Global Interfaith Partnership

The Global Interfaith Partnership (GIP) is an innovative model of interfaith and cross-cultural cooperation in which congregations from diverse faith traditions in Indianapolis are working with a similar coalition of congregations in rural western Kenya. The cornerstone of our work is the recognition that all people of faith, regardless of their particular faith perspective or cultural tradition, share a commitment to mercy and social justice. Building upon that shared commitment, the two coalitions are responding to the multiple needs of Maseno Division's most at-risk children. Over half the households in this rural area near Lake Victoria (Maseno Division of Nyanza Province) are in ...
Sep 13, 2016

A Letter From Pamela

Pamela
Pamela's Letter

Read this letter from Pamela, an Umoja Project student who receives a daily lunch at Kuoyo Primary School. 

As Pamela eloquently describes, “School teachers and guardians identify hunger as the primary problem affecting regular school attendance and academic performance. Many children were going home for the daily lunch break but returning to school in the afternoon without having had anything to eat. In response, the Umoja Project initiated a school-based lunch programme which ensures that children have at least one nutrious meal each day. The programme has had a very positive impact on the school community and us including improved grades, discipline and health in order to ensure sustainability.

Due to the lunch programme, many of us have now started to improve and overcome the challenges they face here and there. You are like a guidance to guide and care for us. You welcomed us with open arms without any regrets or disaproves." 

 

In 2016, 3,200 students in 18 primary schools are receiving a daily meal. Your support ensures each of those students receives that lunch in 2017, enabling them to more easily attend school, concentrate on their studies, and grow into sharp-minded young people, as Pamela has. 

Student at Kuoyo Primary School
Student at Kuoyo Primary School
Jun 30, 2016

Special Report From the Field: Mercy's Story

Mercy
Mercy

Hear Mercy's story, told to us directly from Kenya by Ashley and Sarah, our Field Interns:

Just this week, we had the opportunity to visit the home of Mercy, a seventh grader at Kawino Primary School. Mercy is a total orphan, and one of six children who live with their grandmother. When we visited, we were warmly received with tea and avocados from the tree outside the family home. Mercy’s grandmother sells avocados to help provide for her grandchildren, and she expressed her gratitude for the maize and beans provided to the family from the Umoja Project.

Mercy is a good student, and when we asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, she said she wants to work for the Umoja Project—she wants to go all the way through school and then help others do the same. When we asked her to describe herself in a word, Mercy said, “honest.” She helps at home to care for her younger siblings.

Mercy is one of 19 girls from Kawino who regularly attend GET UP sessions at a nearby school. These girls meet on Saturday mornings to be mentored and taught by local female leaders. They receive snacks, sing songs, and most importantly learn about their rights as girls to be safe and pursue their dreams. The Link Teacher at Kawino Primary spoke about the impact of the GET UP program on the school, saying that now girls were becoming top performers in their classes, and the rate of drop out from pregnancy has been drastically reduced from an average of 6-7 a year to only the occasional drop out. When we met with the GET UP girls at Kawino, we talked together about how girls can succeed and be independent, just like boys. The girls spoke about the strengths and gifts they saw in themselves. 

We are excited to see Mercy step into her 8th grade year! Her hope is to receive high enough marks to continue on to secondary school, and eventually to be able to help her family and community. The support she receives from Umoja—daily lunch at school, a uniform, and food for her family at home—is helping her to chase down these dreams.

Mercy and her family
Mercy and her family
GET UP girls at Kawino Primary School
GET UP girls at Kawino Primary School
Jun 29, 2016

Special Report From the Field: Meet Esther

Esther
Esther

Meet Esther, an Umoja Scholar, in this special report, written directly from Kenya by Ashley and Sarah, our 2016 Field Interns: 

This is Esther.

When we first met Esther a few weeks ago, she came running around the side of her house to greet us. She is amazing to see: tall, strong, vibrant, with a smile that takes you in immediately. She ushered us in, come in, come in! She had just been working in the shamba, the garden, with her aunt. 

Esther’s story is incredible. Esther finished secondary school last year, and scored so highly that she received direct admission to university for this fall. She is a total orphan who has been supported by the Umoja Project since 2008—throughout the end of her primary school at Bar Union and her entire time in secondary. She attended Mowego Girls’ Boarding School under Madame Grace, who is a tower of strength for young girls. Grace identified Esther as a leader among her peers, and now this confidence exudes from Esther as she speaks. During her years in boarding school, Esther attended the GET UP senior retreats—weekends when girls attending boarding school could come together to learn about women’s health, rights, and strategies for coping with the challenges unique to their lives. Now, Esther speaks to younger girls every chance she gets, telling them to be strong, brave, and sure of themselves and their gifts. She says GET UP was a mother to her when she had none, teaching her and giving her support as she grew.

Esther told us that she is looking forward to receiving her calling letter for university, and that she plans to study special education. These people have a unique perspective, she said, and I want to be the one who can listen to them. When we asked what she is excited or nervous about for college, she said she was nervous to make new friends, but excited because her tuition is paid. She feels free to focus on her studies instead of worrying about the fees.

This week, she shared with me that she loves writing. She says it’s how she used to cope with the pain of losing her parents, and now it’s continued as a way of expressing her identity in the world. She wrote this piece about the impact Umoja Project has had on her life: 

Dear Umoja Project,

Once I was lost and thought I could not make it. I was down and thought I could not rise up. I was stuck and I thought I could not be freed. I was heavily loaded, but could not imagine at being freed. I lived in darkness and I did not think of living in brightness.

I lived in sorrow and fear. I did not even want to associate with my fellow friends because I thought I was nothing before them. 

Good Lord! You gave me a father and a mother too! A sister and a brother and that was Umoja Project! Umoja, you have me education which has graduated me from darkness to brightness.

Umoja, you have given me a mother who is GETUP (Girls Empowerment Team of Umoja Project). I am now better than a person who has a mother because not all mothers share what they have experienced with their daughters. 

Do you remember where you found me? When my eyes were ever full of tears? When the only thing in my mind was that I am suffering because I am an orphan?

You have taught me to be strong. You have filled the gap in my mind of being parentless. You have fed me just as birds feed their young ones! This is through your lunch program. You have also ensured that I stay at peace by taking me to a boarding school. You have made me to feel a sense of belonging between people by instituting GETUP programs.

Thank you Umoja for getting me up when I was down, for clothing me when I was naked. For giving me water when I was thirsty. For giving me hope when I had lost hope.

God, I pray that it may continue so that others can also be helped.

Just this week, Esther told a group of Umoja students and local leaders, “GET UP taught me to be strong. I am sure of a bright future.” As always, her confidence was striking. All of us are also sure that her future is bright, and we could not be more proud of her as she goes on to University this fall.

 
   

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