A Birthday Gift for Jesus

Written by lauren. Posted in Children, Education, Stories

Julie Carpenter has created a new tradition in her first grade classroom at Calvary Christian School in Kentucky. Last year, and again this year, the class celebrated Jesus’s birth by throwing a birthday party and bringing gifts in his honor—school supplies to benefit Heritage Academy! Julie shares the response and reaction she’s gotten from the children in her classroom this year.

My first grade class at Calvary Christian School supports the children at Heritage Academy through prayer and donations. They pray for the children everyday, and they were excited to help them when they had the chance.   For our “Happy Birthday Jesus” party, they brought in tons of school supplies for the children, and they wrote sweet letters as well. We hope the school supplies will be helpful to all of the children at the school, and we hope the letters will remind them that their friends in Kentucky love and care about them. 
 
I have two stories to share about two of the little girls in my class. 
  
Brooklyn
During the first week of school, I shared about my trip to Kenya. Brooklyn’s heart was touched when she heard about the children and saw my photos of them. Here’s an email from her mom:
 
Julie,
 
Brooklyn has asked me several times for the last week or so about us donating things to Kenya. Is this possible? She says she would like to make care packages with food and such. I think that’s absolutely wonderful that she’s feeling drawn to help out. She says, “But mommy, they don’t even have food or clothes or toys, I could send them some things I won’t eat, wear or play with.” 
 
Thanks,
Michele
  
Rachel
I have a class website, and I post photos on it throughout the school year for the families to view. Of course, the photos from my trip to Kenya are on there because we support the school as our international class mission. Rachel’s mom told me that Rachel asks to look at the photos of the children often. She talks about them and prays for them every day. She even wants to be a missionary now and go to Kenya to help them!  During our parent/teacher conference, we started talking about her passion for the children in Kenya. Her parents mentioned wanting to go on a mission trip as a family sometime. I immediately mentioned the medical teams going this summer because Rachel’s dad is an anesthesiologist, and I sent more information about VPA. Rachel’s dad made contact with the person in charge of the medical teams and they are now planning on going as a family with the medical teams in the summer of 2014!  I’m so excited for their family, but I’m even more excited for Rachel! God is working out a plan so her passion to be a missionary can be nurtured even more! God is so good!!!        
 
It’s a joy to pass the passion I have for the children of Makutano to my students. God is planting seeds in the hearts of His sweet children, and they’re growing in beautiful ways.  Merry Christmas! 

 

Audrey’s Story: Learning Made Fun

Written by lauren. Posted in Education, Missions, Stories, Women's Community

Audrey Armstrong visited Makutano in 2008 and shares her experiences working with women in the village to increase their literacy. 

LearningWhen we walked up the path approaching the Grace House, we heard chattering and laughing.  Terror gripped my heart.  Who was inside and what was I doing here in this place?  Were those inside eager to be here or did they want to be in their homes caring for children and tending their gardens and fields?  Would they like me or would my lessons planned to help them recognize and write the letters in their name be too juvenile for these African  ladies?  I had prepared material for the fifteen women who had agreed to come, but when we entered the room, I saw the benches were filled with beautiful, happy, eager ladies—not fifteen, but nearly thirty had come.  They were there early and were prepared to stay all day.  This would not be the 45 minute lesson I had envisioned!  

Learning lettersWe learned a lot about improvising on the run that morning, but what fun!  We sang and prayed and wrote and talked and played and laughed.  The women practiced The Alphabet Song, The B-I-B-L-E, and B-I-N-G-O in English.  I practiced John 3:16 in Swahili.  And to my amazement, they came back every morning that week to do it again!

It’s Electric!

Written by lauren. Posted in Education, Village Project Africa

It’s such an exciting time at Heritage Academy right now! Through the support of our donors, we have been able to add new classrooms that will help us continue to add new grade levels and more students; a new multipurpose building that will serve as a cafeteria, community center, and church; and beds to our dormitories so that more vulnerable children will have a new home, a new family, and a new chance at life.

ClassroomPerhaps one of the most exciting things for Heritage Academy is that we will soon get electricity at the school! We have recently formed the Heritage Parent’s Committee, and the parents decided that they wanted to find a way to provide electricity for the school. The entire community knew how important this goal was. 

The committee asked each family to contribute 100 shillings per child for electricity.  Many  parents contributed and their participation and enthusiasm means so much to us. However, after the fundraising was complete, their donations were not enough to get the transformer and  power lines to the school.

