Thursday, 24 December 2009
May 2010 be all you would wish it to be. May it be a year full of love, health, happiness, prosperity and dreams achieved.
May those for whom 2009 has been less than wonderful find their fortunes changing in the coming year.
And in the immortal words of Tiny Tim, "May God bless us, every one!"
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Yesterday, it shot up a plume of smoke, fire and ash that reached over a kilometre into the sky. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20091223/wl_asia_afp/philippinesvolcano
Stunning pictures - from the safety of your computer station. The view is not so welcome when you're in it.
And any day now, the whole thing might simply explode.
As you unwrap your presents, evacuated Filipinos leave their few possessions behind. As you take a sniff and enjoy the smells of cinnamon and brandy, pine tree and candle wax, they cough and long for a breath not filled with choking ash.
We all want a good Christmas. We all want a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. The people of the Philippines are no different. Let's pray they get what they want.
World In Need sponsors children in the Philippines, and twenty other countries around the world. For £20 a month, a child's needs are met and their chance at education is assured. If you'd like to know more about our projects, or about how you can help us in our work, please go to http://www.worldinneed.co.uk/
Or apply to receive our quarterly newsletter online.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
The children have asked him to pass on their best wishes for a wonderful Christmas to World In Need and all who support the work we do. They wanted us to know how much our sponsorship had meant to them, enabling them to stay at school, and they added that they would each be praying that their sponsors would be richly blessed in the coming year.
In the aftermath of the typhoons, the World In Need school was a boon to the community in Baguio City. More solidly built than most of the dwellings on the Smoky Mountain rubbish tip, which it serves, it became a refuge for the homeless and lost. Classrooms were opened up as places to sleep, and the people were given blankets, food and clothing.
Since then, the school's own future has become shakier. The owner of the building needs to sell it, and we have no way of knowing what the new owner's plans will be. It may be that they want to continue to lease the building to us, so all can continue much as before. Such an outcome would be a wonderful answer to prayer.
If we could raise $200,000, we could buy the building ourselves, and assure the future for the school and the children who attend. These are children from the poorest sectors of society, from families who are too poor to even rent homes in the slums. They live in dwellings made of cardboard, dotted over the rubbish tip, surrounded by the refuse of the rest of the Filipino islanders. The children run, barefoot, over this rubbish, collecting things that their parents can recycle and sell to make their meagre livings.
Our school and the education it gives, provides hope of a better life for these children. It gives them the chance of skills which will enable them to break the cycle of poverty and deprivation that imprisons them now.
If we cannot raise the cost of the building, and if the new owner does not wish to be our landlord, the school may have to close, or relocate. Either scenario would be a blow to the children already at the school. Relocation might mean that it becomes too far for them to travel for their education. Closure would mean we would have to find new schools to take them - no easy task.
It surely cannot be that the children we have sponsored and worked with are now to be abandoned. It surely cannot be that the hope we have fostered will be snuffed out. As we head towards 2010, we must pray that the right solution to this problem will be found - a solution that allows us to continue to serve the children of Smoky Mountain.
Monday, 21 December 2009
Like its neighbours, Rwanda and the Congo, Burundi has been in turmoil for much of the last few years. Civil war, tribal tensions and military coups made life difficult and caused much suffering, as did HIV/AIDS, which is a huge problem here, as it is in many developing countries.
World In Need is helping in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Burundi. Pierre has mobilised people, including church leaders, to help with a campaign for the prevention of the virus in rural areas of the country. In addition, he is helping twenty people who have become infected, ensuring they have enough to eat and that their lives are made as good as they can be. He also works to provide them with counselling.
Another big killer in Burundi - indeed in all of East Africa, is Malaria, and Pierre is working on programmes for prevention of this disease.
Friday, 18 December 2009
It's inconvenient and uncomfortable, but for most of us, nothing more than that. In a few days, it will be over, and all we'll have left are memories of cold and Christmas card scenes.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, and most of East Africa, there is drought. For the sixth successive season, the rains have failed. This has a huge impact on the amount of crops the people can grow. The knock on effect is devastating. With less food, some people go hungry. Scarcity pushes prices up, meaning more people cannot afford to buy it, and the number of malnourished people rises. Economies suffer, jobs are lost, more poverty, the cycle is endless.
