I recently returned from my 13th trip to Kenya. I was in Miwani, Western Kenya. Thatâ€™s where our local partner, the Miwani Community Based Organization (MCBO) led by Pastor Joshua Atieno Auka, and the high school STARS are based. During my 10 days there, we conducted leadership development sessions with the STARS. I also met up with STARS alumni who came to be with me and mentor the current STARS (awesome!).
STARS Children Africa has been operating in this part of Kenya for 14 years and sent 139 orphans to high school. With that in mind, here are three things I want to share with you from this trip.
Our 19 STARS Are Excelling
Carolyn, Meckphonza, Mary O., Mercy, Mary A., Jackline, Cynthia, Bonface, Samantha, Fredrick, Mobby, Mildred, Samson, Veg, Jenipher, Vivian, Dominic, Fredrick and Joseph are doing well academically. As a group they have a B average, which is higher than previous STARS cohorts.
Perhaps even more important, each of them is growing in character and personal responsibility, which is required to maintain their high school scholarships. Many of them have stepped into leadership opportunities, e.g.:
- Mary Atieno was elected governor of girls in her school.
- Mary Owino was appointed secretary of her class.
- Bonface organized study groups of his peers.
- Dominic was elected leader of his schoolâ€™s Christian Union (CU).
- Synthia was appointed the girlsâ€™ sports captain of her school.
- Several STARS were selected to attend one-week leadership development camps.
While I was with them we worked on developing their leadership, public speaking and personal stories. We also discussed how to overcome personal challenges. Dominic, for example, was accused of stealing money belonging to the Christian Union he leads. He patiently proved he was innocent while going through the hard process of being misjudged and treated unfairly.
We also had some fun (e.g., gunny sack racesâ€¦ which I finished!) and took field trips to visit Steve (a STARS alumnus) at the hospital he works at, the Kenya Wildlife Impala Sanctuary, the National Kisumu Museum and the Equator . This was an education in itself. Only three STARS had ever been to the Equator, though it is only 30 miles from where they live.
WHY IT MATTERS: This is the strongest high school class weâ€™ve ever had in our 13 years. They will take Kenyaâ€™s national Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in 2020. We anticipate they will score well, many will go on to higher education and all will become strong servant-leaders in their communities.
STARS Alumni Came to Mentor and Encourage the Current STARS
Steve, Gordon, Humphrey, Moises, Martha and Beldine spoke to the high school STARS – Humphrey traveled all night via two busses to do so! They encouraged the STARS to be patient, disciplined and focused, develop character, work hard and tell their personal stories.
These STARS Alumni are examples of our goal to â€œEducate One, Change Manyâ€. They shared how they have applied the lessons they have learned in their lives, for their families and in their communities.
Gordon, now a national sales manager for a pharmaceutical company, shared how grateful he was for the life changing opportunity of a high school education, mentorship and role models. Gordon shared that he could not have envisioned having access to such an opportunity if his drunken father were still alive because of the negativity he was surrounded with. He encouraged each of the STARS to encourage others with their stories.
Steve, now a hospital pharmacist, encouraged current STARS with this advice: “This is an opportunity…please, take it seriously. Take your books seriously. Discipline #1. And character #2.” We visited him at the hospital on the field trip.
Humphrey, now a high school teacher and official exam grader of geography in the national KCSE, shared the reality of being at this point in life and practical study tips for Form 4 (the last and most intense year of high school). â€œBe patient, you are studentsâ€œ was his advice. He plans to return during April 2020 school break to help the STARS prepare for the KCSE exam.
WHY IT MATTERS: STARS alumni are living examples of the servant-leadership so needed in their communities. STARS Children Africa is having the generational impact we believed we were supposed to make.
STARS Children Africaâ€™s Positive Impact Is Gaining Publicity
Orphans can have hope and a future. But they need to be in communities, which have servant leaders. In recognition of how needs are being met in supporting the STARS, three media outlets in Kisumu interviewed Pastor Joshua, the STARS and me.
The Star newspaper interviewed the STARS, Pastor Joshua and me resulting in this article.
TV Lolwe broadcast a 5 minute community news segment in Luo, the native language of the region, of Pastor Joshua, Dominic and Mary Atieno with my portion in English.
Three radio stations interviewed all of us also highlighting STARS in both Luo and English languages.
As Charles, a STARS alumnus, commented on our last blog post, â€œMentors, partners and sponsors have contributed to sustainable realistic transformation on their lives and society in general. This is real!â€
WHY IT MATTERS: Consistency in the local community and tangible positive impact are hard to ignore. We pray the added publicity will bring more funds to give even more bright, needy orphans the life changing opportunity of a high school education with character mentorship.