FUMC partners with a rural Kenyan community to provide education and a sustainable feeding program to the poorest of the poor. The Bishop Lawi Imathiu Secondary School (BLISS) serves over 600 secondary school students and was built primarily with funds donated by FUMC Ann Arbor.
A mission team will return to Meru from February 15-March 1, 2018.
Congregation members should look for a letter with information about opportunities to support this mission after the first of the year.
2017 Kenya Mission Trip Overview
We returned to Meru March 23-April 7, 2017. These dates were later than our typical February trip to accommodate the Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County common School Calendar. The intergenerational team focused on work activities in the classrooms at BLISS and Gichunge primary school. The major areas of focus in the classroom were:
Providing encouragement and support to the teaching staffs and administrators
- Assisting with the feeding program
- Providing Science, Health, Math, and Literature Education enrichment for the BLISS curriculum
- Provide enrichment to children at Gichunge Primary School through lessons and activities targeting their math, Science and language skills
There are three distinct roles that mission team members served:
- As FUMC ambassadors to the school community, building relationships with our Kenyan brothers and sisters.
- Being “eyes and ears” for this mission work, and to learn and understand the needs of the students, teachers and community. This role is intended for those who are willing to be flexible and open to how they can help.
- Assisting teachers in and out of the classroom using specific knowledge and skills to help teachers prepare and teach, and when appropriate, to teach or tutor students directly.
2016 Kenya Mission Trip Overview
We returned to Kenya in February 2016. The focus of the trip was exploratory and forward thinking in character to gather insights on future education needs of the primary schools and BLISS as well as potential community-based efforts that could help families. Our hope is to move closer to what the next phase of this important mission will be.
Our Connection with Kenya
FUMC has partnered with a community outside Meru, Kenya to provide education to poor, rural children. The Bishop Lawi Imathiu Secondary School (BLISS) was built primarily with funds donated by FUMC Ann Arbor. Many children are the first in their families to attend secondary school and we hope they will be integral to breaking the vicious cycle of poverty in the area.
Background and Need Served:
Kenya is a typical African country in many respects, with a diverse population and rich culture and heritage. As a developing country, ethnic division, drought, poverty and AIDS add to the complexity of Kenya’s problems. Eight out of ten Kenyans are subsistence farmers or cattle herders and live in dispersed rural settlements. Fifty percent of Kenyans live below the poverty level. The unemployment rate in Kenya is around fifty percent.
The government provides free basic education through primary school. Although seventy-four percent of children in Kenya attend primary school, only 24% move on to secondary school. The rural poor are at a great disadvantage for receiving education. They have little money to find needed resources for knowledge – and yet have the greatest need. The situation in Kenya with lack of food and poor nutrition is getting worse. Education is seen as a critical mechanism to provide life-changing skills to address many of the critical issues facing Kenya today.
The ministry focus of this project is on education:
* Bishop Lawi Imathiu Secondary School (BLISS), which provides education to those families in the area who can not afford the predominant boarding school system in Kenya, and hence serves the poorest in the community through this day high school.
* Bishop Imathiu Primary Boarding School, which provides elementary education (kindergarten to grade 8) to over 360 boarding and day students.
* Kithoka Youth Polytechnic School, which provides vocational training in tailoring, auto mechanics and skilled trades for youth, who do not go on to high school, to enable them to be self-employed and self-sufficient.
In addition, we are getting to know two other primary schools in the community that serve over 700 children living in acute poverty.
The underlying objectives of the Kenya Project are:
* to join God at work and in service to the poor in Kenya
* to make a difference through education in the lives of the poorest
* to foster personal relationships between our church and this Kenyan community
Accomplishment to Date:
In 2004, FUMC funded construction at Kithoka Polytechnic School of a three-room classroom building and provided electricity for the school complex. At the Primary School, Florence Hall, a large dining hall was renovated with the hope that it could be used as a community hall as well. Musical instruments, sewing machines and school supplies were provided as well. Our youth drama troupe performed in area schools.
In 2006, FUMC funded the construction of the cement superstructure for a new high school building, set-up a library in renovated space, brought over 300 books for the library, and provided science equipment.
In 2007, FUMC provided further funding for the high school building, resulting in classroom facilities for 400 students. Additional books were delivered to the library and additional musical instruments to the Thiiri Center for Culture, Music and Community Development. A music-training program was started for both the high school and community. Funding was provided to hire a full time position to manage the music-training program at the Thiiri Center. Small business seminars were held to help the poorest in the community to develop business plans.
In 2008, FUMC equipped BLISS with science equipment, backpacks for each student, sports equipment, 2 computers and 1 printer. Student scholarships for promising young people in the Kithoka community and at Mwanika Church became a major focus this year also. The new BLISS building brought the cost of secondary education down to $100 per year, which enabled us to provide 6 scholarships for students going on to university. The music program was supported through additional band instruments and music. In addition, we were able to contribute to the building fund of Mwanika Church in their efforts to build a church hall to expand beyond a one-room church building.
In 2009, we funded electricity for the new BLISS building, equipped their science lab with 10 lab benches and 40 stools, purchased textbooks and extensive lab equipment for biology, chemistry and physics experiments, a laptop computer equipped to connect to the internet, and a duplicating machine for preparing exams. The school library has grown to house over 1,500 books brought from Ann Arbor. Another contribution was made to the Mwanika Church building project fund. The scholarship program has grown to support 11 young people in the community in their educational pursuits at universities and colleges. Three scholarship recipients graduated from university in 2009, and are playing important leadership roles in the community.
In 2010, FUMC contributed to the funding of a simple, dedicated Science Building at BLISS that houses 2 laboratories and an equipment room to provide hands-on science experiments in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The School Library now has grown to include over 2,000 books. Science education was provided on the anatomy of the eye and the physics of light refraction. Students were trained to conduct eye exams and innovative eyeglasses specifically designed for developing countries were provided. Instruction was also provided in English Literature, Biology, Geography and Business. In addition to providing financial aid to needy BLISS students, we are supporting 8 university students ranging in programs from Computer Engineering to Nurse Practitioner to School Teacher to Medical Lab Technician to Hospitality Management to Chemical Engineering.
In 2011, BLISS made remarkable academic progress as measured by its excellent collective performance on the Kenyan National Exam. This came about as a result of radical changes undertaken by the teachers to boost student learning. Due its tremendous success, BLISS is viewed as a model day school in Kenya and has greatly outgrown its facility. The school has undertaken a multiyear building project to add space for counseling, teacher preparation, its own library, testing room and student activities. Our church made a substantial contribution to the first phase of construction. We continue to support 7 young adults at university. Three students have finished their programs this year. In addition, our church provided financial aid to 63 BLISS students.
Future Project Goals:
- Educational scholarships for young people in Kenya to attend university are a major focus of our Kenyan ministry, and represent transforming lives one person at a time. There is tremendous need for higher education beyond high school in order to develop future community leadership. This will provide the most profound level of transformation there. We commit to supporting students through the completion of their program, which can be from 2-5 years, once they start a program.
- Kenya is experiencing a serious drought, which means families do not have crops to feed their children or to sell to pay school fees. As a result, there are a greater number of students needing financial support. This is in addition to the 24 orphans and many more children with single parents and limited income. More financial aid is anticipated for the coming year. BLISS students receive 2 meals per day, 6 days a week through the school.
- BLISS needs a modest building to house Counseling, Student Activities, and Support functions to free up classroom space for Technology Education. The second phase of construction will begin 2012.
- Provide training in Computer Technology and other supplemental subjects to BLISS students and teachers.