The situation does not last for a few days. It goes on, and on, and on. And, as always, those who suffer most are the vulnerable - the poor, the disabled, children.
World In Need runs a sponsorship programme for children in Kenya. We run a school in Soy, a poor, rural town north of Eldoret. As well as a good education and a hopeful start in life, the children are also given a meal each day. For many, this will be the only nourishment of their day. The school started in January 2009, with one child. 73 children are now enrolled, and the numbers are growing. Which, unfortunately, means the costs are growing, too.
£5 (about $8) provides a child with one good meal every day for a month. £20 provides for all a child's monthly needs. For many children, this amount is the difference between getting an education and having to work at menial jobs to help feed the family. It means they have a future.
If you'd like to know more about our school, the children there, or what sponsorship means to them, come and visit our website at www.worldinneed.co.uk
Why not sign up to receive our newsletter by email?
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Now, south of Manila, the Mayan volcano has erupted, spewing volcanic lava and plumes of ash into the air, and causing 20,000 to flee their homes. How much more can these people be expected to take?
Some people say this is a series of unfortunate events. Unlucky Philippines, caught in the middle of a cycle of bad weather and earth movements and heatings. Others will say it's man made, the results of global warming, a climate change caused by man's activities world wide. Whatever caused it, it has brought misery and uncertainty to thousands.
And the cycle will continue. The volcanic debris will affect the local atmosphere, causing pollution, making it difficult to breathe. Previous huge eruptions across the world have blocked out sunlight and raised temperatures far from the volcanoes. It affects us all.
A timely reminder that we are all in this together.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Constantly battered by famines and natural disasters, it has also been affected by widespread poverty and political turmoil, disease and malnutrition. Many families are unable to afford the fees needed to send their children to school.
World In Need works in Bangladesh in partnership with Smyrna Youth Fellowship, a network of Bangladeshi student groups who want to help their people and serve their nation. The SYF have opened an orphanage, and they aim to set up local enterprises to finance this. Ideas include exporting items like lace work, pearls and handicrafts. As well as supporting the orphanage, WIN sponsors children in the country, enabling them to go to school.
Children deserve the best possible start in life. Together, we can make sure they get that.
Following this work, World In Need developed a school in Islamabad, the World In Need Community Free Education Centre, which was established in 2007. It is a primary level, formal education based school, and it offers Bible study to Christian students and Islamic study to Muslim students. Under Pakistani law, all children are given religious education and it is up to their families which religion they study.
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Everybody's shopping for a bit of this and that
If you're stuck for a present or two
Perhaps World in Need can help you.
Do you have loved ones who have absolutely everything? People who are a nightmare to give to? They don't want chocolates or flowers, or ornaments or jewellery, or any of the other things that come to mind?
Why not give them something that makes them feel good and, at the same time, benefits children in third world countries? World In Need sponsors children in schools in Pakistan and Kenya. Over the last year, student numbers in our schools in these countries have grown incredibly, for which we thank God.
However, more children means we need more desks for them to sit at when they do their work. Each desk seats three children (four if they are little) and costs £20. See the post "School Benches" dated 10th December to see the children at the benches in Kenya.
For a donation of £20 - half the cost of many computer games - you can buy a desk for the children we sponsor, and you'll receive a certificate to give to your loved one.
Find out more from firstname.lastname@example.org
Or we can show you our two minute Youtube presentation.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:6
This verse was quoted by Robert Mulumbi, Director of the Nancy George Academy, a primary school set up in Soy, Kenya, by World In Need. I asked him to sum up the work he was doing, and his answer came without hesitation.
Soy is a rural area, and the people are very poor. The international poverty line says those living on less than $1.25 a day are in poverty. In Soy, families often live on less than $1.25 a week. Food does not always find its way to family tables, children’s clothes are bought several sizes too large and worn for years. So when children do not attend schools, it isn’t because their parents don’t care. They simply cannot afford to send them.
Schooling in Kenya is, technically, free. In practice, this means the child does not have to pay to attend a Government school. However, they DO have to pay for things like uniforms, which are compulsory in all schools. A child not in uniform will be barred from the classroom. Things such as paper, pens and exams are also charged to parents. I saw children in school uniforms wandering the streets. When I asked why they were not at school, I was told they couldn’t afford to pay for the exam at the end of the year, which cost the equivalent of £2 ($3). They had to pay for the exam at the beginning of the year, or they were not allowed to take the course.
