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

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

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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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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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!