Starfish

kyalo

I have to share a photo of this kid. He makes my heart smile. His name is Mwongela Kyalo, and he is in Class 1 (first grade) at New Hope Academy. His Dad works as the school caretaker and he has 3 siblings in the school as well.

This summer I noticed a child playing off to the side, away from other kids and appeared to be very sad. At closer look, he seemed very small and quite honestly, malnourished. Teacher Nelson was standing close by, so I asked him about this kid. It was Mwongela. He had recently been admitted to the school since his Dad had recently been hired to work at the school. I was very concerned from his physical appearance and the fact he was by himself and not interacting with the other kids.

As I talked to Teacher Nelson and then inquired a little more about his home life, I discovered that his Dad is a single parent providing for 4 primary school children by himself. Head Teacher, Festus, decided we could offer some additional support to the family through contributing staple foods and a cooking oven.

Now, as you see in the above photo, Mwongela has been in the school for about 4 months and is doing much better. He is healthy and he has friends. I continue to find him on the playground with a huge smile on his face and many kids around him playing.

New Hope Initiative impacts hundreds of children and families around the world. But the reality is that the work is really about individuals. Changing lives. Seeing people grow. Providing support for individuals to be the person God created them to be.

Pray for Mwongela. He still has a long way to go. And, life is very uncertain and fragile. But, God cares for him and New Hope Academy has given him hope for the future.

starfish

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Proud Mama

Steven

In July of 2014, I began telling you about a certain boy named Steven. I originally met him when New Hope Initiative hosted a one-day community medical clinic at our school in Kibera. He was 6 years old at the time and came to the clinic alone, because he had an infected bump on his head. Well, it turns out the “bump” was from a car accident a few weeks prior. He had been playing in the street near Kibera and got hit by a car. He was lucky to survive. The local staff and neighbors named him “the survivor”.

To say the least, he is living up to his name. After our first meeting, I prayed that I would see him again and be able to get to know him better. Sure enough, I spotted him the next week playing in the slum alone. After several meetings, I learned that he was not in school, because his mother could not pay school fees. I asked our Head Teacher, Festus, if we could take him at New Hope Academy. Festus agreed and Steven was enrolled in our pre-unit class July 2014 with the help of a generous donor in the States that agreed to sponsor him.

Because he had not been in school, we learned quickly that Steven was behind academically. His teacher recommended that he be held back and the school leadership decided that was best for Steven. So, at the beginning of 2015, he started pre-unit again. Pre-unit is the equivalent to kindergarten in the United States.

Kenyan schools give examinations to the students regularly to track their progress. At the beginning of 2015, Steven scored 52% on his class exam. It was a very poor score and we all began to worry if he could keep up and stay motivated to remain in our school. His teacher, Rosemary, agreed to stay late everyday and to tutor Steven to help him catch up. After much hard work on both Steven and Rosemary’s part, Steven scored 84% on his most recent exam! What an improvement!!

Today, I talked to our Academic Director, Ken, as well as Rosemary to ask them their thoughts and observations about Steven. Ken said, “We have seen great improvement in Steven. He is catching up and we are seeing changes. We have hope for him and believe he will be in Class 1 next year!” Teacher Rosemary reflected on his arrival, “From the time he came to New Hope Academy, he was totally bad. But now, his character is better. He is not stubborn any more. He is disciplined now and a nice boy. And, next year, he will join Class 1!”

Can you tell they are excited about his promotion to Class 1?

I was very happy to hear Ken and Rosemary’s comments. To hear that New Hope Academy has not only helped Steven academically but also helped him grow his character is such a blessing. I think it reflects the goals and vision of the school to not only educate kids but also to grow their character through the teaching of God’s word and by showing them the love of Christ.

Please continue to pray for Steven and his academic progress. Also pray for Ken and Rosemary and the rest of the teaching staff as they work hard to help these kids learn and grow to become the next generation of Kenyan leaders!

He may have been behind in academics and character but never in popularity.

He may have been behind in academics and character but never in popularity.

Steven says he has two mamas - his Kenyan Mama (left) and his Mzungu Mama (right).