Yet education is undoubtedly the way out of that grinding poverty. Education leads to training and skills, and better jobs. It benefits not only the individual and their family, but the entire community. Robert Mulumbi recognised this. His dream was to set up a school where the teaching would be excellent, and the children given a good start in life. After many trials, the NGA opened in January 2009 with 1 child. Today, it has 73 students. As well as a good education, they all receive a decent meal every day.
NGA is a fee paying school, but Robert does not turn away children who cannot afford it, and often dips into his own finances rather than demand fees families would struggle to find. Fees are £20 ($32) a term. WIN is trying to sponsor as many children as possible; a condition of sponsorship is that a child attends school, and part of the sponsorship money pays the fees.
We are also trying to raise funds for things the school needs. New classrooms were built and glass put into their windows, the kitchen was equipped, books and paper supplied, all thanks to the generosity of donors.
Now, we need new benches. The children sit at rudimentary benches to do their work. With the growing number of students, we don’t have enough of these, even though the smaller children squeeze four to a bench. The alternative is to sit cross legged on the packed earth floor.
Benches are also needed at the WIN school in Pakistan, which we will visit in the next few days.
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
With the fall of the Taliban came hope that women would find a new freedom and equality in daily life. Widows could work and feed their children. Those children could now learn and play and prepare for a life to the fullest of their potentials. World In Need was heavily involved in this. We set up the Children's Day Care Centre, where children, boys AND girls could receive an education, a daily meal, somewhere safe to play. Children are sponsored, enabling them to attend school and grow up with opportunities they may otherwise have missed. A food programme ensures the children all receive a meal each day – for many it is the only meal they will eat.
An art programme at the centre discovered that many of the older centre users had a gift for painting and we export their work and sell it. The youngsters are very talented, and this can be seen by viewing some of the paintings at http://www.worldinneed.co.uk/store/index.php?cPath=28&osCsid=dbmmhqdan1d91q44h5ulohf091
Half the proceeds of the sales are used to fund the running of the centre, and the other half is given to the artist, enabling them to contribute to family finances. We also help their mothers, by operating a carpet weaving scheme. Afghan carpets are renowned the world over for their beauty, durability and value. The widows in our scheme weave such carpets, which we then export and sell for them.
However, things are not all plain sailing. Opposition can and has affected some of our projects. For example, we were running a literacy programme, teaching women to read and thus enabling them to reach their fullest potential. This summer, our office in Kabul was firebombed, and we were forced to close its doors. Thankfully, no-one was hurt or killed, but the literacy programme was an unfortunate casualty of the bomber's actions. We hope to restart it in the future.
Discrimination against women in Afghanistan has not disappeared overnight. Although things are undoubtedly better than they were under the Taliban, there is still a long way to go, as highlighted in a new report by Human Rights Watch. It makes for disturbing reading. You can find out for yourself at http://www.hrw.org/en/node/86807
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Many IDPs live in abject poverty, in accommodation with no warmth, ventilation or privacy – it is not uncommon for a dozen or more families to use just one toilet.
There is a high incidence of respiratory illness in Azerbaijan, and no-one is quite sure why this is. Numerous theories abound, from the amount of grain grown in the country to pollution levels and even the high number of mud volcanoes within the country. Whatever the cause, the problem is huge – within refugee and poorer communities, most families have at least one member suffering from these to life threatening degrees.
Poverty makes life difficult for vulnerable groups – the disabled, elderly, single parents, and orphans. Orphans often suffer more because the law says no-one who is not a blood relative of the child can be given parental guardianship, which prevents adoption.
Since 1997, WIN has worked among the IDP families, mainly by sponsoring children. At the start, the people were located in one area, near to the capital, Baku, but many people have moved away from the camps to rural villages in an effort to find work. Some have tried to return to their homelands, even though there is still tension, fighting and occasional sniping there.
People take whatever dwellings they can afford. One family set up home in a dilapidated wooden shack beside a railway. To make it habitable, they had broken up a wooden pallet and turned the slats from this into floorboards.
