Introducing Mwanzo Catering Service and Her Staff

A year ago, Mwanzo received a gift from a long-time donor organization, with the intention of supporting women from Rabuor Village in establishing a catering service that could serve the community while generating income for employees.  Community members researched options to purchase catering equipment along with a tent.   Below are several pictures capturing the items purchased and owner-employees of the Mwanzo Catering Service.

In Luo culture, catering for guests at funerals, weddings, and other events is important.  In the past, residents of Rabuor and surrounding communities hired outside businesses to cater events.  With the founding of our Mwanzo Catering Service, local residents are now receiving income from their work that supports households and strengthens their community.

To give you an idea of the success of this locally-identified and local-run enterprise, during the month of September 2018 our employees were hired to cater events on every weekend.  Staff work extremely hard to prepare and serve homemade food.  There’s a lot of effort required to pull off a successful event!

§  Negotiating what is needed for the catering and price/cost of service, which typically depends on the number tables/people.

§  Prep work including washing the tents and cleaning chairs.

§  Employees wash their catering uniform and dishes.

§  Employees hire transport to take the tents, chairs, tables and various catering items to the location — this is mostly done the evening before the event.  One or two staff travel to the site along with the materials.

§  Staff sleeps overnight and prepares food for the guests.  At times they are hired to cook an evening meal for guests and lunch the following day. 

§  Then they hire the truck to take their stuff back to the storage space in Rabuor.

On average, our enterprise earns $300 for the two days of work required.  Part of this money is paid out as earned wages, and part is saved to allow Mwanzo Catering Service to purchase additional supplies and materials:  dishes, utensils, chairs, plates, cups, and so on.

In the next months, Mwanzo is thrilled to be able to provide additional funds to expand opportunities for Mwanzo Catering Service and her employees to grow.  We thank the UCUCC Superfluity organization for their generous support!

Below are some of the women and men who are Mwanzo Catering Service

 Our Proud Employees and “Owners”

Our Proud Employees and “Owners”

 Preparing Food the Night Before the Catered Event

Preparing Food the Night Before the Catered Event

 One of Our Stoves

One of Our Stoves

 Arrival of Catering Supplies

Arrival of Catering Supplies

 Proud Employees!

Proud Employees!

Mwanzo Education Center Tour - 2018!

For the past years, Mwanzo has taken a portion of our school student body on an annual field trip.  We do this because it opens their eyes to the larger world and the possibilities that new places, new sights, and new learning offer!  In past years, we have visited Lake Victoria and a wildlife park; our students, teachers, and parent escorts always return with stories of discovery.

In July 2018, in response to popular demand from our students, Mwanzo rented a bus and returned to the Kisumu airport (approximately 20 miles from Rabuor Village).  During the day tour, our students enjoyed a special lunch to sustain themselves as they watched airplanes take off and land safely.  And we also found time to see the wonders in the Natural History Museum.

Your gifts allow Mwanzo to support our beloved students, both in body and in spirit.  We hope you enjoy the photographs that capture a taste of the fun all experienced!  

 Arriving at the Kisumu Airport

Arriving at the Kisumu Airport

 So This is Where People Go to Fly!

So This is Where People Go to Fly!

 We Saw Planes - Is it Lunchtime Yet?

We Saw Planes - Is it Lunchtime Yet?

 Looks Delicious - Now We've Got Energy for the Afternoon!

Looks Delicious - Now We've Got Energy for the Afternoon!

 Learning About our Culture and History

Learning About our Culture and History

 It's a Big, Wide World

It's a Big, Wide World

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Celebrating our Preschoolers!

On June 13, 2018, a number of our younger children attending Early Childhood Development classes at Mwanzo Education Center participated in the zonal (district) cultural competition at the Maseno School for the Deaf.  Nineteen other schools from this area of Nyanza Province joined our kids in a friendly competition to demonstrate their singing, dancing, and story-telling skills.  

