Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Our First Graduates Enter High School

8th Graders, November 2014
We have our first graduates!!  In 2014 Achungo Educational Centre (the new name for the primary school that is part of Achungo Children's Centre, Kenya), had its first 8th grade class.   The next step in Kenya is secondary school (equivalent to high school in the U.S.) for the 4 years called Levels 1 through 4.  Acceptance into secondary depends on a student's results on the Kenya Certification of Primary Education (KCPE) exam that is taken at the end of 8th grade.

Girls' Dorm
8th graders studying
Our students spent the year studying hard for the KCPE.  All of our 8th graders moved onto campus into the new girls' and boys' dorms so that they could rise at 5:30 a.m. every day.  They study from 6 am - 7 am, then wash up before school starts at 7:30.  They study for an hour after school and then have a break at 5:30 for supper before returning to study from 7 pm to 9 pm.  Much of this study time is either independent study or more often, group study with one of the students leading a discussion of practice questions or study topics.  On our trips we have spent time with them as they study and tried to help, but often found the questions so difficult that they ended up tutoring us!!

In November, after the 3 days of their 8th grade final exams, the next week was 4 days of KCPE exams and then they left for break (school is out for all of December).  It was early January before we had the results that everyone had been waiting for.  Every one of the 15 passed!   That is an exceptional result and we are very proud of them.  Apparently it is very rare for a school to have everyone pass and Director Michael says many families with students in nearby schools were very distressed because so many did not pass.  Michael was congratulated by the authorities for the high average score and now has many parents asking him for their children to be able to enroll at Achungo! 

In our province of Nyanza, according to the latest data, 74.7% of school-aged children enroll in primary school (2000), but secondary enrollment rates drop dramatically.  In Kenya as a whole, the percentage of children of official secondary age who are enrolled in secondary school is only 50%.  However, in the Homa Bay District (our area), it is much worse with only 23.5% of secondary school-aged children enrolled!!

Director Michael with some of our new grads at a nearby high school
On the heels of the exam results, the children also received information about the secondary schools that they'd been accepted into.  Acceptance is primarily based on score and location.  

There are 3 tiers of schools.  
The top tier are National Secondaries, but there is only 1 national boys and 1 national girls secondary within our county so only very high scores qualify.  The next tier is Provincial and third tier is District.  District schools are often local, day schools where most other secondaries are boarding schools.  Two of our students were accepted into District school and all the rest into Provincial schools!!

This is a very big step.  Our graduates now have to learn survival in these much bigger classes and schools, but some are excelling already.  Duke and Clement are in one of the top schools in the entire county and for the first term of this school year, Duke placed first and Clement 4th in their class (out of 60)!!   We have great hopes for the road ahead for all our children!!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Charity Run in Germany

                             Charity Run
 Hello, dear friends

On September 16th, the Max-Schmeling-School in Hamburg, Germany, organized a charity run. The weather was sunny and pleasant, ideal for running. We had 35 students from two 4th grade classes from the Elementary School Oejendorfer Damm in Hamburg, Germany join us. About 650 students from our school participated in this charity run. Both students and teachers did a great job of running, everybody thoroughly enjoyed this event! The school record was a combined 33,812 km run in 4.5 hours which translates into 21,009 miles.

Hallo, liebe Freunde,
am Dienstag, dem 16 September, hat die MSS (Max-Schmeling- Stadtteilschule ) einen Charity Lauf gemacht.
Das Wetter war sonnig und angenehm, ideal zum laufen. Wir hatten 2 vierte  Klassen von der Schule Öjendorfer Damm zu Gast. Sie kamen mit 35 Schülern. Von unserer Schule haben ungefähr 650 Schüler teilgenommen.
Die Schüler und einige Lehrer sind wunderbar und mit Freuden gelaufen. Der Schulrekord war 33,812 km in viereinhalb Stunden.

Benjamin, Aleksandra, Rosana, Ayla, Wiktoria, Pascal, Furkan and Denis (Students from grade 7)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Two New Ambassadors

In October 2014, Jake (9) and Luke (7) Smith visited Achungo along with their parents, Nate and Jen.  They had already involved the students at their school, Oak Knoll in Menlo Park.  And they knew they'd have stories to tell on their return, but no one expected this family to take the story of Achungo so far so fast.