WIN’s representative, Tofiq, has to travel vast distances over dreadful roads, often in unbearable temperatures. A four wheel drive vehicle is essential; his current car is a Lada Niva, a make known as “the Russian Land Rover”, but it is reaching the end of its life and we are currently raising funds to help him replace it.
As well as sponsoring children, we also raise money for a feeding programme in a kindergarten, ensuring the children get a good meal every day, (for many, the only meal of the day) and we help a hospital for the mentally ill. We are trying to set up an occupational therapy unit there, enabling the patients to make arts and crafts such as jewellery that can be sold, eventually making the project self funding.
Long term, the Azeri people and their government should be able to address all their needs themselves. In the short term, they need our help to set them on their way to that state of being and, through child sponsorship, fund raising and encouragement, this is what WIN has set out to give them.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
It is our fervent prayer that, one day, all children within the Indian sub continent will look forward to life as much as the children in the hostels do. At present, for many, life is a struggle. 42% of the population live below the International Poverty line of less than $1.25 a day, and half of all children are underweight and malnourished - double the percentage of children that are underweight and malnourished in sub-Saharan Africa.
Health problems affect large swathes of the population. As well as the eye problems mentioned yesterday, and the inevitable consequences of malnutrition, there are other diseases that are prevalent, especially in the slums from which our children are drawn. Urban malaria, tuberculosis and pneumonia, leprosy, meningitis and diarrhoea diseases all take their toll, together with problems stemming from industrial and air pollution, and preventable infections in children such as measles, whooping cough and polio.
Like every country in the world, India also has to battle HIV/AIDS. It is not a problem that affects a large percentage of the population. In 2008, it was reported that just 0.34% of the population is living with HIV. However, although that does not sound a huge amount, in a country as populous as India, it actually equates to 2.31 million people. Of these approximately 80,000 are children. WIN is actively working towards decreasing this number both by educating people from the earliest possible age, alerting them to the dangers, showing them how to avoid them, and also by helping the children achieve their fullest potential, gaining the knowledge and qualifications that will enable them to leave behind the lifestyles that leave them vulnerable.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Ranjit’s father, a rickshaw puller, could not earn enough to keep his family. He certainly could not earn enough to buy expensive medicines for the tuberculosis that left his son weak and listless and unable to play with other boys. The future looked grim.
Sadly, Ranjit’s story is not unique. There are 3.4 million tuberculosis patients in India, about one fifth of the total number of cases in the world. In 2005, more than 300,000 people in the country died from the disease.
However, Ranjit was lucky. He came to Ashray Bhavan, a home for boys run by World In Need in Faridabad, a small city about thirty kilometres from Delhi in Haryana Province. There his illness was treated, and cured. He was fed and his strength built up, and he became more active. Now twelve years old, he has almost become a different child.
Ashray Bhavan is Hindi for “house of hope and shelter”. This home and the nearby girl's hostel, were built to provide needy and underprivileged children with a healthy, secure environment with good, nutritious food, medical and health care and a satisfactory level of skills training and education. A Vocational Training College is being built so that, after graduating High School, the children can train and learn skills that will help them in the world of work.
The homes were the brain child of Sheeba, a teacher who began holding classes in the slums of Delhi. She grew distressed and frustrated at the living conditions her students were forced to endure and so, with the help of her father, Chandi, set up Ashray Bhavan in the small city of Faridabad, about thirty kilometres from the capital, Delhi.
Most of the children are between five and ten years old when they arrived. All of them are children who have either been abandoned, or who come from single parent or disadvantaged parents, or who are orphans. The homes were built on the solid foundation of love and care. The children are sent to local schools, and they have gained a reputation for being hard working and willing students.
Chandi is a respected pharmacist and has established Ashray Bhavan as a base from which he conducts free eye care camps for the poor villagers in the surrounding area. This is a much needed service: 3.8 million people in India become blind through cataracts every year. Over 600 people have now been treated by Chandi's eye camps and more than 120 successful cataract operations have been conducted free of charge. Because of this, the Haryana State Government has recognised Ashray Bhavan under its Department of Social Welfare Programme.
By the time they come to the homes, the children have often experienced dreadful things. Some have seen their mothers beaten and abused by alcoholic fathers, and some children have even been abused themselves. They may have seen their mothers harassed by other men in their families, or they may have been put to work, helping relatives gather rags or pieces of metal from garbage dumps, which are then sold on for scrap value. Most are malnourished and weak and have stunted growth. Some are suffering from diseases which would have been curable if treated early but which have been left until it is too late because parents cannot afford medical fees.