Steven says he has two mamas – his Kenyan Mama (left) and his Mzungu Mama (right).

More bunk beds, more visitors, more grace

Now, I’m up to 3 sets of bunk beds. I am hosting a second team and have a full house. In addition to the team I am hosting from Detroit, we have another team from Houston here bringing our current total visitors to 45. The Detroit team is hosting a day camp for our lower class students and the Houston team is leading a sports camp with the upper class students. The kids are having a blast. And, we are maxing out every restaurant in Nairobi!

With the extra visitors comes lots of logistical challenges and coordination. Our founder, Sandy Baird, is a whiz at the logistics and some how he always gets people where they are suppose to be at the right time. For me, it’s a bit exhausting. I love the visitors and it’s so much fun meeting new people and showing them the work of New Hope Kibera, but it does require an extra dose of grace.

A couple of weeks ago, after hosting our first round of visitors, I was sharing with our Biashara Director, Scola, that I was struggling a little, mostly just tired and lacking patience. Scola is such a godly woman. She listened to me with understanding and just said, “Lauren, God’s grace is sufficient for you.”

What a reminder! She is right. Sometimes I don’t believe it and many times I try to rely on my own grace to get me through the day. I try on my own to bring peace and patience into my life and my daily struggles, but the reality is that I can do NOTHING on my own.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Our team members are always interesting to our kids...

Team members are always interesting to our kids…

Our kids love when visitors come because they get to take a break from school work and have fun!

Our kids love when visitors come because they get to take a break from school work and have fun!

Team member, Erma, encouraging our teachers.

Team member, Erma, encouraging our teachers.

My Favorite Kenyan

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I know, I shouldn’t say who my favorite is, but if you knew Festus, you would agree. Festus Muendo is the Head Teacher at New Hope Academy, the primary school that NHI supports in Kibera. Festus is not only a great educator, he cares deeply about people, and he loves to laugh. If you know me, you know the laughter part is probably what draws me to him.
Festus is the local NHI leader that I work with the most. He works tirelessly and is always striving to better himself as a leader and better the school and NHI projects for the good of the people. I thought I’d let him tell you about himself and his leadership through a short interview I conducted with him last week.
Q: How long have you worked for NHI and what position did you start in?
I have worked at the school for 10 years. At that time, it was called Bible Baptist. I was hired as the class 3 teacher when Pastor Simon learned I had taught Sunday School. The school was smaller then, I only had 23 students in my class. The facilities were poor, classrooms were very much squeezed. We had buildings made of mud walls and there was no playground – just a path to move from one class to another. Teachers were not trained.
Q: Why did you become a teacher?
I had the passion for the kids.
 
Q: Who has been the most influential leader in your life and why?
Personally, my mother has had the greatest influence in my life. She taught me how to fear God and gave me a spiritual foundation. 
Professionally, Sandy and Karen Baird and their family have influenced my leadership by giving order and structure to our projects and teaching me how to better support our projects, staff and students. Also, Chris Gitonga has influenced my leadership in operations and making things better. Chris is always striving for improvement of our facilities and projects. Lauren has influenced my management style at the school. And, Pastor Simon has been a big influence on spiritual matters in my life.
 
Q: How do you define leadership?
To me, leadership is being able to convince people who are not willing to follow you, to follow you. If no one is following you, you are not a leader. It is also being a servant to many. 
Q: What are your hopes and dreams for New Hope Academy?
My dream for NHA is to see 100% of our students pass the KCPE and go onto high school. I would like for New Hope Academy to expand one day and provide high school for our students. Ultimately, I hope these students will return to serve Kibera in the future and become examples of leadership to their community. My big dream is for 2000 students from New Hope Academy to get scholarships and complete college.
Q: Anything else you want to tell my blog readers?
Thank you to our NHI sponsors and all those who support New Hope financially and on the ground. I would love to see more people come help us here in Kenya like Lauren. We are very happy and grateful for the support we receive. Your ministry is real and you are touching lives in Kibera and through that, many people are being blessed.
Festus and his teaching staff at New Hope Academy

Festus and his teaching staff at New Hope Academy