February 8, 2014
Rushed is the only way to describe our early morning as Jessica and I showered, repacked bags to visit some of our Kenya Kids in Nakuru, and then to continue on a road trip to Kakuma Refugee camp. I knew the kids would be anxious for our arrival, but we started off later than I’d hoped, and our driver, Mumias, had to stop for fuel.
When we walked through the gate at Roots Academy, I spotted some of our students at a picnic table on the grounds in front of the administration building. We have had a number of students begin primary school at Roots (1st through 8th grade) as the headmistresses have been sympathetic to South Sudanese refugees, and the school has high standards. To attract students these academies rely on the scores of their students on the annual national tests and at graduation. The level of education is high, but there is tremendous pressure on the students, and the school is strict (too strict by our standards both in hours of sleep – not enough – and physical punishment – not allowed, but still practiced).
Currently we have eight students in our Kenya program. All but one are orphans who had no extended family to rejoin when repatriation from Kakuma Refugee camp to South Sudan began in 2007. During our visit to Kakuma in December, 2007, Joseph Akol Makeer asked the elders if there was a bright student who was orphaned that he could sponsor in boarding school. Moses was 15, but he started in 1st grade. He finished 12 years of school in seven years and is now attending his second year of university in Eldoret, Kenya. He also arranged for two others, John and Joseph, to begin shortly after. We began this program with boys because we were concerned about safety for girls traveling by bus the 10 or 12 hours from Kakuma to Eldoret and back.
After hearing Joseph speak at their church, a couple called about the possibility of sponsoring a student themselves. When Joseph and I met with Ron and Nancy Saeger, Joseph urged them to sponsor two students and they agreed to sponsorship for two boys. They are minorities in the schools, and usually older than their classmates. They begin with poor English skills, and they don’t speak or read Kiswahili, another national language of Kenya and four other East Africa nations. Ron and Nancy began sponsoring James and Simon in 2008, the year that ASAH incorporated and earned nonprofit status. Ron was one of our first board members. He took over the management of the Kenya program and travels every year during the November/December school break spending at least two weeks with our students. We couldn’t manage this program without his tireless and often thankless work. I and other board members don’t really have a concept of how much time and money he and Nancy invest in the success of the Kenya program and the students we sponsor. Managing all health, education, and welfare issues for teenage and young-adult boys and girls from across the world is a feat.
In future posts, I will work with Ron and Moses to give you a little more information about each of our other Kenya kids. They will change their world.