In a recent interview with Melinda Gates about her book Moment to Lift, Brené Brown asked Melinda to tell her about the world we live in right now for women and girls globally and to describe the world she would love to see.
In honor of International Women’s Day today, I decided to interview our partners Veronica Lemuya in Kenya and Saroja Thota in India to ask them these same questions.
Veronica’s answers are below along with pictures from their International Women’s Day celebration today with women and girls in the village.
Tell me about the world you see now for women and girls in your communities.
Describe the world you'd like to see.
What are your hopes and dreams?
Saroja’s answers are below along with pictures of her with some of the women in the sewing program and some of the girls in our sponsorship program.
Tell me about the world you see now for women and girls in your communities.
Our society is a male-dominated society; moreover, women are not given priority in the home and are not treated as equals to men. In my experience of life, in my professional world and in my ministry in working with women, women are never able to share their opinions boldly or freely. They have to follow the instructions given by their parents or by their husband. Even today, women in our community do not have financial freedom, and in a marriage, everything depends on the views and opinion of the husband. Even though India is an independent country, women in our community still do not have independence.
Describe the world you'd like to see.
What are your hopes and dreams?
I want to help empower more women in India so that we can bring all these above points into reality by educating women as well as men in the proper way. Through the sewing program we have established for women, we are working on giving women skills and empowering them to have financial independence. See this site for photos of what the women have created. I feel fortunate to work with them and teach them important skills to overcome so many problems.
Students returned to school in January in Kenya, and new school guidelines were put in place to ensure student safety including required temperature checks, hand-washing stations, face masks, and social distancing measures.
Our team in Kenya started the year off by bringing hope and support to over 8000 students in the area as they helped to provide some of these new requirements for 16 schools in need of supplies to help control the spread of Covid-19 and to keep the children healthy. At the beginning of January, the Children of the Kingdom team distributed 250 face masks, 70 water containers and stands for the hand-washing stations, 1000 liters of liquid soap, and 100 hand pump bottles for classrooms.
Children of the Kingdom Director, Veronica Lemuya, worked with the Director of Education in Turkana Central to plan on how to best provide information to children on hand-washing and other measures to protect themselves and their families, facilitate mental health support, and help to prevent stigma and discrimination by encouraging students to be kind to each other and avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus.
If you would like to support this effort to provide more sanitizing stations to more schools, click below.
The holiday season is full of lots of emotions. Yes, there is joy as we celebrate the birth of Christ as our broken world so desperately needs God's love to break through. And yet, there is also so much to grieve from this last year that has been lost.
“The 'hopes and fears of all the years' meet in Jesus; and a 'weary world rejoices' at his coming. Hope doesn't replace fear; it invades it. Rejoicing doesn't replace weariness; it inhabits it." - Scotty Smith
Despite the odds in 2020, Veronica (our Kenyan director) and Ratnakar (our Indian director) loved our children well this year, and Children of the Kingdom did not miss a beat in supporting kids and families. Though schools were shut down for many months this year, we were still able to meet our mission in sharing the love of Christ with children in need, and I am filled with gratitude and joy to share the following things that we accomplished in Kenya and India:
We are so grateful for your support and the work we do together in this ministry. Thank you for your generosity which has made such a difference in this unprecedented year.
May the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven, shine on those living in darkness and guide our feet into the path of peace. (see Luke 1:77-78)
Happy New Year,
Merry Christmas from Children of the Kingdom!
On this Christmas day, we are giving thanks for the tender mercies of our God in this past year for the children and families in Children of the Kingdom. May He continue to give light to the darkness and guide us in the way of peace into 2021.
'"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40
This passage applies to the sponsors, friends and loved ones who gave generously for the construction of new houses for three of our students, Patricia, Susan and Faith.
These families had no proper shelter to protect them from any harm. For decades, they were rained on as the roofing they had either leaked or had collapsed, and they were exposed to the dangers of wild animals. Also, they had to worry about thieves who took their belongings over the years. When the Kenyan government announced lock down in the spring of 2020, it was difficult for these girls to stay in their homes because their houses were in such disrepair, and they had no way of social distancing.
