Pictures, More Pictures, and Even More Pictures!

Dear Friends,

2019 is off to a fast start in Rabuor, Kenya, where Mwanzo is nearing completion of our new school. This year we have 45 new students at our Mwanzo Education Center! And every day, between 10-20 laborers and volunteers are working to finish all the second-story classrooms.

As we near completion of the beautiful new primary school, it is my hope that your connection to Mwanzo and her people deepens….

As a heartfelt thanks to each of you, copy/paste the following link into your internet browser

http://bit.ly/PicturesFromMwanzo

to view recent photographs received from our founder and Executive Director, Loyce Ong’udi. May you find your heart uplifted by the many faces of the children, parents, staff, and community volunteers who are daily creating new opportunities and cultivating hope in Rabuor and the 11 nearby communities.

On behalf of Loyce and the Mwanzo Board, I send you my warmest wishes for 2019.

Mark Peterson, Chair

December 2018 Update from Rabuor Village

Friends!

As we approach the end of 2018 through the nearing Holiday Season, Loyce and the Mwanzo Board send your our wishes for the time to gather and give thanks for our blessings.

We would also like to share some recent news and photos from Rabuor, Kenya, and our founder and executive director, Loyce Ong’udi!

We are thrilled with the continued progress in moving closer to completing our primary school (Grades 1-8). On a given day there are often 10-20 laborers helping with finishing of the school exterior, installation of the stairway and second-floor guard rails. Work too is proceeding on the teachers’ office space which doubles as the water pumphouse.

After recent compromised harvests, Loyce is encouraged to report that the maize harvest to date has been strong, helped by the purchase of fertilizer using your generous donations.

I hope these pictures of community members, construction laborers, and other Mwanzo partners brings a big smile to your face!

Yours in service,

Mark Peterson, on behalf of Loyce and the Mwanzo Board

A Beautiful School and Community Space!
Such Detailed Work!
Our Water Pumphouse
Mother and Daughter Out for a Walk
Guard Rails for the Stairs and Second Story
A Good Harvest

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

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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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!

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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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!

Mwanzo Preschoolers Strike Gold a Second Time!

On July 20, 2016, 40 preschoolers from our Mwanzo Education Center - along with their teachers, and parents - traveled to Obambo Hall Chief’s Camp, about 12 miles from our school in Rabour.  Our Head Teacher, Margaret Otieno, sent our Board the following message that we want to share with you.

I am as happy as a king when writing this report because I cannot forget the wonderful day I had on 20th July 2016.

The day was bright.  We hired a vehicle and departed from the school at 900 am. It was a long ride but we were singing as we drove off to our destination in Obambo.

The compound was big with a hall and the North West Kisumu chief’s office beside it. This is the office where the elders pick-up their pension and the chief holds his barazas (meetings) with community members, hence a very important office. On our arrival we found elders at the office patiently waiting for their dues.

The number of schools expected for this competition was 45 - each with 30 participating pupils - thus a total of 1,350 pupils. We had about 1,200 pupils that managed to attend and the other 150 could not due to the long distance and lack of transport to get to the venue. What a pity!

We assembled inside the hall at 10 am and waited for instructions, before we sang the national anthem . The competition was attended by very important persons:  Members of the County Assembly, Ward Administrators, and the media.                        

The activities under competition were:

·         Singing game, both African and Western

·         Choral verses, both English and Kiswahili

·         Set piece

·         Fashion show

·         Creative dance

The activities took long because of the large number of schools participating. By 300 pm we were already done, and we sat down to await the comments from the adjudicators.

They started with the choral verses, then solo verses. In these categories the competition was very stiff so that they had to look for all means and ways to penalize others in order to get their top three. This is how we performed:

    Kiswahili choral verse we were number 4 out of 40 schools with 84%

    English solo verse we were number 6 out of 40 schools with 82%

The next activity was the African singing game. The announcement began with the name of the third runners up; we didn’t know what to expect.  Then we heard:  Mwanzo had emerged victorious. I got confused and was torn between two worlds before hugging my colleagues as I went to receive the trophy. We returned to our seats to wait for the other announcements.

No sooner had I taken my seat than came the announcement that our school had topped the creative dance competition too!  I could not contain my joy as I walked to the podium to receive our second trophy of the day.  I went to my seat as I handed over the trophy to Madam Dorcas, our preschool lead teacher. Before long, I was called back to pick our certificate for Third Place in the fashion show. We ran outside to celebrate in songs and dances with the teachers and pupils. It was congratulations all over as the media took photos of our celebration before we boarded our vehicle to return to Rabuor.

The pupils were so excited and sang songs of praise all along for their teachers, director, and school. The songs we sang on arrival aroused everyone and they rushed to see what it was all about. They were astonished as they saw the beautiful trophies we had brought home. They joined the celebration and congratulated us. Parents received us with joy though it was late. We danced together and thanked the Lord for the brilliant results before departing for home.  

The ball is still in our court and it's still rolling.  Next competition is in the big city - Kisumu - in early August.  We now say:  "Onward, ever - Backwards, never!"

Thanks to our faithful donors who make participation for our beloved children in these events possible! 

Keep tuned....