They come to the home and receive a new lease of life. They are valued. The ethos of the home is built firmly upon Matthew 25:40: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Fed well, they grow strong, healthy and happy, towards a future that is brighter, both for themselves and India.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
As always, war and conflict has had an impact on the most vulnerable members of society. About nine tenths of children who go to school in Sierra Leone will do so without having breakfast beforehand, and six tenths of school children will not have a lunch. A study in 2002 found 46% of all child deaths in the country were due to malnutrition.
To address the widespread problem of malnutrition, WIN is trying to set up a feeding programme within five schools where our representatives, Tamba and Marina, are involved. These schools cater for 700-800 children, aged three to fifteen.We wish to ensure that the children receive a healthy and nutritious lunch each day that they come to school, thereby improving immediate physical health as well as encouraging better education that will have long term benefits for not only the child, but the entire community.
To ensure the feeding programme's success, we need £5 per child per month (About $8). This amount ensures a child gets one good meal every day at school.
Before WIN’s involvement, funds from other sources allowed for a school lunch to be provided just once a month. This monthly meal usually consisted of a slice of bread and sometimes other pieces of food. According to Marina, some of the children being fed were so conscious of other family members being hungry at home; they would often eat half the bread and carefully take the rest home to be shared there.
Marina tells of a time when the lunch consisted of fried rice and chicken. Children were observed carefully picking out the pieces of chicken and wrapping them up to take home, before eating the rice.
Sometimes, the lunch includes biscuits and even sweets such as hard lollipops. The children make the lollies last as long as they can, unwrapping them, sucking them for a minute, then rewrapping them to save for later. A lolly can last a long time.
Children being children and the same the world over, they quickly found a way to make the most of these treats. Some of them used the lollipops to gain popularity amongst their school friends. They allowed each child a lick of their lolly, and accepted the respect and admiration that being the owner of the sweet treat brings to them.
Sweets are not the only lollipops. Children who have been given chicken legs savour every mouthful and then, when the meat is gone, they will suck on the bone for hours, as if this can prolong the experience of having had the food.
In fact, in a country where it is scarce, food is a powerful tool in deciding the playground hierarchy. Those children who have been able to bring a lunch to school find themselves with many new friends and followers, all begging for a bite of the food. A child with an apple learned quickly how to make the desire of their fellow pupils profitable. Children agreed to carry bags and clean shoes in return for a bite of the fruit. But the enterprising nature of the children did not stop there because the child who earned the bite then split the chunk of apple into three pieces, ate one piece and “sold on” the other two pieces for favours for themselves.
In order to ensure a healthy diet at affordable prices, and to try to reduce long term dependency on foreign aid sources, Tamba is attempting to raise the funds to lease land on which he can grow crops such as maize and millet. Some of the food grown by him would supplement the feeding programme, giving healthy food items at the same time as cutting costs. The rest of the crop could be sold to ensure that the project can be self sustaining.
The needs of our projects and the people they help can thus be summed up as follows:
In the short term, we need to encourage children into education and begin rebuilding the country’s skills base, at the same time promoting healthy living and overcome life-limiting hunger and malnutrition. We also need to raise funds to lease land on which to grow crops.
Longer term, we need to encourage investment rather than simple aid. The people of Sierra Leone need partners rather than benefactors, people who will be willing to work alongside them to enable Sierra Leone to become a viable concern and to take their place in the global village of the twenty first century.
Friday, 27 November 2009
This mountain of waste and its pollution pall are vast enough that they can be seen from the northern outskirts of Manila, and it is getting bigger. Daily, dozens of garbage trucks arrive to dump more and more waste there.
However, waste is not the only thing one will find on Smokey Mountain. The tip is also home to some of Baguio’s poorest residents. Whole families have made their homes on the sides of the mountain, living in shelters made of cardboard and plastic. These are people who cannot afford to rent a place even in the worst of the city’s slums. They make their meagre livings from the dump, sifting through the rubbish looking for recyclable items and things they may be able to sell. Whole families are involved in this enterprise – small children scamper barefoot over broken glass, collecting things their parents can take to market. Their little feet are criss-crossed with scars, their limbs dirty, clothes torn, but these children remain undaunted. As a new garbage truck empties its load, they scramble towards it, eager to be the first to sort through and claim its treasures.