Veronica Lemuya, our Kenyan director, assessed the situation of these three girls in our program, put together a budget and a plan to build houses for them, and oversaw the projects. Now each of these girls has a new house thanks to her vision and servant leadership and thanks to the generosity of our sponsors who supported our Covid-19 relief efforts this year which allowed us to make this happen.
Faith will be taking her K-8 exams despite the disruption of school this past year. She is determined to do well in her examinations and join a national high school. She lives with her mother who is disabled and struggles to cater to her family’s needs.
Susan lives with her two sisters, three brothers and other two cousins. Their parents died, and they are sticking together to support each other and survive. She is in 11th grade, her sister Juliet is in 6th grade, and her younger sister Mercy is in kindergarten. Her other brothers and cousins are not going to school and are doing what they can to make ends meet.
Patricia lost both of her parents, and she now lives with her three brothers and her grandmother. She is in 9th grade. She has sought out work as domestic help and as a nanny to help support the family.
Children of the Kingdom has been able to distribute over 200 masks in India and over 1500 masks in Kenya to students and families as we continue to navigate the pandemic and do our part to help protect the health and well-being of these beloved communities. The masks in India were made by women in a sewing ministry in Rajahmundry, India, and the masks in Kenya were printed and purchased by a business in Lodwar, Kenya. We are grateful that these efforts could not only help slow the spread of this virus but also help support local businesses. Thank you for your continued support that makes these gifts possible!
This is a summary of the report written by Veronica Lemuya about how students are coping with school closures and online learning. (Be sure to watch the video below to get a window into what it is like for students to keep up with their studies in Kenya.)
When the pandemic emerged in March, many learning institutions in Kenya decided to close schools, colleges and universities under the direction from the Ministry of Education, the Education Task Force and the Kenya National Union for Teachers. Policymakers are facing the same issues in Kenya as other countries around the world as they weigh the options between closing schools (reducing contact and saving lives) and keeping them open (allowing workers to work and maintaining the economy). Students have been out of school since March, and this disruption has taken its toll on so many students and families in Kenya. Beginning in October, the Kenyan government opted to introduce online schooling for the second term for 4th year students (12th grade) and students in their last year of college.
Online schooling has been a significant shock to parents’ productivity and to children's social life and learning.
Students and their families are facing many challenges through online learning:
Importantly, these interruptions in learning will not just be a short-term issue, but they will also have long-term consequences for the affected cohorts and are likely to increase inequality. Furthermore, plans for the re-opening of schools are still not in place because many schools have not yet complied with COVID–19 health and safety regulations.
We have been able to send funds to the Children of the Kingdom office in Kenya to purchase 12 laptops for students that can be checked out and used for classes, and this was all due to the continued support of sponsors for which we are so grateful.
Please continue to pray for the students in Kenya that God would grant them wisdom, discernment, protection, knowledge, and understanding and that this time would not be lost but be part of the way God is equipping them to be servants in the Kingdom.
This past week, our dear partners in ministry in India were able to distribute food and basic medication to over 100 families along with 200 masks thanks to the generous support of our sponsors. 30 of these families have children sponsored in Children of the Kingdom, 20 of them have women who are a part of a sewing ministry we have partnered with over the years, and 50 families have children affected by HIV/AIDS who are in need of support.
As we mark the anniversary today of 9/11 and as we continue to grapple with the effect of COVID-19 worldwide, the ongoing exposure and cost of racism, and now with massive fires burning in the western US, it is clear that 2020 has put us in a state of emergency again and again.
I offer you this prayer below as you hold all these things and look to God to be our unshakable hope in this time of great need.
A Liturgy for Moments of Emergency:
O God our Rock, hold us in this chaos.
O Christ our King, calm us in this season.
O Holy Spirit, intercede for us.
Be merciful, most merciful God!
O God our Rock, hold us in the chaos of this hard hour.
O Christ our King, calm us in the storm of our distress.
O Holy Spirit, intervene and intercede.
