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

A Deep Thank-You to Our Friends at UCUCC

From Day One, individual members and leaders within University Congregational United Church of Christ in Seattle have been a bedrock of support to Loyce Ong’udi and Mwanzo. This support has expressed itself in different ways.

Recently, at a hosted event, one of the Church’s ministers, Peter Ilgenfritz, shared a heartwarming message of solidarity with Loyce and the community members in Kenya who are our indispensable partners in creating “New Beginnings” (Mwanzo) .

On behalf of the Board and Loyce, I am sharing this message with our community of supporters.

Dear Loyce,

As you gather with your Seattle community today to celebrate Mwanzo and prepare to travel there again, we surround you with our hope and prayers.

Your ongoing, faithful and fruitful work in Rabuor continues to be a source of joy. Your capacity to awaken in us a sense of connection and commitment is truly a gift.

Please greet your family, the schoolchildren and staff, and the folks at St. Mathews parish for us, and remind them that they are also remembered here in our prayers. And when you are done there for the season, hurry home to us and tell us all the new stories of the good things accomplished in Rabuor.

Blessings to you,

Catherine Foote, Peter Ilgenfritz, Amy Roon, and David Anderson

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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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!

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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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!

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....

Mwanzo Nursery School Students Win Creativity Competition

On June 30th, students from our Mwanzo Education Center Nursery School participated with 29 other public and private schools in a district musical competition in Chulaimbo. The competition was sponsored by the Kenyan Ministry of Education Science and Technology, and featured singing, dancing, and fashion shows. In Kenya, musical/dance competitions are as much a part of the culture as our most popular sports here in the states – perhaps even more so, as schools across the country are expected to participate. And like sports, the “playoffs” begin at a district level, and proceed through regional stages to a national-level “final.”

Our three-to-five year old students not only participated in these events, but took first place in English chorus, Ndombolo dancing, fashion show, creativity, and African solo singing! Additionally, the children took second place in Swahili and Luo chorus.

With such a strong showing, our students were named the overall Best-in-Show among all 30 schools, and were also awarded certificates for cleanliness, orderliness, and subject matter knowledge.

The school’s Head Teacher, Mrs. Margaret Oluoch Otieno, was beaming with pride when she called to tell us about this accomplishment – and this is something that all of our donors can all take pride in as well. Because of your support, Mwanzo was rent a van for the school. That van made it possible for these bright, talented kids to travel seven miles from Rabuor Village and return with a trophy in hand!

For now our schoolchildren are basking in their immediate accomplishment, and look forward to their next opportunity to display their skills at the regional completion on July 20th.  Stay tuned for further information; for now, enjoy the pictures below and share in the joy and pride of the children, their families, and their community!