I think the first thing they did was get their little brothers interested.  Sammy and Micah came to the first team meeting and seemed just totally enthralled!

Here are the 4-year-olds at the bottom of the picture on the left.  Until that moment I never realized they could sit so still or pay so much attention to anything!!

Next these energetic and enterprising boys held a lemonade stand on a number of occasions to raise money for their trip to visit the children at Achungo.

At the same time, they were mobilizing others.  Jen led her mothers group ("Mothers Together" at Menlo Park Presbyterian) to get new backpacks for the Achungo 8th graders (picture at left) and fill them with school materials and other gifts.  Their aunt Leslye designed some lovely Zazzle T-shirts for each 8th grader.

 And the students in Jake's and Luke's classes wrote letters to the students at Achungo which Jake and Luke took to them during their visit.  They've brought back return letters from Achungo and their classes are thrilled to have begun a pen pal program with these children in Kenya!

In the photo on the left the Achungo students are excited to receive their letters and are working on their return letters.

And in this picture the Achungo 8th graders are receiving the wonderful backpacks!

Yes, the backpacks made it to Kenya.  And on their return, Jake and Luke made sure their fellow students at Oak Knoll knew about it!

The picture to the right is from the door to Luke's classroom with the pictures of the children of Achungo receiving the backpacks.

Jake and Luke not only shared with their classes but gave a presentation over the video news program at their school, sharing the wonderful experience they had with the children of Achungo and how much they all valued the backpacks.

Below are the notes from their talks.  They talk about how the Achungo children seemed to have so little but were the happiest kids they'd ever met.  What a wonderful representation of how the experience of Achungo changes us and impacts our lives!!

Thanks, Jake and Luke!

Video of Jake and Luke at Oak Knoll School, Menlo Park

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Grassroots Neighborhood Fundraising

Returning home one Saturday afternoon I found a basket at our door with $9.50 of cash and a note:
"this is from our lemonade stand and it is for the orphans; from Neekie, Bella, Max, Grace, Fiona and Phillip".
I was floored!

We live in a small neighborhood and I knew these kids were my neighbors.  Apparently Neekie (10) organized this herself--and it was a well-organized enterprise!

Here she is (on the far right) with her friends (from left:  Fiona, Grace, Max and Bella).

Since then they have held other lemonade stands and mailbox washes and even car washes with Phillip biking around the neighborhood to solicit interest.  At the lemonade stand above they had a menu of options that included a slushee (on order, Neekie would run inside and get her mother to make one in the blender) or for about 5 cents you could pet their sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Sky (in the background near the potted plant).

Neekie's mother, Fojan, tells us that she's cleaning out her closet to find clothes to send to the Kenyan orphans and is quite motivated in all this.  Last month she invited us to present to the students at her school, Bowman International School in Palo Alto.  Neekie introduced me to her fellow students!

Neekie was a keynote speaker at our annual Achungo Tea event in December and made sure to drag her friends on-stage with her to be interviewed.  It was truly the highlight of the event.   

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Trinity School - our sister school in Menlo Park

Last Thursday we presented to the student body at The Trinity School, a private preschool and primary in Menlo Park.  They have been a sort of sister school to Achungo since early 2011 when 5th grader and friend, Karen Rader, brought Achungo to her class as a 5th grade service project.

Here Karen is presenting to Monte a gift from Trinity including the school medallion and a letter signed by all the 5th graders. 

To the left is the letter and the medallion from Trinity and to the right is the letter from Achungo and the Achungo children in response
On our June 2011 trip to Achungo, we presented the medallion and letter to the children of Achungo and they provided a letter from Achungo back to Trinity, signed by Achungo's 5th graders.

 Since then, the students of Trinity have collected used clothing and shoes and such that supplied many wonderful things to the children of Achungo in addition to writing letters that our children have enjoyed and they have responded with letters and cards to the children of Trinity.

 This year Trinity donated 30 used Mac laptops to Achungo.  We've taken 20 out already and they are in excellent condition.  We set them up during our June 2013 trip and the Achungo students immediately began learning on them.  These are children who live in mud huts in one of the most economically depressed areas of the world.  The computer skills they learn will set them apart from all other primary school students and prepare them to be outstanding candidates for potential employment.

