Please visit our website, writearoundtheworld.org for the continuation of our blog posts. This site is no longer in use. 

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WATW in the Press!

Thank you BMW ON for publishing our story…

Click here to see the article

 

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Van Rebuild in Kenya

I recently received some horrific news from Kenya.

Last month a man came into the schoolhouse alerting the teacher that one of her young students was sleeping alongside the road nearby. Running, the man took the teacher to the child. The child was not sleeping but had died on her way to school.

Many of the children that attend Life Spring Academy are required to walk as far as two-miles to attend school. If they are lucky, a parent or older sibling accompanies them, but too many times they are left on their own. For most, if they do not make it to school then they also do not eat for the day. This particular child had not been to school for the past few weeks. The police researching the matter later learned that the father had recently abandoned the family and the mother became overwhelmed. The child died of malnourishment.

It has been on WATW’s list to repair the school’s broken down minivan, but we were waiting until we had enough funds to complete a thorough rebuild. The van is used as a school bus to collect the children living in the outer areas. This way the children not only have a safe and reliable way to and from school, but the teachers have a more consistent way of keeping tabs on the children (a teacher will always ride in the van during all routes).

After hearing the tragic news WATW decided to move forward with the van repair. With some last minute donations from WATW board members, we were able to get the mechanics started on a complete rebuild for $1,000. The only thing lacking now is a set of desperately needed new tires ($500).

Here are some photos of the rebuild process:

The new engine is ready to go!

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Bolivia Update

It is with great sadness that I announce our disassociation with Bolivian partner, Centro Educativo Ñanta. Due to the current administration of the project in Bolivia we simply cannot continue to work with them. While I was there in Sucre I could always pay for services or products directly, i.e., if we were sponsoring the dental program then I could pay the dentist directly, if will were helping with the food program then I could go shopping in the market myself. We I left the area in May 2011 we were still able fund some projects by getting money to other NGOs that we had worked with and trusted or individuals that we could trust and that would always provide us with receipts. However, the current management has chased away all of these good people leaving us with no trustworthy connection to the children.

I spent a year with these children and grew to love them. It was a beautiful project that was really making a difference in the lives of the working street children there. I hope things change or we can find a similar project to redirect the children to, but for the time being, the trust is no longer there.

With a heavy heart,

Mike

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The Decision to Help

Whenever Write Around the World decides to take on a new project, the board members and I scrutinize the prospect as thoroughly as possible. Acceptance of a project means we are committing to that project for as long as we are an entity (or as long as the host project can maintain accountability and trustworthiness).

After my experience in Kenya, I knew I wanted to help. I felt it was a near-perfect fit for WATW with critical criteria already in place:

  • It was a quality educational project in an area of extreme poverty
  • It had a trustworthy and caring local director who was fully committed to the project
  • There was a cost-effective and reliable means of getting money and goods to the project

However, there was one obstacle. During the formation of the WATW organization we had written into our original bylaws that we would not become involved with a project that was operated by a government or church entity. We simply did not want to become affiliated with anyone’s doctrine or dogma. Life Spring Academy is connected to Alex’s church and his church is part of a larger African organization called Life Spring Ministries.

Discussions with the board of directors ensued and I tried to communicate through photos and video what I had seen in Webuye. We all realized how crucial the work of Alex and Florence was to the area and we simply could not look away, but it was also important that we stay true to our roots. This school project was changing the lives of many young Kenyans, but its survival was hanging by a thread.

Discussions continued and a meeting with the Life Spring Ministry representatives in Seattle was scheduled.  In the end, our decision was to establish a sponsorship for Life Spring Academy – this one, specific, educational component of Life Spring Ministries.  The limit of our support will be to the school and the betterment of its students.

The children write their assignments on the floor in February, during my visit.

The April rains soak the floor of the school. Over twenty children become infected with malaria, many requiring hospitalization.

Our immediate goal is to raise funds for a safer and healthier school building. At the time of this writing, it is the rainy season in Kenya and the rains are soaking the dirt floor in the schoolhouse. Not only can the children no longer write on the floor, but 22 of the children have been infected with malaria, and many have needed hospitalization.

We feel this project is providing a critical service to its community and is highly worthy of our support. If you would like to help or learn more about Project Kenya, please contact us.

