Year End Update

Written by margaret. Posted in Children, Education, Farming, Health, Village Project Africa

2012 has been an exciting year for Village Project Africa! We have continued to see God at work in the village and are so pleased to see programs continue to blossom and grow. We are so excited to see what He has in store for us in 2013!

Here are a few highlights of the exciting things that have happened and continue to happen in the village:

  1. Heritage Academy will add 6th grade curriculum in January 2013, and accept enrollment for a new preschool class, bringing our enrollment to approximately 600 students.  Our children are healthy and happy, and they are learning.  Each term we see the test scores improving.  Recently the teachers gave their testimonies to some visitors.  We were inspired as they told, one by one, how God had called and led them to Heritage Academy.  Our school is a safe, loving, Christian educational environment.
  2. 41 students graduated from Heritage College this month with a degree to teach early childhood education. We started Heritage College two years ago with this African proverb in mind: “Educate a girl and you educate a community.”  Of the 41 graduates, 11 are girls from our village. These girls now have hope for a brighter future not only because of their education, but also because of their association with our Godly teachers and staff.    
  3. We will break ground in the coming weeks for the expanded clinic. Recently, another parent died, the father of three of our dear students.  We see this much too often.  Now our community has another widow and more fatherless children.  At the funeral, we saw fear in their eyes because their future is so uncertain.  But our Village Project community will walk with them through these darkest days. The death of this father is another affirmation of the priority to expand the clinic and improve the health care available to our community.  Thank you, Church at the Crossing, for partnering with us.
  4. Grace Community Church is growing. We see attendance of over 30 adults plus children on Sunday mornings.  Pastor Joseph and Pastor Isaac will begin teaching the congregation from the books that we used to teach the pastors’ classes.  Pray for them as they spread the Word and disciple believers.
  5. The agricultural program is growing and prospering.  Two greenhouses and the surrounding land are planted with vegetables.   We have 4 cows and more on the way.  The chickens are producing eggs and meat.  AND the bees produced the first honey! This farming program is providing nutritious meat, eggs, dairy products, and vegetables to our school children and employees. It also provides employment in the community and a small income to the school as we sell extra products in the market.
  6. We are getting electricity!!   This project was initiated by the parents of our Heritage Academy students, and is a partnership between parents, local community, and VPA donors.  Parents each gave 100 shillings and one of the neighbors is allowing the power lines to go through her farm to help reduce the cost. But it was not enough.   VPA friends joined together to finish the project, and we will soon get electricity.  This will allow opportunities for evening meetings and classes, as well as expanded curriculum such as computer training.
  7. The new multi-purpose (cafeteria/auditorium/church) building is almost completed and is already being used for school and community meetings.  It is the only building in the area that can hold such large groups. Recently, we held a parent meeting with over 250 in attendance, who fit comfortably in this beautiful building. In addition, we are completing new classrooms and administrative offices to accommodate our growing enrollment.  Often children tell us what they like best about Heritage Academy is “the buildings.”  We smile at their answer, but they really love to have a good place
    to learn.
  8. Our child sponsorship program continues to grow! We now have over 150 children sponsored and hope to have even more sponsored by this time next year. The education, nutrition, and healthcare that sponsored children have received this year have been absolutely transformative for so many children. A new online system for sponsorship will be rolled out in 2013, so stay tuned. We hope that even more children will find sponsorship—we have close to 500 children waiting for a sponsor!

We are so thankful for each of our supporters and the way you have come along beside us in so many ways to continue the work God has laid out before us. We look forward to continued and new partnerships in 2013!

We hope each and every one of you has a blessed and happy new year!

Love Changing Lives!

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!

Going Home

Written by admin. Posted in Stories, Village Project Africa

A new regular contributor to the Village Project Africa blog, Stephanie Lewis Williams reflects on her experiences in Kenya and on what it means to come home again after
those experiences.

I recently read a book by Alexandra Fuller, who grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Malawi, and Zambia.  She lives in Wyoming now and occasionally returns to her home in Africa.  Her book, Scribbling the Cat, includes a beautiful passage about coming back to America after spending time in Africa:

 “It should not be physically possible to get from the banks of the Pepani River [in Zambia] to Wyoming in less than two days, because mentally and emotionally it is impossible. The shock is too much, the contrast too raw. We should sail or swim or walk from Africa, letting bits of her drop out of us, and gradually, in this way, assimilate the excesses of the States in tiny, incremental sips, maybe touring up through South America and Mexico before trying to stomach the land of the Free and the Brave”  (p. 72).

 I have visited Makutano, Kenya, three times over the past three years.  For me, it is easy to go to Makutano yet difficult to return to America.  It takes me a couple of weeks or so to get used to life here again, and I have always wondered exactly why—why is the shock too much as Fuller describes?  Part of the answer is that life is busy and moves fast here in America, and once you have danced to a different beat, it is hard to speed up again.  We also have an overabundance of choices for food and other daily activities compared to a small Kenyan village, and we tend to complain about things that seem meaningless from the perspective of rural Kenya.  When you own just one tattered outfit and no shoes, having a perfectly manicured lawn or a newer car is just not significant. 

 Ox and cartBut I believe there is more to the story.  In Kenya, I feel closer to the earth – the buildings are made of mud, the roads unpaved, the main course for dinner fresh from the backyard.  The “layer” of asphalt and plastic and packaging that covers so much of life in America is diminished or absent in Kenya.  There is less to hide behind.  Somehow and in some way, Africa seems to touch and connect with a deeper part of me – of all of us.  I am reminded too that the earliest humans originated in this part of the world.  Perhaps that is why Africa almost feels more like “home.”  Letting go of that experience when returning to America is challenging.  Next time, I may take Alexandra Fuller’s advice and return in a far more gradual way.  Maybe it will help.

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.

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