We need you now, most merciful God.
-Douglas McKelvey, Every Moment Holy
This is a summary of the report written by Veronica Lemuya about our second food distribution in Kenya.
As locusts destroyed the vegetation in Turkana and other parts of Kenya in June and July with the worst locust outbreak in decades, the rich are no longer rich, and the poor are poorer than before. This became a crisis within a crisis dealing with the locusts on top of the country’s fight against the spread of COVID-19. Not only this, but this spring, there was a flood that took out the water supply for some families in Lodwar for a time, and there was even an earthquake that unsettled many families. The resulting economic devastation has left many children and families suffering from the loss of employment and income and not enough food and water.
Children of the Kingdom has stepped in during July to support 564 Turkana families (160 sponsored and 406 non-sponsored families). The first distribution of emergency relief was shared with 300 families in May, the first water distribution took place in June reaching three villages, and this second food distribution was just completed in mid-July. Since schools were not in session for the second term, we utilized those funds that would have been used for school fees to support children and families in this time of great need.
We worked with the county commissioner and the village elders to ensure that we were in compliance with the new regulations on Covid-19 responses in Kenya, and we were granted a permit to do home deliveries for all the beneficiaries.
Our mission is “to share God’s love with children in need through the gift of education to equip them to be servants in the kingdom,” and our ministry was able to provide critical support to families with some of our current and former students leading the group of volunteers to make the distributions happen.
In this second food distribution, the food was delivered house to house in line with regulations laid out by the Kenya Ministry of Health. The following food items were delivered to each household: 10 kg maize, 10 kg maize flour, 10 kg beans, 3 kgs sugar, 500 g of fresh and dried fruit, 1 cabbage, 500 g onion, 1 kg tomatoes, 1 kg potatoes, 500 g salt, 250 g tea leaves, 500 g washing detergent, and 2 bars of soap.
Future needs were identified for us to consider for next steps. There is need for medical supplies as many people can’t reach the hospital because of the distance and money needed for medical supplies. Due to this, they are suffering with minor illnesses which become worse due to lack of medical attention. Water is still a challenge for places where the government has not delivered water. Women and children trek for hours to collect water for household use. We are planning a second water distribution in August.
This second food distribution was a great success, and Children of the Kingdom is looking forward to continuing to support the children in our program along with those who are most vulnerable in the surrounding communities.
Veronica Lemuya, our new director, has hit the ground running and has already done more in a month than most people are able to pull off in an entire year. After just one week in the office, she had already made rounds to visit several families and students in the program to survey the needs of the community. She found that the majority of families whom she visited were struggling to put food on the table, and they also needed more information on COVID-19 and on precautions to take to prevent the spread of the disease. She reported that adolescent girls needed sanitary pads as these are normally distributed at boarding schools, and many of them cannot afford them now. Her visits were also important to let families know they had somewhere to turn if they were in need of resources and support. Being on lockdown means that people must stay at home, but homes might not always be safe as some students might be at higher risk for sexual/domestic abuse during this time of COVID-19.
From her initial report, we worked on a budget to pay for some of the most pressing needs that families shared with her including food and other supplies as outlined in the caption above. We were able to draw $15,000 from our 2019 Rafiki Run contributions and from other generous donations for this emergency fund. Over the last two weeks, she recruited former Children of the Kingdom graduates and others in the community to help with the distribution. Veronica shared that some of the volunteers expressed how meaningful it was to be a part of the distribution as they were able to see the needs of the community for themselves, and it was a way for them to give back to the program which had supported them.
She reported that this verse below was the theme verse of the distribution:
Veronica shared, “I could see the joy in the eyes of the children and their mothers. Many were breaking down in tears. I could hear them saying "Ejok noi" (Turkana for “Thank you”) and "Asante Sana" (Kiswahili for “Thank you”), and they wanted me to convey that message from the Turkana children to the Children of the Kingdom family in the US….The entire exercise was an eye opener to me. It’s a call to pray, to reach out to the children, and to give them a shoulder to lean on sharing with them their challenges and walking with them step by step.”