These are the people with whom WIN works. Our school, the Cypress Christian Foundation School, is built in the heart of the tip and caters for the children who live there. It opened in 1999 with 25 children of kindergarten and nursery school age, and has now grown so that it can accommodate 200 children up to age 14. This school is a sponsor centred foundation, which means children usually need to be sponsored in order that they can attend. One of the stipulations we make when a child is sponsored is that the child will go to school, so sponsorship ensures education. They are keen to come. As in many of the world’s poorest countries, education is prized as a way out of poverty, and the school actively works to enable children to attend. They believe that poverty should never come between a child and their dream.
The facilities at the school are excellent and include a computer laboratory, a library, a practical arts room and science-audio and video room as well as a play ground with volleyball and badminton courts. These facilities, together with the dedication of teachers and the hard work of the students have led to a high graduation rate in the academic fields and high achievements in sports and recreational activities.
In Autumn 2009, the school proved its worth in other ways too. Several huge storms devastated the Philippines, causing floods, landslides, mud slides, collapsing homes and roads, disease and death. Many were made homeless, and the poorest were, as usual, the worst hit. WIN opened the school buildings as a refuge centre, bringing in families to camp in the classrooms. We gave them food, shelter, blankets, clothing.
Now, the school's very existence is under threat. The owner of the building has fallen ill and desperately needs money to fund his health care treatment. Consequently, he has sold the building, and it has been bought by a Korean group. We pray that we are able to continue to rent the building and continue the school there, but this is by no means guaranteed. The new owners may have plans of their own, which may not include us.
If we do have to move, we will have to find an alternative site for the school, or close down. If we close, the children will be forced to look for new schools, and that may not be easy for some of them. If we find another site but it is too far away, some of our existing children may be unable to travel the distance. Costs may increase, the facilities we have spent years building and enhancing will have to be replaced.
Please pray for this situation, and for the people who will be affected by it, and that a solution to the problem and the uncertainty will be forthcoming. Also, please pray for the health of the previous owner of the building, and also for the new owners, that their decisions will be the right ones.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
The school sat in a plot of land separated from the road by a low fence. It consisted of a large field with several buildings nestling on it. The major building was made up of three classrooms, each more bright and airy than we expected, providing cool respite from the heat outside. The floors were packed earth, the “blackboards” merely painted onto the walls. The window frames were set in place but there was no glass in them – the money had run out before glass could be purchased. When the wind blows through, the children simply hold on to their papers to keep them from flying away. When it rains, they move the desks away from the windows so they don’t get wet.
There will be eventually be more classrooms, one for each year of primary education, and these will be added as children work their way up through the school. Eventually, there will be seven classrooms here, and each will be able to accommodate forty children – a high number by British standards but far fewer than the ninety plus per class we had heard of in some of Kenya’s schools.
Beside the classrooms was a small mud building, with a desk and glassless windows. This was the staffroom, a place for the seven teachers and two non teaching workers to go to for themselves. There were also buildings for the pre-school children, a small school kitchen and, in a far corner of the field, pit latrines. Eventually, Robert wants to install proper flush toilets, but for now the latrines have to do.
In the future, World In Need hopes to build dormitories here. Some of the children walk seven kilometres to get to school each day, and since the school day starts at 7am, they often leave home in the dark. In the rainy season, the roads are a muddy quagmire, and a dormitory would mean the children could stay on site, making life easier for them. It would also mean children could come from even further away.
In the school holidays the place is used as a training centre for Christian leaders and missionaries, thereby teaching and spreading the word and providing much needed income from the buildings.
The school kitchen is busy. Many of the children come to school without a meal inside them, and they will go home to no food at night. The school, therefore, has a feeding programme. Mid morning, all children are given a breakfast of porridge, and in the middle of the day they receive a proper cooked meal, which is eaten in classrooms, as there is no dining hall. The meals are cooked in the tiny mud hut, over a charcoal fire. Most homes in Kenya cook over charcoal. At the time of our visit, the school was borrowing cooking utensils from Robert and Alice’s home, although since that time a generous donation has allowed them to buy equipment of their own.
