The journey unfolds in new ways

It is amazing to review the past 6 months of this journey and reflect on where I am and what is ahead.  It all started when I saw a need–a need for young children in Deep Sea Village to have access to education and early learning opportunities.  It blossomed into an idea to have a 3-4 week camp during the time I had off from work, and it was then watered with the vision of John to have a preschool.  There were bumps and boulders and smooth sailing and pot holes along the way, but throughout the process, I continued to learn…about Kenya, about myself, about areas of need all around the world for young children to have access to education, about how I can best be a steward.  My goal was to help create opportunities for people who wanted something more–my hope is that this goal was met at least on a small scale for the children in Deep Sea during the short time that the school was open.  What comes as a surprise is that this experience has actually created an opportunity for me!

There have been a multitude of wonderful aspects through the course of this endeavor.  I have met amazing people who are doing great things to help others help themselves, there have been conversations that have widened my global view in ways I would never have anticipated, and have been in a position that called me to examine how I can best use my resources to be a steward.  Without having experienced this process, I am not sure that I would have been open to an opportunity that presented itself to me.  I learned of a doctoral program that would allow me to work with a colleague for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration, and which would prepare me to do research and teach in a university setting.  Choosing to apply for this program would shift my immediate focus on the children of Deep Sea to an immediate focus on myself/my education with a longer term focus on how I can invest in the future of other leaders who will have an impact on the lives of children around the globe.

One of the things I learned about myself through the experience of starting the preschool in Deep Sea is that I need to be around people who are passionate, committed, strive for excellence, take action, and are intrinsically motivated.  I thrive in such an environment, and while it may create challenge, it does not create struggle.  I believe that by expanding my knowledge and abilities, I will be able to have a greater impact on more people who touch the lives of children. I have been accepted into the Ph.D. program, and have chosen to undertake this adventure!  As a result, my level of involvement with the children of Deep Sea will, at least for the time being, decrease significantly.  I am so grateful for the incredible support that so many of you have offered through this journey.  Each of you has touched my life!  For those of you who may be interested in continuing the path with a school in Deep Sea, please let me know and I will share the resources that have come my way.  My hope is that each of you will be open to the opportunities that present themselves to you, and that through following your heart you realize the significant contribution you make to the world.

Asanti Sana

Since last month…

The month since I have posted has been full of activity, experiences and opportunities!  I continue to find programs and people who are working to be a part of helping people living in Kenya slums to make desired changes.  The possibility of furthering my studies has become a reality.  Watching “Waiting for Superman” reminds me of the level of need that exists ‘in my own backyard’.  It is a time when I’m realizing the importance of determining how I am best able to be a steward of my resources, and what action will have a meaningful impact.  There are times when I feel that I am closer to knowing, and times when the answer is more elusive.  Finding the balance of preparation and action is a learning experience!  Thank you to everyone who continues to support this process both directly and indirectly!

So many amazing people!

The last few weeks have been busy as I have connected with numerous people who are interested in being a part of my vision.  What an experience it has been!  It is delightful to meet so many people who are dedicated to sharing themselves in a way that creates opportunities for others to make a better future for themselves. 

One of the aspects that has come to the forefront for me to explore is stewardship in my community as compared to stewardship around the world.  My initial thoughts related to the many services that are already in place in the US vs the lack of resources in developing countries.  My goal is not to change the infrastructure of what exists, but to empower the individuals in the community to advocate for themselves.  That need exists around the world–including in the US.  Another aspect that was presented to me relates to the type of resources that are needed in the US as compared to developing countries.  It was suggested that in developing countries, less money is needed, but that time goes farther in the US.  As I am not privy to the experience of being independently wealthy, the idea of being able to fully utilize the financial resources I do have is one that I appreciate.  At the same time, there were many times in Africa when I felt that I was viewed as a magic cash machine.  It feels counter-productive to foster an attitude of ‘hand outs’ without any personal investment from the receipent…it seems quite the opposite of empowerment/self-sufficiency.

