Yes, we’re moving to Kenya! My last post explained the long story of why and how. In this post I’ll talk about what we’ll be doing and how you can help!
We will be volunteering for the Miriam Kanana Mubichi Foundation (MKMF), a small non-government, non-profit organization based in Meru, Kenya. It was
founded in 2003 with the mission “to promote socio-economic development in Kenya by concentrating on three areas that we believe will have the strongest impact: literacy promotion, health education, and resource management training.”
While the organization was founded on Christian principles and values, it is not directly affiliated with any religious organizations, better positioning MKMF to serve as a vessel that unites people of all nationalities, religions, ages and ethnicities in the common vision of sustainable development. Volunteers for the organization have come from all walks, from United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (VIM) teams across the United States to students and interns from several international locations. We hope to expand that volunteer base as many people have approached Dale and me about coming for a period of time.
So what will we be doing? Hmmm, no short answer to that one! We’ll tackle some of the projects through each of the mission areas.
Education is seen as a key component to combating poverty. Kenya provides free primary education, and has an amazing 85% literacy level. However, many students do not continue their education past the 8th grade or even take advantage of the free education offered to them. Some of the barriers include the very long distances some children have to travel, and lack of money to pay for the required uniforms. Students are even sent home if their uniforms are in disrepair.
MKMF has numerous programs to promote education and to keep children in school. They have assistance programs for families who cannot afford uniforms. The organization has also sponsored the development and staffing of libraries, and has plans to build a large resource center serving Meru’s numerous schools and institutions of higher learning. Reading barazas
(fairs) are one way to encourage children to read with guest readers, free books, and fun activities.
Other projects have focused on improving conditions at the schools themselves by helping build pit latrines, and digging wells for clean water. Another ongoing project as funding is available is to pave classrooms. Most school rooms are dirt floors, which harbor diseases and parasites and can become muddy in the rainy season. As you can imagine, such a simple thing as concrete floors can make a big difference!
A recent drought hit the rural regions on the outskirts of Meru very hard. Many families are subsistence farmers, and could not provide food for their families. Children were going hungry, and certainly did not have the energy to stay in school. MKMF
jumped in by providing porridge to schools in areas hardest hit. For many children, this was their only meal of the day. This helped meet some of their dietary needs while enabling them to continue their education.
Finally, an area Dale and I really hope to contribute to is with the development of science and technology clubs. Kenya has challenges in their education system similar to a trend we’ve started to see in America – where students are “taught the test” and not necessarily how to use logic and reasoning to arrive at the answer themselves. The form of education established through British colonization can be even more restrictive and harsh. (One of the reasons we plan to home-school Riley, at least initially.) While Kenya is working to overhaul their system, we hope to have a safe venue to help children explore, ask questions, and go through the scientific process to arrive at solutions. Dale and I both have a strong science and math background, and between the two of us bring expertise in earth sciences, chemistry, mathematics and biology. More recently I’ve been working to develop an understanding of electronics and robots as I try to meet Riley’s interests, so we have even more possibilities for future projects! Oh, and for those of you who don’t know, Dale is also a high school math teacher, and has most recently been the chair of the math department at Carl Albert High School, so our education projects will naturally fall in his arena of expertise.
As a nurse, health education is a big component of the projects I’ll be working on. Previous workers have started up health clubs in the schools where students learned everything from how disease is spread to how to address challenges facing adolescents such as peer pressure and long-standing myths about AIDS and pregnancy. Gwen Kidera spent several months volunteering with MKMF, and did some wonderful work with the health clubs. I was amazed at her creativity, but also at some of the conditions many children faced, such as lack of access to soap, and toothbrushes, let alone toothpaste. We hope to address some of these areas with supplies and creative alternatives. (You can see Gwen’s blog here – it served as a wonderful orientation for me and Dale!)
Another major project has been to battle child malnutrition. MKMF has supplied special formula to the government hospital that serves the most low-income
families in the region. Many didn’t know their child was so dangerously malnourished until they brought them in for another condition. Sometimes mothers would abandon their child at the hospital, knowing they could no longer provide the care the child needed. Gwen did a lot of research on the problem, and recently completed a report that will help to guide us in future work.
Another interesting project crosses health and education – MKMF recently helped install a fish pond for the Meru School for the Mentally Challenged. The goal was to create sustainable food for the school, encourage development of life skills for students, and provide a dietary source of fatty acids essential to mental development.