In the middle of the field was a water tower, newly built with a grant from the Water Trust. Water is pumped up from a bore hole and stored in the large tank from where it could be dispensed at the turning of a tap. The water from the taps was surprisingly cool and clear. The generator which provides the electricity needed to run the water tower will one day power lighting and computer points in the school as well.
Also in the field were climbing frames and old tyres for the children to play on, and goalposts for a game of football, and a flagpole on which they hoist the Kenyan national flag twice weekly.
When we arrived, the children were brought out from their classrooms and lined up in two rows, ready to greet us. The school opened in January 2009 with just one pupil. Its opening had been delayed because of the post election violence and its aftermath, so when it eventually began, it was a relief to Robert, who had worked hard for this project, and he did not mind at all opening the doors for just one child. He knew parents would be wary at first, unsure of entrusting their children’s precious start in life to an untried academy, but the dedication and quality of the staff began to pay off very quickly, and by October 2009 there were 73 children attending. Robert hopes to have a hundred pupils by the end of 2009. His own three children are among the students here, and his willingness to let his own family attend reassured a lot of parents.
Finances are a problem for the school. The children are supposed to pay school fees of twenty British pounds a term but the school serves a poor rural area in a poor country and few people have enough money to pay such fees. However, Robert believes education is something children should not be denied and he doesn’t turn away his pupils simply because they don’t have means. At the time of our visit, only four children were paying their fees. This obviously created a shortfall in the school funds and the school runs at a loss. Robert and Alice have countered this by injecting money from their own family purse, giving the meagre income that they receive from their farm and which was intended to support themselves.
One of the ways of counteracting the problem of finance is through child sponsorship. World In Need runs a sponsorship scheme whereby a child is sponsored to the age of sixteen on condition that the child attends school. It costs twenty pounds a month for each child sponsored and that money is used to pay school fees and other expenses such as uniforms and supplies, and to provide the family with other essentials that might otherwise need to be paid for by taking the child from school and setting them to earn a living. Most sponsored children have one sponsor who pays the full amount each month, but some are sponsored by two people and some by groups such as a Sunday school, or a class or a ladies group in England. However the money arrives, it is gratefully received and gives a child a chance.
After our arrival, we were introduced to all the teachers, including the Head Teacher, a self effacing young man named Bonventure, who told us how he had come to the Academy. After finishing his own schooling, he taught for two years at a Government funded school as an untrained teacher, and was thus able to raise the funds needed to go to college. He qualified as a teacher and wanted to teach in a school where the education would be of good quality, even though he could earn far more if he returned to the Government schools. He could also find employment closer to his home. At present, he walks to school and it takes him an hour each way. That he is prepared to do this gives an idea of how highly he thinks of the Academy.
After shaking hands with all the teachers, we went, spontaneously, to the lines of waiting children and shook hands with each one as we introduced ourselves. The children seemed shy at the time. Later the teachers told us they had been thrilled by our attention, and had talked of nothing else but our willingness to shake their hands. Some even vowed never to wash their hands again, as if we were visiting royalty or movie stars. It was humbling to realise how much our visit meant to them.
In the last 24 hours, we have been informed that Robert's wife Alice, may have a brain tumour. We are praying for her and their family at this time.
In Pakistan, we have set up a school and are urgently looking for equipment for it. We also need books for teachers, including training manuals and lesson plan guides. Many of our teachers are newly qualified or even students, and they need help to provide the best education possible to their pupils. Only through education will the children be able to pull themselves out of poverty and give their community hope for the future.
In Afghanistan, our team is small and operates from home, since our offices were firebombed in July. We run a Children's Day Care Centre in Kabul, and the children there are given an education, a meal and a safe place to play. The centre is funded in part by the sale of carpets made by widows in the area, and exported for sale. This also gives the women a way of earning enough money to keep their families.
At the Day Care Centre, we have several children who are talented artists. An art teacher works with them to develop their talents and their pictures are exported to us for sale. Half the price of the painting is given to the artist, enabling them to help with their family income, and the other half is used to help with the running costs of the centre. Paintings are reasonably priced and can be viewed on our website: http://www.worldinneed.co.uk/
The Afghan winter is harsh and bitter, and many people die of hypothermia each year. Our supporters have promised a gift of warm clothing for the children and their families, which will be very welcome.