Ellen Daniels-Howell, Executive Director of Global Interfaith Partnership
Of the 15 primary schools with which the Umoja Project works, Bar Andingo is one of the most involved. Since 2003, when free primary school education took effect in Kenya, the enrollment of the school has doubled as children from poorer homes entered school for the first time. Bar Andingo has struggled to absorb the influx of students — average class size is 80 students and basic resources like pens, paper and textbooks are often lacking.
Yesterday I visited Bar Andingo in time to be with the children when they had their lunch. The guardians who prepare the meal were eager for me to see the fuel-efficient stoves recently built with funds provided by the Second Presbyterian Women. The new stoves will reduce fuel consumption by 75%. Just as important, the guardians no longer will work every day inhaling the smoke of the open fire. When I make visits like this one, I hear story after story about children who are benefiting from the school lunch.
Yesterday I asked if it would be possible for a couple of children to put their stories in writing so people in Indiana could hear directly from the children. At least 30 students volunteered, missing their time on the playground in order to correspond with the people of Indiana. It is humbling to receive this stack of letters, as child after child pours out their appreciation for such basic things as food, blankets and sanitary towels for the girls. Here are excerpts from a few of the letters:
“My name is Maurice from Bar Andingo Primary School. I am in Standard 8… I am a child who lost both my mother and father. In my life, Umoja Project has helped me in my problems…When the Project started in our school we were in high spirits when we heard that the pupils who have lost their parents would be helped. I would like the Project to go on. I would like to know your name and the place you come from. I wish you the best.”
“My name is Judith. I am in Class 7. Me, I would like to thank you very much, because you’ve served many orphans who were in trouble about their lives. The first thing that I would like to thank you for is the lunch program. The reason why I say that is some orphans live with their grandmothers and sometimes that grandmother doesn’t have any work for them to do and can’t give us food. Even if I go home for lunch I may only have otalo and water. If you don’t know otalo, otalo is only maize which is not put together with beans.”
“I am Winnie from Bar Andingo Primary School. I am in Class 8. I am 15 years old… thank you for the sanitary towels you have provided us girls. Most of the girls in our schools just decide to drop out school but now we still have hat hope of going to school without any problem. Because in past some girls when they have got that problem they cannot go to school as usual.”
“I am Lorite. I am in Standard Seven at Bar Andingo Primary School…If you come to our school you will realize that there is a great change since Umoja was introduced…We are yours, and you are ours. So if you can please, don’t stop helping us. If you stop, we will nowhere to be seen.”