Spring 2017 The African connection A Quarterly Newsletter of East African Village Outreach (EAVO)
This newsletter comes with warmest regards and greetings from us at the East African Village Outreach (EAVO). We are bursting with good news of what God is doing through your generous gifts to further His kingdom among our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia and Kenya. In the first weeks of December, our Executive Director, Seifu Ibssa, embarked on a three-week journey to survey our work and the development of our projects in Ethiopia and Kenya. What follows is one shining example of how your partnership with EAVO is making a difference in the lives of young people there.
One Girl’s Story of Transformation: by Kelsey McFaul
It is cold and crisp on the first morning I go to high school in Acheber, and I poke the purple embers of the fire with a stick to stoke it. I walk to the river for water, roast coffee over the fire, pound it in the trunk of a hollow tree, and heat coffee and pearled barley kernels for the morning meal.
Today, I do all of this at double speed so I am not late to the first day of ninth grade. My sisters before me have attended school through eighth grade in the village but my father would not let them travel the 30 kilometers to Harba Chulule to continue. Now there is a high school in Acheber, its tan buildings tucked under the shadow of a hill, a valley of farmland rolling below.
“God go with you, Bontu!” my mother yells, leaning against the door of our hut. I am already halfway down the dirt road, a pail with injera and wot banging against my legs and clutching an old notebook, my sister’s, to my chest. All summer I have been studying her notes by the light of a solar lamp, preparing.
At the schoolhouse, there are thirty of us in a classroom with walls the color of mustard and paved stone floors. Our teacher, a woman in dark jeans and a white coat, stands in front of the classroom and introduces herself in Oromigna, tells us that because we are in high school now, our classes will always be in English so we can prepare for university or jobs in Tulu Bolo or even Addis Ababa. My English is rusty, I know, and I sneak peeks at my sister’s notes as we review greetings and numbers.
In the afternoon there is math, and that is when I begin to feel the ache deep in my stomach, the feeling before pain which causes me to cross my legs under my skirt and squeeze them together tightly, my hand wedged deep in between. Immediately I imagine what a bloodstain would look like on the back of my flowy white skirt, impossible to hide. I would be the ridicule of the school on my first day. Panic rises inside me. In a rush, I scrape together my things and burst from the table, out the door, and outside. Better to miss the remainder of the lesson than risk embarrassment and the pain I know will come.
I am almost to the edge of the compound, near the eucalyptus tree by the gate, when an older girl comes running after me. “Bontu! Bontu! Where are you going?” she calls to me. “I saw you rush from 2 class.” I am hesitant at first, but she looks like my older sister, with a kind calm face and a wooden cross charm around her neck. I tell her I am scared of starting my menstrual cycle at school.
She smiles at me, a warm older sister smile, and takes me to a small room of corrugated metal beside the principal’s office. Inside are packages of briefs the shape of baby swaddles but my size, soft colors in blue and pink. She shows me how to put them on under my skirt, how to unwrap a pad from its plastic wrapping and place it inside. When I pull the briefs up, I feel comfortable, secure.
She explains how the supplies were brought by a man who helped build the high school, how he asked all the girls to use them to promise not to miss a day of school nor get married before they graduate. She asked if I could promise too. I think about the cold early mornings getting water from the river and grinding coffee, of the hours studying by solar light, of my sister who is married and gave up her college dream, of the soft confidence that rests between my legs, the feeling someone knows me and my challenges and wants me to succeed. I think of my dreams, and I nod my head, yes.
Note: During his visit to Acheber High School, while enjoying the triumph of the building that EAVO accomplished there, Seifu Ibssa noticed the low graduation and success rates of the female students and inquired about their challenges. A female teacher identified three: 1) girls have a number of chores early in the morning and after school to provide meals for their family, leaving them little time to study; 2) girls stay home from school to take care of younger siblings when their mothers go to market or give birth; and 3) girls stay home 3-5 days per month during their menstrual cycles due to lack of underwear and pads.
