June 30th 2012 was a special day at Ndoto. First, because it was my birthday. And second because it marked the deadline of issuing Ndoto sponsorship Application forms for 2012. I choose to talk about the latter. Unlike last year when about 55 students collected the forms on the first day, this time the first two days saw over 250students collect the sponsorship application forms! That is 3 times more than the spots we have for this year since we are in the habit of taking only 50 students yearly. As students and their parents streamed at the Ndoto office in Obunga, we kept wondering how many applicants we would get this year. Every case looked deserving and the thought of turning some students down always makes me sad. The ugly truth however is that we depend on people’s generosity to do our work and therefore we can only take a limited number of people at a time. By the time we closed the applications on 30th June, a massive 389 students had applied for the 50 spots. Yes, 389 students for 50 spots!! The implications of that is a rigid vetting process that will see us select those who are to join Ndoto. That is tough! The good news though is that at Ndoto we endeavor to act justly and show mercy always and every case is treated as special.
|Some of the submitted forms from the 2012 applicants|
As has been the case in the past, majority of the students who applied this year mainly come from Obunga slums in Kisumu, Kenya. For those who don’t know it, Obunga is a slum in Kisumu and is mainly characterized by deplorable living conditions and abject poverty. The inadequacy of physical infrastructure and basic social services in this area is comparatively worse than in other slum areas and roads are generally impassable due to poor drainage and inadequate spacing of houses and other buildings. This is an area of drug addicts and unemployed people, young and old alike. Common economic activities here include selling vegetables, charcoal, second hand clothes, fish and running of small food kiosks in order to make ends meet. Women and young people brew illicit brews which are illegal and punishable by the courts to provide for their families and pay school fees for their kids. Housing remains a big problem in the Obunga slums as majority of residents live in tiny/ single room iron sheet houses locally known as MABATINI, with house occupancy of four to eight people per house. In general, majority live in a vicious circle of poverty as they cannot invest and even support the education of their children. Through support from Ndoto, students from poor families have been able to go to school and achieve their dreams. Students sponsored by Ndoto are seldom sent home for school fees. As a result, Ndoto is a place that everyone wants to be, almost all the students in the community want to join this program so that they too can enjoy being in school and be assured of a brighter future through education. Since its inception, Ndoto has been exceptional in its work in Obunga and has won the respect of many in the community. Not many organizations have had the greatest impact in the community like Ndoto has in the past few years by faithfully sponsoring students at all levels and enabling them to acquire quality and affordable education and life skills that they need in order to afford them a quality life and emancipate themselves from the vicious circle of poverty, diseases, ignorance, dependency and war within the families. It is not surprising therefore that a total of 389students applied for the sponsorship program despite knowing that we only take a limited number of 50 every year.
|more 2012 applicants|
Over 60 students have already turned in their forms, all immaculately filled in, with all the necessary reference letters and documents appended. The submission deadline is scheduled for July 31st, 2012. As I was going through the forms that have been turned in today, it crossed my mind just how hard it’s going to be selecting 50 students out of 389 applicants. Every single completed form from a student applying for the sponsorship represents a story every bit as compelling and complicated as the other. These are no ordinary people. They have BIG dreams!! Some want to be doctors, architects, Journalists, pilots, engineers, some lawyers, teachers, pastors, priests, nurses, others accountants, businessmen, politicians, drivers, and so much more! They come from different levels of education too. Some are in nursery school, others first to eighth grade, others in high school and some in colleges and universities. All these applicants are praying that if selected to join the program, Ndoto will help them be what they dream to be. If we give them a chance, each of them has something amazing to offer.
It is impractical to help everyone in this community. However, for any student who cares to dream, Ndoto which in itself means to dream endeavors to support these students and help them to realize their dreams. Some of these students have gone through a lot of struggles and problems in life that have discouraged them and even made them think they will never be what they want to be. At Ndoto we don’t want these students to be pushed by their problems but we want them to be led by their dreams and ultimately live the life each one of them wants to live.
We have 114 students now. If we take 50 students which I highly doubt because we could end up taking 55 or even 60 given the high number of applicants, then Ndoto will have a total of at least 160 students by the start of school in January 2013! That has HUGE implications in terms of recruiting sponsors and raising funds to support the program activities including hiring and training able staff that will take care of these precious people.
It is hardly three months since Allison Schlack; Ndoto’s Executive Director came up from the USA with the good news that all the 55 students admitted into the program last year had all gotten sponsors. We were all ineffably elated and grateful to God for his faithfulness and provision. We celebrated with our trade mark group hug oblivious of the fact that 3 months later it would be time for her to hit the road again recruiting sponsors for yet another group of new students. With 160 students expected in the program by December, I am already wondering where our next Christmas retreat would be. We have literally outgrown all the facilities we have used previously. Not long ago, we used three 14-seater matatus to ferry students to a retreat centre at St. Rita Buoye, then it was this April it was a 60-seater bus making two trips to Ahero for this years’ April Retreat. And now with 50 to 60 more students, it could be 2 60-seater buses!! Looking back, I remember the days when Allison Schlack had only 29 students in the program. She knew each student by name, where they went to school, their parents and siblings and every nitty-gritty about them. And she would queue in the bank halls to personally pay their school fees and accompany them to buy supplies. Before she could blink, there were 79 students in the program, then 112, and soon 160!!! With a student population of 160, and a staff of about 7 in Kenya alone, Ndoto has grown so fast and so has the need to serve these students well and provide for their needs. We cannot control them, but we want to influence them for God and towards God and not just give an education. Because at the end of this life their education wouldn’t matter, whether they knew God and served Him will.
|Ndoto students at the April 2012 retreat|
God has been faithful over the years and has provided all we need to run this program. He has constantly reminded us that He is sufficient for all our needs, even when as human beings we doubt. When we selected 55 students to join the program last year, I didn’t know everyone would have a sponsor by April. God provided and we are all grateful for His provision. He is aware of our needs and our wants and it is good to know that His plan is for us to learn how to lean on His sufficiency even in difficult times.
As we begin the process of selecting the students for the 2013 academic year, pray that God will continue to provide like He has always done. The school year for the new students start in January 2013. Our goal has always been that every single student has a sponsor by then. But like I said before, a lot of what we do depends on people’s generosity and that means we have to pray pray pray and fully rely on God to provide. The good news is He has never failed us. And that really blesses my soul.
|Ndoto students writing letters to their sponsors|
To those interested in signing up to sponsor a student and make a difference you can check the sponsorship levels from our website www.ndoto.org. With as little as $35 a month you can get a kid through school in Kenya and make a difference in the life of a kid from Obunga. Someone once said that if you can’t save a village, change the life of one person within that village. If you can’t change a person’s life, bring a better moment to his life. Helping others on any scale is a wonderful gift to the world, but more importantly it is a wonderful gift to yourself. Do something that’s greater than you – something that helps someone else to be happy or to suffer less.
To those already sponsoring students with Ndoto, smile and enjoy the fact that you are making a difference – one you’ll likely remember forever.
And to everyone, PRAY!! PRAY!! PRAY!!!!!!
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” Albert Pike