Same Mission, New Look!

Written by lauren. Posted in Village Project Africa

New Look

As we move into a new phase with Village Project Africa, we wanted our website and logo to reflect the way we are changing and the great things that are happening in Kenya! To that end, we worked with some talented designers to create something more reflective of who we are now. We hope that as you look over the new site, you’ll gain insight into our program and be inspired to join us as we move into the future God has planned for us.

We have been so blessed to have an incredible support base since the very beginning and we are thankful for all of you who have come on board in so many ways. From those who have prayed for us and for the village to those who have given of themselves in time or donations, each person has helped to make our program successful and a changing force in Makutano. It’s amazing what God has done through each of you in the last six years!

We look forward to where God is taking us and are so pleased to have all of you along with us! This blog, in addition to our Facebook page, will give us an opportunity to keep you informed about the latest things happening in the village. Be sure to check back often! In addition to news from the village, you may have noticed that we also like sharing your stories on the blog. If you have a story to share about how Village Project Africa has affected you, please send your story to lauren@villageprojectafrica.org. We’d love to
share it!

And speaking of sharing… be sure to share our new website with your family, your friends, and folks you meet! 

Love changing lives!

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.

Cassidy’s Story: Reflections

Written by shelly. Posted in Missions, Stories

After Cassidy Clasen’s most recent trip to Makutano, she wanted to summarize what her experiences had been and what they meant to her. Here are her reflections:

CassidyThis is my attempt to sum up my trip this year to Kenya. Warning: I may cry. You won’t see it (lucky you!) but I hope you feel my heart for this place. Ok, here we go.

“How was it?” Oh my… How can I answer that? It was too good to be true—I cannot believe how blessed I am to see these beautiful and blessed people two years in a row. All I keep thinking is that I need to go back. How can I get back? Does God want me to live there? Is that why I feel like I belong there when I’m there, and that I’m just not satisfied here? There have been some really hard days coming home… But then I remember those kids’ singing voices and dancing bodies and can’t stop smiling. Do I really have the right to be mad that I have to go back upstairs to get something? I am blessed to be able to go up the stairs, and to have something to get from upstairs. But last year was such a life-changing trip, I never thought that I could love them any more, or another trip would be better. How wrong
I was.

You know how they say “the more the merrier?” Yeah, that’s how this feels. I just want to share it with the world… And yet, I kind of want to keep it to myself. This year, Margaret and Davis and me and Mom and Haley got to share this beautiful village with seven others. And so many things happened.

Fist bumpingWe got flowers from some of the kids that were sponsored, we got to see a wedding (dear friends of ours, no less!), we attended a church service, we saw people’s homes, we experienced what it means to have a car break down on a pot-holey road in what seems like the middle of nowhere, yet the middle of everywhere. We experienced the patience of children who aren’t on a tight schedule (at least until there’s rain), and the joy of one thousand Christmas mornings all wrapped up in one afternoon, in bags and pencils and washcloths and 400 kids’ faces. We read to kids and taught them, and we played with them. There were so many things that I can’t even describe.

I know that God is everywhere, but MAN I can see it in even the three- and four-year-olds’ faces. From that age all the way to 95 years old, everyone has UNSPEAKABLE joy. I began sponsoring another child… I don’t know how I will come up with the money, but all I can say is that GOD WILL PROVIDE. I will do anything I have to if it means that I will go to Makutano, Kenya again. As these tears stream Cassidy with kidsdown my face, I am confident that, by the will of God, I will now do whatever it is that He wants me to do. Because He can take me to the other side of the world in His hands, He can take me anywhere in His hands. I never imagined being impacted so much. But it does not feel different—this is most certainly my life now. My love and appreciation for Village Project Africa is growing, and can only do that.

I constantly miss the little kids I sponsor through VPA, and their sweet faces, along with the laughter in of the kids who see their faces on the display screen of a camera. That is how I remember them: by their smiles, laughs, handshakes, and hugs. Their sweet, lovely voices, and their quiet natures (or their smiley ones). 

Dear God,

As everyone here prays for the Kenyan people, please give them knowledge that we are praying for them. I think about them every day, and I don’t know if my longing can ever be satisfied unless You help me. I pray that I always look towards you in everywhere I go, and that You watch over all Your children. Thank You for a loving hand when needed, and a protective hand in all different journeys. I love You so much, and help me keep my eyes on You and You alone. Thank You for all of Your provisions– too long of a list for me to even think of them all. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray and believe, Amen.

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!

Haley’s Story: Reflections

Written by shelly. Posted in Stories

God has been moving in the life of Haley Clasen through work with Village Project Africa. Here are her reflections after her most recent trip to Makutano:

Haley

When I went to Kenya for a second time this year, my experience was so totally different. Without the factor of shock at the lives of these beautiful people, I began to see the way they live and to let it change the way I live. Here are the things I learned:

 

 

  1. Exciting things are going down at Village Project Africa!
  2. They are people, not pictures. I have no right to take their picture without first remembering that there is a person, and we have no right to look at anyone’s pictures without a thought and a prayer for the person and the story behind the picture.
  3. 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect
    in weakness.”
  4. ^that does NOT mean that God will call you to the very worst thing you could imagine, the place you are very weakest. However it does mean that God just might turn the very worst thing into the very best thing.
  5. There is so much more to life than being happy, if you can put behind fear and pursue what’s really real.
  6. Long days make short nights, and when I am at the end of my rope, there is my God the whole way.
  7. Haley JumpingMy capacity for love, grace, trust, etc. can only do so much, but these things define my God and He defines them, and He is more than enough.
  8. Life keeps you learning. I choose not to remain static.
  9. I was reading a book about trees to Class 4, and I asked them, “Can one tree change the world?” They all agreed yes. Later, I asked them, “Can one person change the world? Do you believe that you can make a difference?” and they all just looked at each other. Maybe it’s simply that they didn’t understand my English well enough, but I was reminded—one tree, one person cannot change the world. One God can, and He made all the trees and all the people. He chooses to let us love and maybe change the person He has set in front of us.
  10. Every moment I spend serving, every dollar I don’t spend, is a minute someone else can rest or something I can give to them.
  11. Kenyans love the ceremony. It is less about the time, or other demands, and more about the community through ceremony.
  12. If I go here or there, I will see God in a way I never would have had I not moved.
  13. THE LORD WILL ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF HIS CHILDREN!!!!!!
  14. The moment I start to feel good or brag about anything is the moment I will consider my intentions.
  15. I am learning to live changed.

Haley with childrenIt’s hard coming home. It’s hard to be a different person in the same place. It’s hard to be so different inside that the people who once knew you so well don’t understand you anymore. It’s hard when the things that hit you are the ones you don’t expect, when you have an uncontrollable breakdown in the middle of Target. It’s harder coming home than going there—and that is when I am reminded that God, You are who You are, no matter where I am. I want to see Him, know Him, and love Him and His people everywhere I happen to be.

Obviously, in my two week trip, I only experienced a fraction of what others have experienced, but it is still the cry of my heart. I want more of God, wherever He takes me, and in the meantime, I need more of Him here.

I love you all and would love to talk more in person for anyone who really cares. I pray that God is working in your hearts too, that you begin to care in a way you have never experienced before, and that together we can pray, as I learned at International Youth Convention, “more of you at any cost, Lord.” I pray that we conquer fear and take hold of our calling. I pray that we can do nothing by ourselves and don’t ever try, but that God is the root and heart of all.

In Jesus’s name we pray and believe, Amen.

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