This lack of sanitary hygiene facilities for young women is epidemic in rural Africa. Mr. Ibssa gathered all the girls together and spoke to them, promising more solar lamps for doing their homework at night and other supplies they needed. He asked that they promise to study hard and not get married until they finish high school. All 48 girls’ hands shot up in promise. Thanks to Judie Smith of the Paraklete Foundation, who had already donated funds for the high school’s library, Mr. Ibssa purchased enough underwear for 48 girls to have 3 pairs each and receive several packs of sanitary pads.
A Note from the Executive Director: Thank you Kelsey McFaul for writing Bontu’s touching story. Friends! EAVO’s next big goal is to improve the ratio of girls that graduate from college from about 15% to 50% in the next 3-5 years. To that end, we plan to hire tutors for the girls, buy solar lights and feminine hygiene products for each girl. Help us achieve this goal. Please send us your tax-deductible gifs today! (Write “Girls” on the memo line). Thank you!
More Trip Highlights: Lana Reese Preschool—Worknesh, one of our original high school/college graduates continues to work as a teacher at Lana Reese Preschool. She is doing wonderful work using sound teaching methods and creative use of available materials to bring the academic skills to the children. Seyoum, the principal of the neighboring preschool we built at Ajo has been impressed with her work and is now looking for opportunities to further his own education as a teacher and educational leader.
Water Projects: While in Ethiopia, Seifu and Hailu, his brother and EAVO’s Africa volunteer coordinator, met with the leaders from three villages to discuss progress on a project to bring clean water to these villages. The Rotary Club of Sacramento and EAVO have committed to this project which will bring clean water within easy access. This project will also relieve girls from travelling long distance each morning to collect water from rivers, but instead focus on their school.
The community leaders reported that they already have begun clearing roads for the trucks to carry cement, sand and rocks to the construction site. They also formed a committee of 9 people, three from each village, along with an oversight committee to provide accountability for progress or lack thereof. They reported that they have collected most of the funds they agreed to supply.
The community communicated enthusiasm for the project and its benefits to their lives and that of their children. They are ready to begin the project sometime in mid-January when the harvest is collected. The total cost for the project is estimated at $39,000 ($33,000 of which is matched / funded by Rotary Club of Sacramento). We are in the process of securing that fund.
Ginchi Village: Three years ago, the church in Ginchi approached EAVO to ask for help to strengthen the church and build a Worknesh with her students at Lana Reese Preschool 4 preschool for their children. During his visit in December, Seifu observed the three classrooms that EAVO’s investment built. At the school, two teachers currently educate approximately 250 students and there is a need for a third teacher. The students bring their own water to school with them using bottles that EAVO supplied as there is no water on the site. There is also no latrine on the site at this time.
Roben Jirecha: The church at Roben Jirecha has, for some time, been working with EAVO to build a preschool. After some delays and much conversation and negotiation, the school opened during Seifu’s visit. The local governor and a representative of the Guennet Church (our partner in the building of this school) cut the ribbon to mark the official opening, and Seifu was invited to say a few words. .Currently approximately 70 students are attending regularly and being taught in two classrooms EAVO built. The school is sponsored by the church in Ginchi; in fact, leaders asked that EAVO build a school rather than a church for them. Church members currently crowd into a small room adjacent to the preschool for prayer and study. EAVO has made a contribution to build a church there.
Kisimu, Kenya: The Purpose-Driven School continues its ministry to orphans in this city on the shores of Lake Victoria. EAVO continues to partner with the school to build classrooms and provide funds for daily meals for the orphaned students. In the past, you may remember, EAVO supplied mosquito netting for all the students and teachers, and we arranged for a malaria vaccination clinic at the school. We will continue to keep you updated on our involvement there. We are reminded of St. Paul’s words to the Phillipian Church: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now….” Truly this has come to pass because of your generous partnership with us. There remains much we can do and much we hope to do with your continued support of this work. Thank you so much and God bless you!
Here are the needs:
- Hygiene supplies for Acheber high school girls
- A latrine for Lana Reese Preschool
- 3 classrooms for Kisumu Orphanage.
Please mark your gifts on the memo line of your check from the list above and mail it to: East African Village Outreach 7276 French Road Sacramento, CA 95828