The day began with children and teachers departing for Maseno via rental bus.  Both young and old were excited about the opportunity to display their self-made costumes, and share their school pride with the other schools and competition judges.  

After a long, exhausting day we received the judges' results:  Three First-Place certificates for our children! I happened to be visiting Loyce, our Executive Director, at lunchtime on June 13th, and spoke by phone with our Headteacher, Margaret Otieno, who had just arrived back in Rabuor with the children.  In the excitement and pride of the moment, it was hard to speak and to listen.

We are so proud of our schoolchildren, our teachers, school staff, and parents who devoted time to making the outfits worn during the competition.  The below pictures convey some of the joy of the day.

Thank you for caring about our schoolchildren, and shrinking our world just a bit by affirming the beautiful humanity of the residents of the 12 communities who say "Erokomano" for your part in creating "New Beginnings" (Mwanzo) and ensuring that "Hope Has a Home Here!"

Mark Peterson

Celebrating our Schoolchildren
First Place in Creative Dance
A Young Lion Takes the Stage
African Singing Certificate

The Gift of Laughter and Smiles - Mwanzo's Schoolchildren at Play

Loyce and the Mwanzo Board are thrilled to share on our Facebook page a recent video of our schoolchildren at the Mwanzo Education Center in Rabuor, Kenya, sent  by our building contractor, Patroba.  To access the Facebook page, copy/paste the below link into your Internet address field:

www.facebook.com/mwanzoproudfarmers/ 

What a joy to see and hear youngsters at play!

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Our Deepest Thank You to All Members of the Mwanzo Family - Here and There!

On behalf of Loyce and our Mwanzo Board of Trustees, I share my deepest gratitude to the UCUCC community, which during the April 2018 "Special Offering" gifted funds to Mwanzo. This profound expression of support for our work in Kenya means so much:  that UCUCC members believe in this labor of love as an expression of our Faith in Christ and solidarity with others; that Mwanzo will continue to move closer to completing our primary school; and that your helping hand results in hope and opportunity for the residents in Rabuor and her 11 surrounding communities.

I also want to recognize other Friends of Mwanzo, both within and outside of the UCUCC family, who during the March - May 2018 period donated funds to support our work.  We are deeply grateful to each of you!

Finally, I am honored to say a special "Bless You" to our partners in Kenya, the people who are the reason why Mwanzo was founded in 2011.  Everyday our teachers, school and administrative staff, members of Mwanzo Energetic Proud Farmers, and many others are taking our gifts and turning them into hope, opportunity, and services that benefit so many.

Sometimes this is nothing more important than saying to others:  We Care, You Matter to Us, We Walk Different Roads Together.  

Thanks to you, our voice is stronger as we proclaim joyfully:  "Mwanzo - Hope Has a Home Here!"

Blessings to you.

Mark Peterson
Chair, Mwanzo Board
www.mwanzo.org
Facebook: Mwanzo Proud Farmers
(206) 930-3394
mark@mwanzo.org
 

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A Flowering School

One of the most hopeful and inspiring outcomes of our growing Mwanzo Education Center in Rabuor, Kenya, is seeing the students and teachers come together to broaden educational opportunities!  Earlier in 2018 Mwanzo shared the story of primary class students re-instituting an old practice of electing class leaders, through secret ballot, for each grade as well as a Student Body President.  One of our student leaders, Tasha, was chosen through this process to represent the Grades 1-4 classes.

In the past several weeks, our outstanding staff responded to this "challenge" by establishing committees - each headed by one or more of our teachers - to expand the students' extra-curricular activities, and support each other in their professional growth as mentors and teachers.  Specifically, our schoolteachers are leading the efforts in the following areas:

(1) creating a "Scouting Program" for students;

(2) instituting a "Teachers' Welfare, Guidance, and Counseling" service to support our school staff;

(3) establishing a "Debate Club";

(4) implementing a "Health and Sanitation" program to ensure the best health of our students;

(5) developing a "Games and Sport" program to provide regular physical exercise for students; and,

(7) opening a school library.

