This week we’re launching our #BacktoSchoolCampaign. As the end of July rolls around, most families are shopping for school supplies and new clothes. There’s the supply lists at every major shopping store of all the things your kiddo needs (think Clorox wipes, endless glue sticks, and white board markers). And while it looks quite different, we’re also headed back to school here. Surprisingly, the Kenyan schedule has only given us 1 week off before we start again, but we’re excited to begin again.
What’s it like to start and run a school from the ground up? Maybe that’s a question you’re wondering, and certainly, people from home have lots of questions about how things are running here in Kenya. We’ve been here 10 months, and it’s been a whirlwind. First there were the endless days of construction: sand delivery, designing windows and doors, choosing roofing, monitoring every stone that was laid. The building process was a bit exhausting in itself, and we literally sent the last construction crew home 2 days before we opened. After training the teachers for 3 weeks on these new ways to teach, we opened on May 10. When the bus load of students pulled up, I was excited that finally, this vision was coming to fruition. But when I stepped on the bus to greet everyone, unexpectedly all the kids looked tired, scared, and overwhelmed. So in the midst of trying to jump into a literacy-based learning style, we had to start with the basics: getting the kids to feel safe, cared for, and loved.
Above all, they needed that reassurance and to know God’s love for them.
Fortunately, we have a great staff of people that have encouraged and prayed and sang. We’ve had chapels and devotions and crafting. In an effort to curb homesickness, I’ve made and served tea on my front porch late at night and my mom and I did our best attempt at giving pedicures using bright purple, cheap nail polish that brought rich smiles. And somewhere in the middle of math lessons, sushi rolling, magazine collaging and learning Google, I do believe we started to turn a big corner. As I reflected back last week, I realized that none of the kids had any major illness while they were here, and none of the boarding kids missed any days of school. This was the first time most of the children were consistently eating 3 meals a day complete with fruits and vegetables. And it was the first time some of them had their own bed and a warm place to sleep. With all of these basic needs met, it’s logical to see why their confidence was developing so much. We watched on the last day as they gave final project presentations, and laughed at how much they grilled each other with questions. But just as assuring was the way the kids confidently answered back. The parents have been skeptical of our new way of learning, but when they watched the presentations, they were impressed. And when I shared with the kindergarten parents the data on their kids growth (the way many kids went from knowing 2 sounds upon arrival to 22 sounds on the last day, people starting clapping). Maybe all these things sound trivial, but I can assure you it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal that everyone in our school can write their name and the way that all the older girls can knit. It’s a big deal that 8 kids had the experience of eating their first garden salad. All the mundane things that you probably take for granted are literally making a huge impact.
I know that the last term is just the beginning, and I hope you’ll join me for the next chapter. Our goal these next 3 weeks is to add 30 advocates to our Child Advocate Program.
30 ADVOCATES in 3 WEEKS !
An advocate is a cheerleader—someone who is rooting and praying for the success of a child at our school. Your prayers, letters, and financial support can make all the difference in the life of a child. When children personally have an advocate to write to, they work harder. the experience means something to them because they have accountability, and they feel loved. If you break down the cost, it’s only $1.50-2.50 per day that you’re giving that can change the outlook. One staff member wrote me a letter saying, “this is a golden opportunity” for the children. We hope you’ll join us in making this opportunity possible.
Check out our Back to School Campaign here and consider becoming a child advocate or donating to finish our preschool classroom for our incoming class.
Thanks for your support here at Grain of Rice Project and our school, Grain of Rice Academy.