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 30, 2016

"Read for your lives"

Girls at Bar Union Primary School
Girls at Bar Union Primary School

A reflection from Sarah Neff, one of the 2016 Umoja Project Field Interns, on a day with the Girls Empowerment Team:

We were privileged to attend a GET UP Junior meeting at Bar Union Primary School.

When we arrived, we were ushered into a sunlit classroom teaming with young girls. Their energy was infectious as they giggled and talked, waiting for the session to begin. The girls had come from all over the area, chosen to come to school on a Saturday to be with each other and to learn from the GET UP mentors.

These mentors, Grace and Monica, led the girls in a song to begin the session. Then, they took turns with different parts of the lesson. The focus of the day was on emotions—what emotions are, and how to cope with them as a young girl in Kenya. They talked about words like anxiety and shame. They described the way a girl would walk when she was experiencing success: “Success makes you walk this way,” said Monica, shaking her hips as she walked the aisle.

 What was extraordinary about the lesson was the way these mentors related to the everyday lives of these girls, giving them the language and tools they need to face challenges confidently. They said that it’s ok to cry, that crying is a natural way for us to release the pressure inside us when sad things happen. They gave examples from real life—like when a parent dies, or a boy pressures you into a relationship. They taught that it’s important for the girls to have confidence and self-esteem so that they could stick to their convictions and dreams.

The girls listened attentively, raising their hand to volunteer scenarios from their experience. The lesson was simple, joyful, and the girls were dismissed after a snack and another song.

Later, we sat with the mentors to ask a few questions. Monica and Grace spoke about the many challenges these girls face—how the girl-child of Kenya is often the last to receive support for school and the first to drop out due to other pressures. They said that when they first started interacting with the girls, the girls had been too shy to speak—but now, they were beginning to speak up about their stories. Grace said that there is a noticeable impact in their performance in school. Not only are less girls dropping out (the number due to pregnancy, she said, was drastically reduced), but many girls are becoming the top achievers in their class.

The guest speaker of the day, Jen, told us that education changes the way an entire village will see a girl. “Girls must be educated,” she said, “I tell them, ‘read for your lives.’” Education is the most important factor for girls’ success, explained Jen, because ignorance allows the girls to be taken advantage of. 

As we departed Bar Union, it was with a new hope for the girls we had met that day. The teaching they are receiving at GET UP is making them more confident in themselves and their rights; it is handing them the tools they need to face their daily challenges. We are excited to continue to hear how these girls continue to grow—how they succeed, and how they change their communities for the better. Girl by girl, lives are being changed here in Kenya!

Girl at Bar Union Primary School
Girl at Bar Union Primary School
Sep 30, 2016

Meet Fabian

Fabian on the day he was admitted to university
Fabian on the day he was admitted to university

To get to Fabian’s home, we wandered up and through and around a green and growing hillside. Fabian came out the door of his home, which is made of red mud and surrounded by fields of maize, and squinted at us. His handshake was powerful, as was his presence.

We sat inside. Fabian grinned and told us that we were the first non-Kenyans to visit his home. We asked him about his studies, his future: Fabian just finished high school, and was the top Umoja scholar on his standardized test, scoring an A-. This score is rare, especially for orphans or vulnerable children. We sat with him as he heard the official word that Umoja would continue supporting him through university, which he will start in September. He wants to study engineering.

There are and aren’t words for the story. The images are what most impacted me: Fabian sat on four-legged stool just inside the doorway, with the afternoon sun hitting half his face. We asked him what he had been doing at home, and he said he was tending the maize. Keeping the monkeys away, he laughed. He was the top agricultural student at Chulaimbo high school, and he helps his mother support their family by growing maize.

We asked him what he would do once he graduated and had a job. His first paycheck, he said, he would divide into tenths. One tenth to the church, first—in recognition that everything we have comes from God. And next, a gift to Umoja, because he sees that the education of children is the way to lift up communities. And the rest, he said, will go to helping his mother build a new house. His quiet, confident voice makes him seem much older than he is. Only his huge grin revealed how deeply he was impacted at the news of official continuing support. 

I don’t have much to tell besides these moments with Fabian. The strength, courage, and long discipline of so many of these students is overwhelming, and he strikes me as an example of the most dedicated. A few weeks after we met him, we saw Fabian on the day he received his official calling letter for university: he was accepted at Technical University of Kenya to study Spatial Engineering. This means that his future is set, is bright, is at hand. He is on a course to impact his family, his village, and the continuation of Umoja in the lives of other students like him.

Fabian in his first year of secondary school
Fabian in his first year of secondary school
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
 
   

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