These collaborative efforts bring a big smile to our faces, because they represent a holistic effort to educate our preschoolers and primary students in both mind and body. They also strengthen the school and its connection to the community and wider world in ways too many to note!

The Mwanzo Board thanks you for your steadfast support and giving of gifts. 

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Please Join Us on March 25th and April 8th!

Come One, Come All!

Mwanzo’s (www.mwanzo.org and “Mwanzo Proud Farmers” on Facebook) founder, executive director, and our dear friend, Loyce Ong’udi, has returned to Seattle after three and a half months of fruitful work in Rabuor, Kenya.  On Loyce’s behalf, the Mwanzo Board invites you to attend one of two presentations on March 25th and April 8th from 11:45-1:00 in Ostrander Hall at University Congregational United Church of Christ (UCUCC), located at 4515 16th Avenue NE Seattle, WA 98105).  Loyce will be sharing stories that will touch your heart, and cover Mwanzo’s plans for the next 2-5 years.

Please bring family members, including children, and friends to Ostrander Hall, located in the basement of UCUCC.  We will serve light refreshments (juice, cookies, crackers, fruit, and mini-sandwiches) to feed the body so that you hear the powerful message of hope and opportunity engendered by Loyce’s work in partnership with the residents of Rabuor - her home village - and the nearby communities that benefit from your support.

 New Water Cisterns

New Water Cisterns

 Construction on the 2nd Story Progresses!

Construction on the 2nd Story Progresses!

 The School Takes Shape Indeed!

The School Takes Shape Indeed!

 A Catering Business Begins

A Catering Business Begins

We're Busy Indeed!

We are in the sixth week of our 2018 school year!  Our new teachers, Alphone and Mika, are settling in, and personally I can see improvements to the general day-to-day MEC operations. Our biggest challenge is finding sufficient staff office space; right now, several teachers use the shaded space under a tree to meet and discuss school plans.

The ongoing construction - though a big distraction to the students - proceeds quickly, with the installation of classroom doors and windows on the second story.  We are grateful that so far no student has come into any harm -- thanks to the orderliness of all our staff and the contractor’s team.   

It is heartwarming to watch the new student leaders take charge during the week, especially when serving the little ones during lunch breaks.  This past week, Grade 4 lead the assembly in close tandem with grade 3.  They sang Kenya’s national anthem with so much gusto – off tune at times, but the words “…may we dwell in unity, peace and liberty…” rang true for all.

Last week, I met with individuals who may be partners in an effort to address the community water problems.  Additionally, Mwanzo sponsored agriculture training led by officials from the Ministry of Agriculture for close to 100 farmers in Rabuor.

We are pleased too with the ongoing progress with a new catering business that several community members are establishing.  

Thank you from the bottom of our heart for the support that allows us to walk hand-in-hand with community members in generating new opportunities and possibilities.  I look forward to sharing these stories of accomplishment with you in person in March.

Erokomano,

 

Loyce Ong'udi

 Sorting Eggs

Sorting Eggs

 Loyce Leading a PTA Meeting

Loyce Leading a PTA Meeting

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A Fast Start to 2018

January marks "Mwanzo" (New Beginnings) in many ways.  For our preschool and primary students, it is the start of the school year.  And we certainly celebrated big this year, with the addition of a new teacher and class (Grade 4) at the Mwanzo Education Center.  

While the teachers and students enjoyed the December break, activity on the school compound continued at an unbelievable pace - both with the construction of the second story of the primary school, and with our water project.  Exterior walls on the second floor are finished, as is the new roof which is allowing us to build a comprehensive water capture/retention system.  

Since November 2017, everyday many workers have toiled heroically in digging the underground space for our 4 new 10,000 liter cisterns, which will provide our students, teachers, and limited numbers of community residents a more reliable and safe source of water.  Loyce and the Board hope you sense the great joy in the below pictures of hard work and wonderous accomplishment.