I will also be continuing work that my friend Mattie Tolley started many years ago as a community health missionary with the Maua Methodist Hospital. She worked hard to educate villages about nutritional needs and to help them work foods into their diets that were high in protein and vitamin A (night blindness is unfortunately pretty common for children) and other necessary nutrients. As she tells me her stories, I’m awed by her creativity and ways of overcoming misconceptions and reluctance to eat certain foods. I can only hope to help carry the torch in this area.
Resource management is an area that Fridah (CEO) is especially equipped to work with, as this is much of the focus of her graduate work and business experience. This is where the vision for sustainable communities will really be developed, from guiding villages in development of more sustainable and profitable agricultural practices to helping a women’s co-op get visibility in a larger market.
One of the recent projects I got to be a part of was to help Makena – a co-op of about 15 women, many who are the wage-earners for their families. Gwen created a logo, business cards, and brochures for them, and I developed a website to advertise their products across the globe. We are also working to help them get more national visibility through the many groups that promote women’s industries. You can visit their site at www.makenatextiles.org.
And that’s just the day job! We hope to get quickly established in a local church and expect we’ll dive right in to ministry as we do here. Hopefully there will be a place for us in music ministry, but I also anticipate I will eventually teach women there too. The majority of the population claims to be Christian (45% Protestant and Roman Catholic 33%), but as in America, there is a need for more depth of understanding of the scriptures and how they apply. Kenya also has refugees from unrest in surrounding areas such as Sudan and Somalia, providing unique opportunities to minister to populations that may otherwise be hard to reach. We can only imagine what doors will open and what other work God has in mind for us there. All we can do is answer His call to go!
Want to Help?
There are going to be numerous ways everyone can get involved. I know Dale and I have both had tons of interest for future mission trips, internships, etc., and we can’t wait to get on site to start coordinating that. One of the goals with the upcoming resource center is to also have housing for volunteers. That will be wonderful, especially for those who want to stay longer than the typical 1-2 week mission trip.
The #1 need we have is for prayer. We have a lot of hurdles to overcome with work permits, transportation, and big concerns like selling our house and a piece of land in eastern Oklahoma. These past few months have been a time for us to grow in faith as we have already seen answers to prayer and are learning to trust God to work out the rest of the details. But there are sooooo many details, it’s hard not to try to take some worries back to ourselves!
If some of you are handy, we could really use help getting our house up for sale early this summer. Since we are trying to put as much money into our moving and travel expenses as possible, we are doing much of the needed renovations ourselves. Projects include painting, replacing flooring, and replacing windows. We hope to have a couple of work days when we could use volunteer assistance the most. If you’re interested, let me know, and I’ll inform you when we’re ready!
Of course financial help is appreciated. We have our immediate needs as a family to raise enough for plane tickets. The last we checked, it will cost us about $1,200-1,500 per person, or up to $4,500 total. We also may need to ship over a few basic items that would cost too much to replace locally. While labor is cheap in Kenya, manufactured goods cost about as much as they do in the US, so for some things it may be more economical to ship than sell for less than what it’s worth, then turn around and purchase it again! A small shipment will cost us around $2,000. And even though we won’t be paid by the foundation, we still have to apply for work permits, which cost $1,000 a piece.
Ideally, we need to have a few people who are willing to support us long-term to cover health insurance. We have found a very reasonable plan for only about $300/month. If we can just find 30 people willing to donate $10 a month, that would cover it! Thankfully God has provided for our other needs from an unexpected place – my VA medical pension from having breast cancer while in the military! (See this blog entry for the story on that.)
For donations, you can go through Seeds of Grace, the 501(c)(3) which provides tax-deductable credit for donations to MKMF. Donations can be made online through this link. The advantage is you can also opt to have a monthly deduction, which is a great way to be a long-term partner in MKMF’s work.
You can also mail donations to:
Seeds of Grace
P.O. Box 9534
Naperville, IL 60564
Just be sure to mention how you want the money to be used, especially if it is to help us in our transportation and moving expenses. Thank you so much to those of you who wish to help in this way!
We hope all of you will consider yourself partners in the work we’ll be doing, whether by donations, prayer, coming in person or even just by reading our posts and sending your greetings from all over the globe! We can’t wait to take you on this journey with us!