Desks to schools in Kenya…

I put many hours a week into the CanAssist African Relief Trust. Sometimes I wonder why I do it.  Today I received an email that reminded me.

Last year CanAssist received an application from a development group in Kenya asking for support in providing desks for three schools in Rachuonyo District near Homa Bay.  We did not know the schools or the AFORD development organization but thought that they presented an organized appeal and, in the past, we have found provision of school desks to be satisfying.  Not only do the children of the schools receive furnishings to help them learn better, the desks are locally made which gives carpenters and suppliers some income.

In December, I visited some elementary schools in Canada and they have donated about $1000 toward the $5000 needed to build 170 desks that will serve 450 students.

Last month I asked the school for some photos of the school so we could help promote this project.  Today I received these grainy photos taken recently at two of the schools. I will let them speak for themselves.  I think you will agree that they are heartbreaking.  Although the Kenyan Ministry of Education does offer “free” education to elementary school students, this is the quality in some of the remote districts.

The Kamser Elementary School.  Crowded conditions not conducive to learning. There are 450 students at two schools like this one and they are requesting 150 bench desks to accommodate the students, many of whom sit on the floor.

The Kamser Elementary School. Crowded conditions not conducive to learning. There are 450 students at two schools like this one and they are requesting 150 bench desks to accommodate the students, many of whom sit on the floor.

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Students at the Kamser Secondary School.  This school requests 20 individual desks.

Students at the Kamser Secondary School. This school requests 20 individual desks.

Our Kenyan field representative, Dan Otieno, will visit the schools sometime in the next month and we hope we can to move ahead with the funding and construction of new desks very soon.  If you would like to help with this, CanAssist appreciates gifts of any size. The average cost per bench desk will be about $40. Can you afford to donate one? (or two would be nice.)

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Graduation Day photos from Kenya

My day was brightened considerably yesterday morning when I received a sheaf of photos from Kenya showing the children at the SP Geddes Early Childhood Development Centre celebrating graduation of some of their students. I am not sure who is more proud, the kids or their parents. In the past month I have had greetings and announcements from a few of our CanAssist-supported schools in Kenya as they celebrate the end of their school year both with standard exams and graduation gatherings.

The  Canadian Flag flies proudly in the SP Geddes School compound.

The Canadian Flag flies along side the Kenyan one in the SP Geddes School compound.

The photos remind me of 64 years ago when I graduated from the nursery class at the New St James Church in London, Ontario. Always the organizer, I was the first one through the little white gate at the front of the choir loft and held it for the other “graduates”.

In the past two years, this little school has had many improvements funded by the CanAssist African Relief Trust and particularly by my father whose name is now both in the school and a little fellow in the community who, I see from the photos, is growing.

imageThis community has felt very isolated in terms of “development”. They are proud that their young kids are now able to get some early education which will make them more ready to enter the public school system when they are old enough to walk the several kilometers to the government school. Marking their graduation allows the children to feel pride and accomplishment as well and encourages them to continue.

I thank Meshack Andiwo for sending these delightful photos and send the congratulations of Stewart Geddes, CanAssist and all our Canadian supporters to the beaming graduates, not only of this school but also from Hope School in Mbita and Kanyala Little Stars on Rusinga Island who have held similar celebrations in the pars few weeks.

Little Stewart Geddes is growing.

Little Stewart Geddes is growing.

Helping educate African children…

One of the mandates for the CanAssist African Relief Trust is to improve education opportunities for children in East Africa by providing infrastructure that will achieve this.

One of the schools funded by CanAssist is the Oltaraja Elementary School in a remote Maasai community in the Rift Valley, Kenya.   CanAssist has built one classroom there and in 2014 will build another.  Children who would otherwise have had to walk several kilometres to a school (or not go at all) will have the opportunity to get some Primary education closer to home.

It’s about giving …

For several years I worked in Bosnia and spent a lot of early Decembers in Sarajevo, a multicultural city that was still predominantly Muslim, before returning home for Christmas.  The country was also in a post-war period and struggling to rebuild.  I was always struck by the contrast between their society as it prepared for the winter solstice and year-end and mark varied religious celebrations and the onslaught I got when I came home the week before Christmas where I was bombarded with the pre-Christmas hype and commercialism that we endure in North America.

In the past few years, retailers have developed special shopping days to encourage people to buy, buy, buy – Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  The aim seems to be to offer bargains for people buying Christmas gifts and help the retailer get everyone in the spending mode.

This year, for the first time, Canada will mark Giving Tuesday.  Instead of focusing on getting, on December 3 there will be a country-wide effort to think about giving back – either through donations or volunteering.

africaleaf 2The CanAssist African Relief Trust depends on donations from people across Canada to do the infrastructure support work in East Africa that we know helps communities to improve their well-being.  We fund school classrooms and desks, hospital equipment and beds, rainwater catchment equipment in schools, clinics and communities, latrines for vulnerable children and adults at schools and in villages where no facilities have existed.

Each year CanAssist attempts to fund about $100,000 work.  We rely on the generosity of donors to do this.

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This Giving Tuesday we hope you will consider the CanAssist African Relief Trust in your charitable activities. And a bonus is that a donor has agreed to match the first $3000 in donations to CanAssist on December 3.  So the value your donations (which already can buy about 4 times as much in East Africa as it would in Canada) will be doubled. Your donation will also be tax-deductible.

A study in the U.S. last year showed that the majority of people would prefer to have money donated to a charity than receive a gift that they could not use or did not really want. In this Holiday Season, please put CanAssist on your Giving list.  Donations can be made with a credit card on the Canada Helps link below or by searching for CanAssist on the Giving Tuesday website.  Or you can mail a check to 582 Sycamore Street, Kingston, Canada K7M7L8.

In the next few days, I will post some videos that highlight some of the work that CanAssist has already done in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.  We plan to continue to do similar work next year with your support.

Listen to members of various CanAssist partner communities as they express their appreciation for the generosity of Canadians that is making a difference for them and their families.

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Giving Tuesday 2013 50