Yesterday, we learned that some of our friends will make a gift to pay the difference.  They told Davis, our program director, to go ahead with the process and not wait any longer for a possible lower price.  Davis will go to the electric company on Monday to tell them we can now pay for the installation. There is great rejoicing and thanksgiving in the village today!

This gift will support the goals of Heritage Academy in so many ways and help us to continue to provide a world-class education to our students! The possibilities are limitless! God is so good!

Heritage College: Providing Quality Education to Teachers of Tomorrow

Written by lauren. Posted in Education, Village Project Africa

Dr. Nyle Kardatzke traveled to visit our school three times last year and plans to make a trip again at the end of the month. As an educational consultant, he has a valuable perspective on our teacher’s college. We wanted to share with you his thoughts and insights about the college to give you a closer look into the history of our educational programs and what is happening now with Heritage College!

Report by Dr. Nyle B. Kardatzke, Educational Consultant for Village Project Africa

NyleHeritage Academy, Makutano, Kenya

Heritage Academy is a Christian elementary school that was an unexpected outgrowth of a work that Margaret Lewis and Davis Otieno Reuben started among widows and orphans in a rural agricultural area about an hour’s drive north of Eldoret in western Kenya. Wild animals, other than cats, dogs, and occasional rogue bulls have long since left this area. Most people subsist on small farming plots called shambas and on very little cash from the market economy. Although measured per capita income has risen in Kenya in recent decades, this economic growth has taken place mainly in the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret.

Widows in Kenya are in a particularly precarious position. When a woman’s husband dies, it is common for the dead man’s family to claim any property that the family had accumulated, including cattle, homes, and land. The widow is ejected from the couple’s property, and she is often rejected by her own family for fear they would have to help support her and her children.

It was in this environment that Margaret and Davis began to teach widows how to sew and make tote bags to sell in Kenya and the United States. The meager income they generated was typically a lifeline for the widows and the children they were supporting.

Students cannot enter the government schools in Kenya at the first grade level unless they can write their names and recognize numbers. Margaret and Davis realized that the widows were nearly all illiterate, so their children had little prospect of learning to write their names and enter the government schools, so they decided to offer a small preschool to overcome this hurdle. They rented a small, mud-walled house, hired a teacher, and announced that there would be a preschool opening. They thought they might accommodate 35 children, but on registration day, 80 children were brought to the school and they admitted 50. In a few months, they announced that the next level would be opened and 100 students were brought; another 50 were admitted. The school was soon moved to a new site, classrooms were built, and now there are 520 students in preschool through 5th Grade. In January 2013, 6th Grade will be added and enrollment will approach 600 students.

All instruction is conducted in self-contained classrooms, though teaching is departmentalized among the teachers in the upper grades. All of the classes that I saw included at least 35 students, and it was common to find 45 to 55 students in a room. Fortunately, the students are well-behaved and attentive. They work in close proximity to each other, literally touching each other’s elbows in a way that would be unworkable in the States. But even with eager and cooperative students, this is a heavy load on the teachers’ attention and time. It’s amazing that it works so well.

The Heritage College Program

Student Teacher WorkingWhen Dr. Lynn Staley learned about Heritage Academy, she proposed a teacher training program that would work within the school to assist the teachers and produce well-trained teachers for Kenyan schools, public and private. Dr. Staley raised funds for the first student teachers, and they were first in the school in January 2011. Within the school, the teacher training program is known as Heritage College, paralleling the name of the school itself, Heritage Academy. 

There are 10 student teachers working at the school under a semi-volunteer arrangement known in Kenya as “an attachment.” This means that they are attached to a college program and are working as unpaid interns as part of a training program. In some situations in Kenya, students would pay for the privilege of having this kind of training and the prospect of a college certificate after a two-year internship and success on an exam. At Heritage Academy, the college students receive a small stipend for their classroom work, and their tuition for the college classes at the school is covered by the program’s funding. This is considerably more attractive than many similar programs, and it is further enhanced by the quality of the staff, students, and organization of Heritage Academy. The current student teachers are supported by scholarships through Village Project Africa. Support for student teachers costs $50 per month, $600 per year.

The school year in Kenya is divided into three terms of instruction: January to March, May to July, and September to December. Schools are not in session in April, August, and December, and it is in those months that the Heritage College students attend college classes at Heritage Academy. In addition to the ten Heritage College students, all of the teachers at Heritage Academy are offered free tuition for the college courses, and nearly all of the fourteen senior teachers have accepted this offer. In addition, teachers from other schools in the area attend the college classes as tuition-paying students. Enrollment in the college program is about fifty now.