Monte has presented several times to Trinity's 5th grade class, sharing pictures and interactive discussion of life in rural Kenya while they took notes on their laptops and asked insightful questions.  He has presented a few times to the 2nd grade and other classes, and it is always a delightful experience.  When Michael Nyangi visited last December, he was able to share with a number of Trinity classes also.

This visit last Thursday Monte shared pictures like those here, including some of the laptops in use, of their past gifts and of the progress at Achungo since they first engaged with us (our classes were in tin sheds at that time and are now in our new campus!).  We also had letters from Achungo's 5th, 6th and 7th graders and cards from the younger classes that we distributed to the Trinity classes.

This is a very special relationship for us all!!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

News from Hamburg, Germany

News from Hamburg, Germany
I would like to introduce a new thread in this blog about activities in Hamburg leaded by Armin Opitz concerning support to the Achungo Children Centre.
My real name is Stefan Menck and I am, like Armin, teacher at a school in the Eastern Part of Hamburg, Germany.
With much work Armin was able to install an annual sponsored walk.
So I would like to announce the Achungo Sponsored Walk 2013 which will be held on the 12th of September.
Like last year two schools will participate: Our school, which is a secondary school and the school Oejendorfer Damm which is an elementary school. This means that about 800 pupils will start running on this coming september morning.

I will add news (and some photos of the last years walk) as soon as possible.

In future we will write this thread in German and English so that some of our younger pupils (who aren't capable of reading English) may follow this thread too.

Stefan Menck

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Our Founder Visits California: Michael's December Tour

Michael Nyangi, Founder and Kenyan Director of Achungo Children's Center, made his first trip to California this year.  This was a long awaited, long-planned visit to connect with his many supporters and for many more to hear his incredible story (see the prior post for his story).  He arrived on Wednesday, November 28 and stayed over 2 weeks, departing December 13.

Most of his flight costs were covered by a very generous supporter, using frequent flyer miles and paying the added fees.  Most of his trip he stayed with the Fishers and became part of our family and a very evident inspirational influence on our children.  And during his stay he visited 3 church sites, spoke at an informal dinner (potluck) and a formal tea, shared with many school children at 3 different schools, and told his story at 3 evening events and 2 luncheons as well as the MPPC Men's Bible Study and a private prayer group who had been praying for him for the past year.   I accompanied him at these events and each time I heard his story I was more inspired by it!

He enjoyed a trip to the beach and to SF, including the Golden Gate Bridge, and visited with the Sisters of Mercy and with Kiva in SF
as well as with the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Countries (SEED).  And he toured Stanford and Silicon Valley, with a special tour of Google.  He thoroughly enjoyed his visit and reached many people in many ways and it was hard to see him go!

Michael joined a panel with Mark Swarner, Mission Pastor, and Zenebe, Director for an NGO in Ethiopia (Hope Enterprises) on Sunday, December 2nd at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC) in Menlo Park in front of about 60 people and that evening again at MPPC's Mountain View campus with about 35 attending.   Michael told his story of realizing how little it took financially to change lives and founding first a micro-finance organization and then Achungo.  And he shared his forward-looking vision for Achungo.

The following Sunday, Michael shared his story with the youth group at Saratoga Federated Church and after services, spoke to a large gathering of those interested in missions in Africa and supporters of Achungo.  Here he is part of a presentation to the original U.S. Executive Director, Barbara Jeanrenaud and her husband, Henri, who are retiring from the Achungo Board.

During the week, Michael spoke to the 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, hosted by Suney Park, a longtime Achungo supporter and teacher at Eastside.

Trinity School, a private primary in Menlo Park, has been something of a sister school to Achungo for almost 2 years.  Michael shared with the entire study body on Friday morning and then was invited into the 5th grade class (top picture on the right) and 2nd grade class (lower picture on right) where we handed out letters from the 5th and 2nd graders of Achungo.  Trinity students have been writing letters to Achungo students for over a year now and it has been an enriching experience for both sets of students.

We also shared with the Trinity preschool class and showed them pictures of the animals and of the school and students in Kenya.

 That afternoon Michael shared his story with 200 7th graders of Hillview Middle School in Menlo Park.  In the top picture to the left, Jonathan Schaff, a 7th grader who visited Achungo in June 2012, introduced Michael to his fellow students.

In the lower picture to the left, Michael stands in front of the bleacher seats that were filled with the 200 7th graders during his talk.

That was a large crowd of teens but they were silent and respectful throughout Michael's presentation.