Another surprise that brings us to tears:  Our primary school students on the own got together and decided to elect a Class President and grade monitors.  This was a tradition of children's education in Luo society, which "disappeared" for many years.  Imagine the joy of seeing our young students restoring this practice, and with it the dignity of tradition.  You may remember hearing about one of our brightest students, Natasha, who lost her grandmother - her caretaker - in 2017.  Natasha, our bright star, was elected Class President for the 2018 School Year!

The below pictures surely convey the empowering hope that our students and adults are building through impactful change.  

From the bottom of our hearts, I thank you for your support to and solidarity with the residents of Rabuor Village and the 11 nearby communities, who benefit from your gifts of the heart!

Liz Gilbert, Margaux Kendall, Terry Moore, Loyce Ong'udi, and Mark Peterson (Board) 

 Loyce and her Friend

Loyce and her Friend

 Exercise for All

Exercise for All

 Lowering a Water Cistern into its New Home

Lowering a Water Cistern into its New Home

 Now the Rain Needs to Come

Now the Rain Needs to Come

 Our Second Story Takes Shape

Our Second Story Takes Shape

 Building a Catering Busienss - Beginning Steps

Building a Catering Busienss - Beginning Steps

 Kids and Popsicles - A Match Made in Heaven!

Kids and Popsicles - A Match Made in Heaven!

Meet Janet Andar!

Janet Andar is one of Mwanzo's greatest resources on the ground.  She has been for many years a critical leader in establishing, facilitating, and expanding the women's groups active in Rabuor Village and nearby communities.  Additionally, Janet has been involved in implementing the micro-finance/savings and loan associations that bring together over 300 women to assist each other in (1) providing loans as well as (2) acting as a community "bank."

Janet is a widow raising 5 children, from preschool age to 21 years.  Her two youngest children attend our Mwanzo Education Center.  Janet is also active in Mwanzo's chicken coop prototype, which aims to improve nutrition and provide additional cash to households.

In spite of the daily challenges in raising a family, Janet manages to inspire her friends with her giving to the Rabuor community.  Two weeks ago Loyce and several women leaders paid Janet a surprise visit and presented her with a solar lantern as a gesture of our admiration and thanks for her inspirational leadership.

As we celebrate this holiday season, please keep Janet Andar and our many partners in Kenya in your thoughts and prayers.  And thank you for your gifts which allow Mwanzo to plant seeds of hope and opportunity.

Enjoy the pictures!

 Janet Andar with Loyce

Janet Andar with Loyce

 Loyce Bearing Gifts - Janet is in Blue Headdress

Loyce Bearing Gifts - Janet is in Blue Headdress

 A Solar Lantern!

A Solar Lantern!

Graduation and Year-end Thanks

On November 16, 2017 parents, students, teachers, and community members celebrated the graduation of another class! It was a day full of gratitude and joyful communal activities.  This year, in addition to the dancing and singing, Mwanzo hired cooks to prepare food.  We were so pleased that we were able to offer food to all.  As always, parents and staff at our Mwanzo Education Center volunteered their time to clean the school and compound before the formal ceremony.

We are amazed at the progress being made with construction of our second story at the primary school (see photos).  The exterior walls are in place, and in just the past week the roof has been put in place.  Before our eyes a beautiful school is making itself visible to Rabuor and nearby villages.  Thank you so much for your generous gifts!

Side by side with the school construction, Mwanzo has begun the process of installing several large underground water cisterns.  This will prove so valuable in capturing rainwater and reducing our (occasional) need to purchase drinking water for the preschool and Grades 1-3 students.

Our Executive Director, Loyce Ong'udi, shares her profound thanks to all our donors, who make all the above work possible.  She also passes on holiday greetings from the Rabuor community, who continue to commit themselves to the initiatives that you support.

2017 Graduation
Our New Primary School
Members of our Microfinance Group

Mwanzo is Back Building!