So, where does all of this leave me and my vision?  My vision remains, and at this point, I feel a need to do a bit more research.  I would like for the efforts I make in actualizing my vision to have the maximum impact, and to ensure, to the extent possible, the sustainability of the project.  The area that I am researching right now is whether to focus on children who have disabilities or those who are typically developing.  I have learned a great deal about the status of specialized services in developing countries.  As a speech-language pathologist, it has been rather heart breaking to learn about the lives that these children experience.  It is certainly an area of significant need.  For my efforts to be maximized in this area, my preference would be to work with the people in the community who are providing services to these children.  I have met a number of people, and found several organizations where this is a possibility.  In April, I will have an opportunity to meet with the individuals, and see how the organizations operate.  There are many places that were developed as a way of empowering people, but through design actually oppress them.  This is different from what I hope to accomplish.

As I get to know the people and programs, I will post about them.  If you have thoughts or suggestions, please pass them along.  It has been through ‘word of mouth’ that I have had the chance to meet so many of the amazing people who are on a path that is similar to mine.  The ways are numerous, but I have found with certainty that one person really can make a difference.

Refining my vision

It has been just over a month that I’ve been back from Africa, and that time has been filled with wonderful new people, lots of new information, important conversations, and a great deal of contemplation.  One of the most important conversations that I’ve had with a number of people relates to the way Lotus benefits the children…how it provides a service that is different from what is already available to them.  After much consideration, it appears that the primary benefit to the families is that they did not need to provide a birth certificate in order for their child to attend school.  With a birth certificate, the children would be able to attend a variety of other schools that are better equipped to provide a healthy learning environment. 

This realization helped me to clarify the skills and experience I am most able to share with the children.  Within the context of early childhood education, literacy, language/communication, and intrinsic motivation are the areas that I believe are most important in creating life-long opportunities.  The philosophy that most resonates with me is a developmental, relationship-based, and active engagement approach.  I believe that developing a program that centers around these aspects would be of much greater service to children, even those who have a birth certificate!

While I have clarified my vision, the team in Africa came to some realizations also.  They have determined that they are not ready to undertake this project, and have chosen to close the school.  While the email I received informing me of this decision was very disappointing, it also presents an opportunity to bring together a team that shares not only a common vision, but a similar purpose in manifesting an excellent learning center for children who live in Deep Sea. 

I’ve started the process of connecting with people in Kenya who are potential new team members.  It will be much easier once I am back in April, so my efforts here are focused on developing training to ensure that those who are interested in being active team members are able to maintain the program.

I continue to feel blessed by the support and encouragement that so many of you offer!  Thank you for continuing to be a part of this journey!

A New Friend

This weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting Donna, who works with Cheer for Children.  She had many wonderful items to donate to the Pre-School, and clearly has a big impact on our local community.  I felt a special connection when she mentioned her love of elephants, and asked the question…what would I be able to do if I went to Africa.  I wondered the same thing!  My friends were certain that I when I went to Africa, I would stay there, sleeping with the elephants!  Little did I know how things would unfold as a need presented itself to me, and I felt a call to fill it.  If you wonder…what can I do…I encourage you to be open, and you will find out!

Meet our students

Meet our students!  As you will see, we have a full range of ages!  Some of the children have sponsors, but most do not.  Are you able to help?  Fifteen dollars per month will ensure that the child is able to continue to participate in the program.  This includes important medical care that they would not otherwise be able to receive.  Any  support you are able to provide is greatly appreciated!

Jackline

Kelvin

Marion

Martha

Mary

Melvin

Milka

Morris

Musyoka

Nickson

Dennis

Esther

Ann

Brian

Hellen

Teacher for a Day

Teacher Winnie will be out for a time, due to illness, and in her absence, our Co-Director, Ruth stepped in as teacher!  Ruth was also able to speak with another teacher who will be a substitute while Winnie recovers.  Extra prayers and blessings are appreciated!