by Allison Schlack
We teach our students that they are blessed to be a blessing, no matter how little they have in the way of material possessions. Two years ago we were challenged to see if we actually believed it ourselves.
During a staff discussion on empowering and recognizing the dignity of those whom we serve, an interesting idea surfaced. We were preparing for our Giving Tuesday fundraiser and began discussing raising funds in Kenya, instead of solely relying on donors abroad. We wondered if our alumni would give as they get good jobs, and we also began to look at our network in and around Kenya: the doctor who sees our students, the lawyer we use, our dear friend in the safari business, and more.
Then, one of our staff members asked quietly, “Why not get our students’ families and the Obunga community involved?” After all, we encourage them to share a pencil if they have two. We talk of the importance of giving away a t-shirt or a pair of flip flops to a friend without. We want them to be people who smile, encourage, and pray for others. Why not get their families involved? They are blessed by the sponsorship of their child.
I have to admit that while I loved the idea, I feared how families would react if we began asking for money. Many of them struggle to meet basic needs, which is part of why they qualify for sponsorship in the first place. As the staff continued to discuss it, the idea gained momentum. We discussed how much we would ask for and how to share the message. We didn’t have an idea what to expect, but we prayed about it and rolled out the plan.
I was stunned when day after day around Giving Tuesday 2015, students and families began to come by the office, bringing a dollar, or two, or three. While a few objected or wanted to understand, the majority gave what they could. I believe we raised $400 in the Obunga slum that first year. I was overcome by the positive response and the generosity I saw. It worked!
Over the last two years, we’ve refined our process for asking and have done a better job of explaining it to our students and their families. Last year, Giving Tuesday in Kenya raised $650. This money went toward the purchase of an excellent Yamaha keyboard and microphones for our church’s and Ndoto’s use, since ours were stolen a few years ago. The cheers when we announced this in church and at Ndoto events was all the fuel we needed to know we were on to something. There was a sense of pride and purpose when people realized their contribution went to something they could see being used week after week.
While I’m sure there are still a few dissenters, I am humbled and overjoyed to announce that this year, the families of our students and members of the Obunga community have raised over $700, with all but ten gifts being $5 or less. Some families brought $2 or $3. Some committed to $5, but brought it in two or three installments. A week after Giving Tuesday, donations were still coming in. Now, we are blessed to decide, in conjunction with our team, how this money will be used. As always, we look for something directly benefiting the community.
I look forward to this time every year. I’m inspired by the commitment and the generosity I see around me. I have been guilty of underestimating people, and I pray I do that no longer. To all of you, both in Kenya and abroad, who gave on Giving Tuesday, I want to express my heartfelt thanks. You helped us raise $6,500 more than last year. Now we look to all our Gracious God has for us in 2018, and we know it is possible because of you. To the faithful sponsor in Texas who gives above and beyond, to the mama selling charcoal in Obunga who gave $5 in three installments, and to everyone in between – you inspire and honor us. May God richly bless you!