Students vs Sponsors; The Dilemma




    I have always loved the work that Ndoto does in Kenya. I love working for Ndoto and getting to interact with the students and staff, a special group of people. I consider myself lucky to work for such a great organization that gives students who have almost lost hope in life a chance to dream again and fulfill their dreams. What blesses my soul the most is getting to recruit new students into our sponsorship program.  They come in when they are so discouraged and almost giving up hope, then we accept them in and slowly I get to watch them be transformed into who God wants them to be. I love it when we admit students who have no idea what it means to even attend a church service or youth bible study. When they join our program, they find out that one of the requirements is to be actively involved in church activities. What a blessing it always is to see them worship and praise the lord with all their being during our Sunday Church services at prince of peace church where all the Ndoto students come to worship the lord! I love that as an organization we are very unique in that we not only give the students an education that is fundamental in helping them achieve their dream careers but we also lead them into knowing Christ Jesus.
Ndoto students participating in a past church service
     I am honored to have been a Ndoto student, and now a Ndoto staff. That helps me appreciate the program more. Back in the days when I joined, I was a sophomore and there were only a bunch of students in our church and this made it easier for Allison to select the students joining the then informal sponsorship program. During those days, there were no annual applications, no interviews; no restrictions on the siblings sponsored per family and one needed not be bright to be sponsored for sponsorship was purely based on financial need.
Michael; ndoto student who recently graduated to be a pastor, with his brother Tobias, also a ndoto student. They too did not go through the interview process to join the program.

    Yesterday as I compiled the names of the shortlisted students for this year, I was reminded of just how lucky I am to have joined the program when I did. Competition has become so stiff that not just anyone can get in anymore. BRIGHTand NEEDY are the bywords of the day.

   Over the past two weeks, Ndoto staff here in Kenya has been as busy as worker bees going through the 2012 applications.  Over 370 students applied for the 50 spots this year. This has made the selection of students for the interviews very difficult in deed. Coming up with 50 students from the 370 has been such an arduous task. Traditionally, we would shortlist 60 students and end up taking 50 or 55 after the interviews.

   The reason we take 50 students annually is due to the fact that it is so difficult recruiting sponsors. We rely entirely on the good will of the sponsors to run this program. Our sponsors play a critical role in giving disadvantaged kids in Obunga the basics and the confidence they so much need to realize their dreams. The monetary contributions made by the sponsors not only help the students afford quality education but also go a long way in  providing love and attention to the poor children in Obunga. Recruiting sponsors has been the sole responsibility of Ndoto’s executive director, Allison Schlack who works tirelessly to ensure that each of the 50 students that we admit annually have sponsors by the start of the school year. Although we do roll out the sponsorship application forms in June each year, the vetting process and the interviews take a long time and by the time we come up with the successful applicants it is always late in the year with only 3 months before the start of school year. The good news is that God has always provided for us and we have no iota of doubt He can do it again. Our slogan has always been to pray! pray! Pray! until every student has a sponsor. Previously, some students who are not  lucky to have sponsors by the start of school year in January have had to either delay reporting to school until they have one or have their guardians struggle to pay the first term fees on their own until the start of second term by which time all the students usually do have sponsors.
        Taking students above the “normal” limit of 50 usually means extra work for Allison and other Ndoto volunteers helping recruit sponsors and lots of prayers from the entire Ndoto fraternity. We always don’t know what to expect, we just take students and go out there believing that God will provide a sponsor for every student we have taken in. Sometimes the difficult process of recruiting sponsors is aggravated by the fact that some sponsors drop out due to financial commitments and we have to look for alternative sponsors because at the end of the day our priority is to keep our students in school.
        With the overwhelming applications received this year, we ended up short listing a massive 152 students last week! Each of them had good marks, well articulated dreams and demonstrated financial need. So after days of rigorous vetting, we had 152 students and we were ready for the interviews. Then it dawned on us that we only have 50 spots. Yes, 50 spots for 152 students all with dire need. Knowing explicitly well how difficult the process of recruiting sponsors is, we were forced to go back to the drawing board and embark on another vetting process, this time to eliminate 50 students so that we could interview 102. How painful it was getting rid of 50 precious people! We raised the standards, and went for the crème de la crème of the group; taking the brightest from the group and assessing their financial need. I must admit that all the 370 plus students were very special. Thus to come from 370 to 152, and then reduce the 152 to 102 was painful indeed. How I wish we could find sponsors for all of them!! Right after we had shortlisted the final 102 students who are coming for the interviews tomorrow,  Thursday, 30th August, we posted the list and scores of prospective students and their parents scrambled to find out if they made it at least for the interviews. I loved seeing their eyes light up when they realized they had made it for the interviews. It was a real reminder of how fortunate they were to have made it amid stiff competition and the stringent vetting criteria ever in the Ndoto history.