Value of the Current Program

Teachers playing with kidsThe Heritage College program provides realistic classroom experience for promising high school graduates in preparation for teaching careers. The sponsored students, all girls at present, are from local high schools and have been identified by their school officials for their intellectual and moral promise. All are from low income families, often having been raised by their grandmothers. Their prospects for future employment outside the Heritage College program are limited, to put it mildly.

Within Heritage Academy, the student teachers serve as assistants to teachers who judge the program to be helpful, making their work more effective. The assistants help keep class records, observe the work of individual students during class time, and sometimes lead class sessions under the supervision of experienced teachers. On occasion, a college student teacher may serve as the classroom teacher temporarily as a substitute. The quality of instruction at Heritage Academy is heightened by the work of the student teachers, and the senior teachers themselves have opportunities to grow through their management of the young teachers.

In the future, graduates of Heritage College are expected to raise the level of instruction in other schools in the area, and some may be hired at Heritage Academy itself. Their future presence in other schools will heighten the influence and reputation of Heritage Academy and Heritage College.

Baby Tamara: An Intersection

Written by margaret. Posted in Children, Education, Women's Community

Margaret shares a story of the way God used a visitor to intersect and detour the life of a family in an amazing and wonderful way!

Mary was one of our summer visitors.  A highlight of her trip was to visit her sponsored child, Francis. Mary was all smiles for sure when she met Francis and he kept grinning as well.  We first visited the Mary and Francishome of Francis’s uncle, where we learned that the child goes back and forth between 2 homes.  We decided to change our afternoon plans and also go visit Francis’s other home with his grandmother.  At the grandmother’s compound, John (another member of the visiting group) was curious about other homes on the compound and did some walking around.  At one home he noticed a baby that had something terribly wrong.  After checking out the child and talking to the mother, Davis learned that the child had been seriously burned about 10 days earlier. Davis immediately said, “Margaret, we need to change our plans for tomorrow.  We need to take this baby to the hospital.”  Sometimes I think I have seen everything in the village and then there is something more distressing.  I had the feeling that this mother was holding her infant child, just waiting for the child to die. 

The next day, we took the mother, dad, and baby to see a doctor in Eldoret that we trust, Dr. Koesch.  The baby cried most of the trip and so did I.  We waited for hours to see the doctor.  When he was finally able to examine the baby, I thought he was going to cry as well.  This is a city doctor and there is such a gap in healthcare between the city and our village.  After examining the baby, Dr. Koesch looked out the window for a while trying to decide what he should do.  Finally he turned to me and said, “This child has been covered with herbs that are not sterilized.  The child will get a terrible infection if this is not cleaned off and proper medication given.  It will be very painful to clean the child.  She must be hospitalized.”  Even now as I am writing to you, I have tears thinking back on this moment.  I said to him, “Dr. Koesch, we are prepared to do whatever you think is necessary to save this child.”  We agreed to put the child, Tamara, in the private hospital in Eldoret.   Davis and I took the little family to the private hospital and left them there for the night.

The next day we sent Pastor Joseph to pay the hospital bill and bring them home. He learned how to take care of the baby, helped teach the mother, and agreed to keep a close watch on the situation over the coming weeks.  Pastor Joseph spent quite a bit of time with the baby’s mother Faith, and during this time learned that Faith had graduated from high school with a fairly good grade—AND she dreamed of becoming a teacher. 

Oh my, when Pastor Joseph told me this I was astounded.  We believed that God had detoured us from our original plans so that we could learn about baby Tamara and help the family get proper care for her, and now it looked like there was more to the story!  This is where my friend Lois comes into the picture.  She had visited us in the village earlier in the summer. Before leaving, Lois felt called to “help two women have a chance to change their lives,” and provided funds to send two women to Heritage College to become teachers.  When I learned about Faith’s dream to become a teacher, I immediately remembered Lois’s words and gift. We were able to tell Faith that we had a place for her in Heritage College and that someone had paid for her training.  Can you imagine the smile on her face, the joy in her heart?  First of all, her baby Tamara would live and not die as she had thought, and now even another miracle might happen in her life—her dream of becoming a teacher could become a reality.  We had a heart-to-heart, head on talk with Anthony, her husband.  He and the family on the compound agreed that they fully supported Faith to go to college for this two- year commitment.

Tamara and FamilyWhat has been done for this family will change their lives forever.  FOREVER!!  They are a testimony in the village and many are watching.  Yes, one life, one family at a time.  We aren’t changing the world, but through God’s grace and wisdom, through His
guidance and love, we are seeing lives change. 
They are a testimony.  You are a testimony because
of your giving!

May God be glorified in all these things!

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