December 3, 2015
After years of building and maintaining it’s original program, the Diocese’s Mission in Africa is poised to expand.
During this past year, the directors of the Africa Mission conducted a study of the current Mission programs to analyze both the effect our work has on children in western Kenya and to determine if there is something different we should be doing to support other members of these communities. It was determined that the current orphan program should be sustained and that there are three areas of expansion that will be pursued.
In October, we received permission from the Bishop in Kenya to expand our orphan education program into one neighboring parish. Thus, at the beginning of the next school year (beginning in January 2016), we will expand the orphan education program. We currently support approximately 350 orphans in our current parish and expect to increase our numbers by 50 in order to serve 400 orphans between two parishes during the 2016 school year.
Maintaining the current program
Our current orphan program is over 10 years old and was originally established to help families struggling to care for children orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. After analyzing the continued need for orphan support, especially in the area of education opportunities, the study determined that serving orphans and supporting their educational needs remains the single most important thing we do in Kenya. Therefore, the diocese will continue its program of orphan education support, coupled with building of homes for the neediest of our orphans and offering a limited number of post-secondary scholarships to the orphans who graduate from high school.
The study also explored if there is something more we should be doing for the orphans we already serve or if we should instead look to serve more orphans. It was determined that our current orphan education program offers enough support to students to give them a fighting chance in life without being so helpful that it fosters a sense of entitlement or dependency. In essence, it was determined that maintaining a child's need to "fight" for their own future remains an important contributor to their future success. With this in mind, we determined that expanding the orphan program to a neighboring parish was more preferable than increasing entitlements within the established program.
It was also determined through the study that one of the main reasons for low academic performance in high school is due to poor educational opportunities at the primary school levels. Therefore, we have determined to expand our current tuition support program to promising sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students by awarding scholarships for them to attend a local private Catholic primary boarding school. We anticipate this will place about 30 children annually in a respected private school; one with a Catholic identity that also achieves a higher rating for academic performance than most government schools in this area.
Eligibility of widows
Finally, the study determined that there is a need for support to widows within the parish. To meet this need, we have developed a program where we provide heifer cows to the neediest of Catholic widows (our enrolled orphans are also eligible for this program). This program awards a vaccinated, inseminated one-year-old heifer cow to a widow (or orphan) who is able to grow enough grass, at his or her own expense, to feed the cow. Once the cow gives birth, the Mission will give that newborn calf to another needy recipient. There are three positive aspects to this program. First, the cows will give the recipient a source for milk for their family. Second, it will give them a modest income by selling the milk to neighbors. Finally, this program is preferable from a Mission standpoint because it only requires initial start-up funds and, within a few years, will be almost completely self-supporting with each heifer's first-born calf going to another needy family. We anticipate awarding seven heifers this coming year.
Two points of interest are offered in conclusion. First, Mission supporters can feel very confident that the good work we've been doing all these years continues to have positive and lasting effect on the people of western Kenya. Secondly, and just as importantly, your generous financial support has made it possible for us to expand our support to more of our Kenyan brothers and sisters. In the next issue of the Kenya Connection we will look to outline the costs of each of our programs. But for now, we simply offer our sincere thanks for your dedicated support and request your continued prayers.