The warm breeze. The sound of laughter. The rush of footsteps. Freedom from the classroom (at least for a little while). While everyone in the northern hemisphere is putting on their winter coats, the students of Emmanuel Lights Academy are trading in their school uniforms for tank tops and shorts because... summer break is finally here!
We are proud of all of the students and especially the eighth graders who completed their KCPE (Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education) exams at Emmanuel Lights Academy. This daunting exam is the equivalent of the SATs in America, but instead of trying to get into college it is to gain entry into high school. Competition for spots in the best schools is fierce and the results of the KCPE exams weigh heavily when determining which school a student will attend. Three girls from the Keumbu Rehema Childrens Home, Daisy, Claire, and Grace, excelled in the exams and will join the other girls Arrive sponsors in attending secondary boarding school next year. Speaking of those other girls, they had a successful first year of high school and have returned home to stay with us during the break. Getting girls educated is essential in every part of the world and we fully support the continuation of girls’ higher education in this area; an area where extreme poverty makes some parents “marry off” their 12-year old daughter to a much older man in order to receive the dowry. Of course, life virtually ends for the girl - no education, no freedom, and the responsibility to bear as many kids as possible while making sure they are fed, without having an opportunity to obtain work or money.
This practice only forces young women and their new families deeper into the cycle of poverty with no ability to escape their horrific and dire situations. A girl like Edina, a young orphan suffering from extreme poverty and desperate for anything, was at high risk of being forced to marry a man decades older than herself and live a life of suffering. Had it not been for Arrive, that is.
When Edina was young, she had a mother, a father, three uncles, and three aunts. Then...every single one of those people died. Suddenly her widowed grandmother, the owner of a one room circular mud hut with dirt floors and no electricity, was left with the responsibility of caring for over twenty children. For Edina, school was out of the question - the most important item on her list was how to get enough food to feed her younger siblings and cousins. Two years ago Pastor Robert learned of Edina’s situation and after meeting her, knew it was a must she come to live at the KRCH. So, she began her new life here. Edina will be entering eighth grade next year and is grateful for the opportunity that she has been given. We are searching for a sponsor to enable Edina to continue her education into secondary school starting in 2016.
Having returned to America over one week ago, Arrive volunteer Mirna’s presence can still be felt around the home. Maybe it was her departing gift that filled Edina and the other girls with such joy: painting the girls house. Mirna is responsible for every square inch of their home being painted. From blisters to broken paintbrushes, sudden thunderstorms to the grueling heat, she prevailed in transforming their home. The house went from a metallic looking box to a radiant pink and dark blue home, complete with rain gutters to collect rain water and a proper entrance. Though mostly only aesthetic changes, the colors brighten up the entire yard and lift everyone's spirits. Thanks to Mirna’s hard work, the girls smile just a little bit bigger every time they see their beautiful, safe, inviting home come into view. Just a reminder that you can read Mirna’s blog about her time with Arrive by clicking here, and you can view the girls' house before the new paint by clicking my previous blog post.
Just because it is school break doesn’t mean the work stops for the children here at the KRCH. Running a sustainable farm is no easy task! The daily chores still must get done, but there is undoubtedly an abundance of well-deserved free time for everyone. When my family came out to visit us earlier this year, they bought for the girls here a sewing machine. While the girls already know how to knit, sewing is a useful skill that they can use later in life to find a job, as a hobby, or something in between. The girls are learning to sew using the new machine and are even ripping their old clothes as practice to sew them back together! Because the sewing machine is foot-powered and uses no electricity while teaching the girls a valuable talent, it is a wonderful and ideal Arrive initiative. Soon we may need to buy another machine as our budding tailors can’t seem to get enough of the one we have!
The boys have also found a new hobby, and I must admit, I am not excluded. While the tilapia in the fishpond are growing bigger and bigger, we have turned our attention to the catfish and mudfish in the rivers. From the streets to the streams, the boys have taken Nyaturubo’s rivers by force. Using torn mosquito nets as fishing nets and a worm attached to a hook attached to a string attached to a stick as a rod, we set out to bring home the largest catch. I was taught methods to bait the catfish out of their muddy holes and have gone waist deep in the river on more than one occasion after a heavy rainstorm searching for a big catch. Of course we throw back the small baby fish, but we have caught catfish almost a foot in length! And let me tell you, nothing is sweeter than fried catfish after a day of wading through the river.
The start of summer has brought long days, late nights, and relaxed fun. The kids know that this two-month break will go by fast: starting in January, they’ll be back to school every morning by 6:00am. But I just ripped my shirt (again), and I hear the rhythmic spinning of the sewing machine outside, and I happen to be craving fresh catfish for dinner, and I don’t think anybody here minds that this is only the beginning of what will surely be a fun-filled summer vacation.