(Video introduction of Life Spring Academy)

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Life Spring Academy

While in Zambia I received an email from Seattle. The sender was Mary, a friend of a friend, who was aware of my travels. Her email suggested that if I was going to be in Kenya, I should look up some new friends of hers.

A couple of months later, I found myself in Kenya needing to send my passport back home in order to get a visa for Ethiopia. I would have an extra two-weeks to spend in Kenya while I waited for the return of the passport. I had since contacted her friends and was indeed invited to visit their home.

The route west from Nairobi was beautiful, driving along the Great Rift Valley passing Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru, and later the equator. I had since learned that Alex was a bishop in the region and oversaw several churches and his wife Florence was a pastor. The prior year they had received a grant to travel to Seattle, in order to visit some churches and supporters there. This is when Mary, had first met them.

I was graciously welcomed by Bishop Alex and Pastor Florence and invited into their home. Because their house is so small, I checked into a local guesthouse.

The next day we toured the small town of Webuye.  It was beautiful country, but obviously an extremely poor area. The local paper mill that once employed hundreds had shut down years ago, and not much support was coming in from the Kenyan government.

We later took the red dirt roads outside of town in 100-degree heat to the village of Nangili. We passed many people walking or riding bicycles along the edge of the road doing their best to cope with the dust. The village is comprised of a scattering of small mud houses and tiny shops, without running water or electricity. We stopped at Alex and Florence’s church, which was situated on a grassy corner lot. The church was a simple, but proud cement structure that could house several hundred people during Sunday service and other functions during the week. Most of the funding for the church’s construction came from supporters in Seattle. Adjacent to the cement building was a tin roofed structure, framed in wood and covered in plastic sheeting. There was a lot of noise coming from inside, so I asked what was going on in there…

Bishop Alex explained to me that the temporary structure was originally used for Sunday services, while the new church was being built. Recently, they had begun using the structure as a school for the local children, who could not afford to attend the public schools. He went on to tell me how he had never intended on opening a school, but the demand in the area was so high that it could not be helped. Due to the high annual school fees of the overcrowded government schools, many of the local parents cannot send their children to school. If the children do not arrive to the government schools in the right uniforms, with their books and supplies paid for, they are sent out to the streets in order to make way for children who can pay. It is simply an unjust and uncaring system.

Without any kind of budget for the school, the project took off organically. The kids started coming, a teacher soon volunteered and parents donated some food at harvest time to help feed the children. More and more children arrived, and soon there were over 60-children coming every day to the plastic-skinned schoolhouse to learn. (22 of the 62-children attending are orphans in the care of relatives.)

The one-room school is split up into three sections; “baby class” (preschool), first grade and second grade. The dirt-floored room is sparsely furnished with some wooden benches and one small blackboard. The curriculum follows the Kenyan public school standards and is focused on preparing children for the third grade and beyond. Religious instruction is restricted to classes only mandated by the government.

Bishop Alex and Pastor Florence

I spent much of the week at the school, learning more about the work of Bishop Alex and Pastor Florence. I witnessed, first hand, all the good they are doing for their community and how much of their own lives they sacrifice in order to help their less fortunate neighbors. I also learned of the incredible burden they are up against.

After a week with Alex and Florence, I took a trip up to Lake Turkana for a week. When I returned, I was shocked to hear that three children of the area had died while I was gone. Hearing the news sickened me and made me feel incredibly naïve.  The children did not attend any school and had been left home alone to fend for themselves.  They had simply succumbed to the forces that overwhelmed them. Suddenly, all the schools in the area took on a new importance for me – it was a way to account for the children and to care for them.

Needless to say, it was emotional trip for me and an experience that brought me a bit closer to the extreme poverty that exists in Africa. Riding back to Nairobi to collect my passport and continue my travels north, I could not stop thinking about all the little children I had come to love and care for.  And I wondered what to do next.

(Video of my visit to Life Spring Academy)

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Secret Garden is at it Again!

 There was an amazing turnout April 30th for the Secret Garden preschool “dessert dash”. The annual fundraiser raised over $700 for our WATW’s sponsored preschool in Pacamache Guatemala!  This brings Secret Garden’s school year fundraising total to over $1500!

“It was energizing to see such strong support from the parents!”, reported WATW board member, Catherine Koenig.

Way to go Secret Garden!

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