck and escorted it across the playground and to the door of the multi-purpose building.  The queen herself couldn’t have had a more enthusiastic procession.  How did they know?  Who told them it was the long awaited 5+2 backpacks arriving in that truck?  By the time we got to the building, the students had crowded inside and were celebrating with cheers, screams, dances, claps, and hugs.  I can’t even describe the excitement and joy on those faces.  And the noise—oh my goodness!

It took our team a whole day to sort and organize the bags.  We had to be sure every student at Heritage Academy had their bag with their name on it.  The letters inside were personal, and it was important to us that we matched them up correctly.  We said lots of prayers, hoping we could distribute the bags and not leave any child without one.  We had a few extra empty bags and a bit of “stuff.”  God really multiplied it so we had enough for every child and every adult connected with the school.  And all the time we worked, small faces were peering into the windows of our workspace, trying to control their anticipation.

African children receiving giftsThe next morning the bags were distributed class by class, and the children carried them out to the playground.  They sat quietly (almost) in the hot African sun, all 500+ of them, until every child at the school had a bag in their arms. Then Pastor Joseph thanked the friends at Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis for this display of thoughtfulness, effort, and love.  He thanked us—the team who just felt blessed to be a witness to the event.  He led the children in a beautiful prayer, thanking God for people on the other side of the world who cared for children and showed that love in such a tangible way.

African woman with Bible

What happened next was just remarkable.  The children started moving.  Some big brothers and sisters found younger siblings.  They gathered together in groups and carefully began to explore their bags, helping each other when needed.  Two memories I have were of a little girl hugging a baby doll and a small boy making a road through the dust as he pushed a little car along. That boy was so caught up with the car that he didn’t even look at the backpack full of treasures sitting there beside him.  The children tried on socks, counted pencils, examined toothpaste and smelled bars of soap.  They played catch with balls, played with trucks and stuffed animals, and jumped rope.  The brightly colored washcloths were a hit too.  We saw them worn on heads like hats and tucked into waistbands.  The adults were also excited.  The lady who received a Bible just shouted and cried as she waved it over her head.  She carefully put it back in her bag and then, two minutes later, she pulled it out and was waving it and praising God again.

 5 + 2!!!  I feel like I was twice blessed.  First, to witness the fun and pride of the families, both children and adults, at Church at the Crossing as they chose a child, carried an empty backpack home, and returned it full.  Usually there was a letter addressed to the child and maybe a picture of themselves and their dog inside the bag.  I have no doubt the bags were also filled with love and prayers.  My second blessing was to be at Heritage Academy when the truck pulled into the schoolyard and those African children knew someone cared about them.  Prayers are important to the children and they need to know we are praying, but when you’re a child, having tangible evidence—with your very own name on it—well, that’s impressive evidence that someone knows you and loves you.

It’s been some months since I was in Africa, but the emotional impact is still alive whenever I remember.  I may forget the facts (it’s an “age thing” with me) but I will not get over the joy.  It makes me smile again right now!  I know what 5+2 means in a whole new way.

Village Project Africa is thankful for all who have participated in this program for the last two years and who are participating again this year! What a blessing each of you are to the children and teachers at Heritage Academy!

 

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