One step at a time…or not

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Have you ever looked at something and knew, just knew, that it needed to be different and yet you had no idea how or when or even if that would ever happen.  The described situation is exactly what we/I faced on the very first visit to the village of Rionchogu and the Neema Nuru Academy.

Neema Nuru Academy is a non-government school which is supported by GAD Kenya and the King of Victory church.  It is a primary day school and was initiated to serve a very poor population with the desire to provide a more affective education and be inclusive of the very poor in the area.  On our first visit we found a facility of mud and stick rooms and very dangerous latrine (toilet) facilities.  The rooms were better than nothing but you could see the rapid deterioration which accompanies mud in a very wet environment.  It was a paradox, school was available to the very poor in the community but how long would it last.

The most distressing issue was that the most dangerous of the rooms were those for the youngest of the  students.  The nursery (pre school) and the pre unit (kindergarten) as well as the first through 3rd grade were in the worst of the buildings.  The smallest and the youngest were in the building which received the most direct assault from the weather.  Add to this the standard latrine structure, which was a pit with wood over the opening surrounded by a wall of banana stalks and you can begin to sense the mind that would say; how can this not ever change.

It seems impossible that we can see these structures and really believe that they were used by the children as their toilet facility.  That in our vast experience, our denied opulence and our fear of not having enough . . . . there are actually places and people who are daily living at a level we simply would not tolerate, if we had to face the reality in person.

The danger that is attached to an open latrine pit with a rotting wood floor is not so easily looked past nor is it a thing that allows memory to cast it aside once it is out of sight.  It is in that understanding that we saw so clearly that the first order of support was to improve the safety and privacy that children deserve simply because we are residents of the same planet, for no other reason than we are told, in scripture, to care for the poor and the children.

It is no surprise then that new latrines of block and concrete with permanent floors are permanent additions to the school.  Boys latrines, girls latrines and also latrines for teachers were first to be provided.

Then in 2010 the decision was made to replace the most dangerous of rooms with a new permanent structure.  This began as an idea to build a room to house books, a library, but quickly grew to be a structure to house at least three additional room, actually four when counting the library room, to be occupied by the very youngest of the students.

September 2010, ground breaking and digging the foundation for a new building.  The students dug the trench for the foundation and carried bricks for the construction it seemed so simple a start and indeed it was but by the beginning of the year 2011 the rooms were occupied and the children had new rooms, at least the smallest ones; the nursery, kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades were housed in a safe environment and the oldest of the old was taken down.  It was a beginning but the question was, how do we continue.

Sometimes I feel like a beggar, maybe I am, I am not above what ever it takes to try and paint the accurate picture of what is and what can be.  It is frustratingly lonely and there are dark nights of uncertainty and sadness.  It is in those times that I find myself asking the Lord, why, how, and of course complain about so many insignificant issues all tied directly to fear and desperation.  Then there are situations which of their own dynamic are causal in a new day.  Such a time was the spring and early summer of 2012.  So it is that this year we had two groups travel to the village.  Even at a time when we were at such a desperate need for student fees that schools actually gave GAD Kenya 3 months to meet school fees requirements, such a time as the travel expenses of visiting the village helped pay for the unfunded students; still the faith was evident to go forward and begin a new building with three more classrooms.

Destruction of the old to make room for the new and the new was a hands on experience for the travelers who were in the village from late May through early July.

The travelers helped dig the trench, each taking a turn with the tools.  Hard work and tiring work and then too they carried the rocks which were to be used as foundation for the cement footing for the walls.

In case you have missed it, this group was all young women, college students who were led to do more than think about being Christian.

So after a little more than two weeks a new building is almost ready for occupancy and in the exuberance of the moment foundation was dug for another new building, another new home for three more classes, which of course meant taking down another of the old buildings.

Which, of course was assisted, actually mostly done, by the young women.  This is the day that the Kenyans finally admitted that these Americans were hard workers and tireless.

Urgent funding help was necessary, not surprisingly, families of some of the travelers responded and the construction continued until just shortly after the group left this third building was occupied.  This left only two classrooms, one of which was to be a teachers prep room, yet to be constructed.

Two new buildings and 6 new rooms, was this really happening?  Somehow, yes, somehow it was, it is; somehow Neema Nuru was being rebuilt; somehow the dream was coming true.

Always the trusting, always the visionary, always the believers; GAD Kenya went ahead, without a thought of their own reputations of the how, or doubt, and destroyed the final buildings and began the final two rooms.  With in a week or two, by the end of August, they will be completed and occupied and this season of building will be finished, at least this season.

We are not changing the world but we are being used to change lives, one life, two lives, fifty lives, one hundred lives, who knows, but the important thing is that there is a difference in Rionchogu because of the participation of a few people.  If you are not already participating perhaps now is the time.  There is much yet to do and many students who need assistance with school fees and now emerging young who have earned admittance to University in Kenya, village and sponsored youth who really are the world changers and we get to help; if we are willing.

Check out; be part of the new army that is not willing to be told it is impossible to make a difference.

Bud Potter