Thanks to our generous partners and individual donors, Mwanzo has began construction of the second floor of our beautiful new primary school in Rabuor, Kenya!  Much of the necessary building materials are on-site, and our contractor and his employees are busy with prepping the quary stones that will form the outer walls of our second story.  This is hard, manual labor that inspires us.  Take a look at the below pictures.

Mwanzo presently has the necessary funds to build the exterior structure, interior walls, and roof.  We hope to raise the necessary additional $35,000 by February 2018 to bring this wonderful project to a successful conclusion, and make it possible to provide over 300 students a first-class primary education from pre-school through Grade 8!

With your faithful support, Mwanzo continues to partner with residents of Rabuor Village and nearby communities to plant new seeds of hope and opportunity.  

 

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Meet John Omondi, Security Guard at our Mwanzo Education Center

John Omondi is a resident of Rabuor Village, and also Mwanzo Education Center’s (MEC) security guard!  A very soft spoken and gentle spirit, John describes himself as one of the lucky people with a regular job living at his now bigger hut that he is working to enlarge. John’s need for a larger hut came about because he recently became a father to two orphaned girls, in addition to his son. 

Mwanzo is lucky that all our staff members go above and beyond call of duty; and this can be said of Omondi!!!  He oversees the safety of our school property at night (his official duty starts at 6:00pm and goes until 6:00am!).  Similar to a night duty nurse, he goes home in the morning to sleep.  He says sometimes it is hard to fall asleep because of the playful shouting of MEC’s children on the playground, which he can hear from his hut.   

During this period when Mwanzo is constructing a new primary school building, John can be seen helping to haul heavy building materials and organizing them to ensure the children are safe.  At other times throughout the year, he volunteers his time as the school caretaker working with our school janitor, Risper, to ensure our school is clean and the grass/hedges well trimmed.  He expresses that Mwanzo has created big changes in the lives of many in the community!

With a big smile, John says that as a man he is stronger financially because of the salary that he earns.  He is grateful because he can pay tuition for his three children and provide them with food both of which are important duties for a man in Luo society.

With a deep breath he says to me:  “Jonathan, TOGETHER WE ACHIEVE GREAT THINGS.

 

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Why Mwanzo Sends its Schoolchildren on an Annual Field Trip (With Pictures)

Four years past, our founder and Executive Director, Loyce Ong'udi, asked the Mwanzo Board to add a Mwanzo Education Center (MEC) student field trip as a line item in our annual budget.   It was not so clear then how important going on tour would be for our children and the community.  We never realized how big a deal an annual field trip would prove to be for our 200 students and their (mostly) young parents!  Sure it's fun to get on tour buses:  We can remember that excitement from our own childhood! 

In 2014, our schoolchildren were taken across Lake Victoria on a motorized boat to Ndere Island to visit historical sites.  The photos said so much! For most of the kids it was the first time in a moving vehicle!  As the accompanying parents later reported, the children spontaneously made a song for the bus driver, because they thought he had a special power to move the bus - which brought them so much joy. 

In 2015, the children were taken to Snake Park in Kisumu, 20 miles from Rabuor Village, where (most of them) saw 100 year-old turtles, all sorts of snakes, and other reptiles.   That in itself is an interesting story, as some of the adults and children closed their eyes when looking at the snakes, our of a fear of black and green mambas, cobras, haunting their dreams. The great news is that their minds were open. 

In 2016, Mwanzo sent the students back to Kisumu, for a tour of the airport and the city. Especially the boys were excited by the sight of passenger jets.  But the highlight for all was a fantastic "fast food adventure" offering chips, popcorn, and soda.  What a day!

In 2017, the schoolchildren went to Impala National Park.  While we so value the quality education of a classroom (especially the devotion of our teachers and staff to the students!), nothing beats exposing a child to a new experience that broadens their horizons and allow their minds to wonder and dream. 

We thank you, our donors and supporters, for opening doors of opportunity for our schoolchildren and their communities to Dream Big!

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Meet Mary Atieno and her Grandmother, Margaret Owiti

Mary Atieno is a 4 year old girl learning at Mwanzo Education Centre. In 2013, her father succumbed to tuberculosis. The death of her father meant that Mary and her siblings came to rely on their grandmother, Margaret Owiti, who is a cook at our Mwanzo Education Centre. In Luo culture grandparents are expected to help with the care of their grandchildren, especially after the death of a parent.

When our Country Manager, Jonathan, asked Mary why she loves Mwanzo and loves going to school, her face immediately broke into a smile. She really loves learning in a beautiful classroom. She also is glad to receive a warm breakfast and lunch while at school.

According to Margaret, the quality education provided at the preschool has led to enroll three grandchildren at Mwanzo Education Centre. Her work as a staff member means a lot to Margaret and the family, since she is able to provide for the basic needs of her extended family. Margaret also says that Mwanzo has helped mothers to think outside the box by involving them in income generating activities, such as selling cereals, horticulture, and rearing of poultry.

Margaret's final words: "Forever I cherish Mwanzo - Long Live Mwanzo!"

Over the coming months we will be introducing you to many of our staff and students!

June 2017 Update from Rabuor and Our Mwanzo Education Center

 

The activities of the school have continued as they were planned without hitches. Students and teachers have been able to continue with their roles without much supervision.  The students have been very positive and consistent in attending the lessons despite the many ups and downs.  Life has not been very easy for the past two months.  Most of the families were not able to provide adequate meals to the children in their homes due to the soaring prices of foodstuffs in Kenya.  This therefore shows why learners - even when sick - were ever present in school-they were able to be served with breakfast and lunch promptly in school.

The school is also benefiting the community in several ways.  On 11th June 2017, the Church had a conference and asked for the kitchen, the dining hall and the utensils to assist them in serving the congregation with food.  They also had a Diocese meeting in early May.  This was done and they were very happy with the kind of services that Mwanzo Education Centre provided to them without restrictions.  The church was not shy to ask for further cooperation with the school in different areas.

The nursery department in the country always organizes for competition dubbed CREATIVE ACTIVITIES.  Mwanzo as a school also took learners drawn from nursery section to go and compete in the above mentioned activities. The competition was held at Mbaka Oromo Primary School, which is ten miles from our school on the 14th June 2017.  The learners were exemplary and managed the following positions.

·         Singing game                          Position 1

·         Creative dance                        Position 1

·         Solo verse English                  Position 2

·         Fashion Show                         Position 1

The head teacher, parents, teachers and learners appreciated the financial support that was received from you through Cynthia, our accountant.  We used the amount to cater for the transport cost and lunch for all the competitors and the teachers who were available on that very day.  Mwanzo Education Centre is therefore proceeding to the next level of competition, which is known as the Sub County Level.  The venue is yet to be communicated by the sub county officials.  

Also. we are expecting the Ministry officials from any time from 21st June, 2017.  They will be coming to carry out an assessment of the school.

Country Manager

Jonathan Aluoka

Thank You to he UCUCC Congregation!

Dear Friends -

Loyce and the Mwanzo Board are deeply grateful for the generosity of the UCUCC congregation, who dug deep in donating over $18,000 during this year's April Special Offering! What a joyous demonstration of your commitment to our work, in particular the ongoing construction of the Grades 1-8 primary school!

With your financial support, later this year Loyce will be returning to Rabuor to proceed with the next phase of our work:  Construction of the second floor exterior and walls, and roof. Over the next six months the Mwanzo Board will be challenging itself and our donors to raise an additional $45,000 to fully complete the second floor and - in doing so - complete the school construction.

Mwanzo will be sharing stories bi-weekly during the coming months to introduce you - our faithful, generous community of donors - to Mwanzo (Kenya) staff members, teachers, and in particular our beautiful schoolchildren.  It is a path of shrinking our world through nurturing the humanity and potential in each person - many hundreds indeed! - who walk this road with us.