Lawi, a student whose life has changed dramatically since joining the program last year. He now goes to Akili prep school, a school started in Obunga by one of our graduate student teachers, Erick Oduor.

        Not everyone was happy though, there was anger and frustrations written on the faces of those who did not make it and we encouraged them to keep working hard and apply next year. The Ndoto premise in Obunga has become a favorite hanging out place for most of the youth in Obunga. Some come to study at Akili library while others just come to hang out. It has been so sad walking around and meeting familiar faces in the library and in the compound; faces of students who applied and didn’t make it, not that they are not bright, but because of the limited spots we have for the year. Every time we meet them, they look at us with expectation as if their future is in our hands. Sometimes, you look at them and it dawns on you that they are indeed very needy and should have made it for the interviews were it not for the limited spots. Those are the times that I wish everyone in the world could sponsor a kid and make a difference in the world. Unfortunately that can’t happen and we must keep praying that God will minister to people in a special way and change their hearts towards giving to help the less fortunate in our society.

some of the ndoto students having fun at the ndoto office in Obunga.

As we start the interview process tomorrow, let us pray that God will give us the wisdom to know those he has chosen to join the program. Let us also pray that more people will sign up to sponsor our students and that God will provide the sponsors by the end of the year so that our students are not forced to report to school late due to lack of school fees. I would also like to take this chance to express my utmost gratitude to all those people who are sponsoring students with Ndoto. Your prayers and financial support help greatly in transforming the lives of God’s children struggling to cope with deplorable living conditions in Kenya. May God bless you so much as you sacrifice part of your income to make a difference in the lives of the kids in Obunga. God is not unjust and he will reward you for your good work.
        And to those people who are not sponsoring a student and would like to, I would like to kindly appeal to you to start sponsoring a kid with us and make a difference. We are interviewing 102 students starting tomorrow, Thursday. All the 102 students are very needy. Unfortunately, we are only going to take 50 students because this is the number that Allison and other Ndoto volunteers can comfortably raise sponsors for. If more people are moved to sponsor these precious students, we could end up taking 80 or more. We all wish we could take all of them. Interviewing a needy student and not being able to find a sponsor for them is very sad and the interview process is always tough for the Ndoto staff because all these students who have made it to interview are special and we wish we could help all of them. But the ugly truth is that we depend on peoples generosity and we can only take a limited number that we can comfortably raise sponsors for. Since Allison now runs the program from Kenya, it is very difficult raising funds since she has to travel to the USA to recruit sponsors for a limited period of time and them fly back to Kenya to train the staff and serve the students.

    If you have a heart to help the poorest and most vulnerable in the world, then we invite you to learn more about our work and join us as we offer life, opportunity and hope to the children in need in Kenya. When you sponsor a child, you can transform a life, please act now to make a difference in the world. With $35 dollar a month, you can put a student through school in Kenya! As a sponsor, you will help provide a child with sustainable access to appropriate life-changing basics like nutritious food and clean water for the Boy’s and Girl’s dorms, healthcare, and education for the over 100 students that we support. Ndoto will also give you the opportunity to personally connect with your sponsored child thus building a relationship that could change both your lives.

Ashley Reed, one of our sponsors with Ridah, the student she sponsors. Ashley is volunteering with Ndoto in Kenya, mentoring our young girls

If you want to get involved, kindly visit our website at May God bless you all as you continue praying for and supporting Ndoto. Pray! Pray! Pray!

“If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord-and He will repay you.” Proverbs 19:17


  1. dschrod2003 on August 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Bwana, very challenging article indeed. I will be praying for you and the rest of the Ndoto Staff as you finalize this difficult process. One comment, I think you meant to say $35/month, not per day! Can’t wait to see all my friends again in Kisumu!

    David Schroeder

    • Team Ndoto on August 30, 2012 at 7:12 pm

      Thank you for praying bwana! Yes, i meant $35 per month :-), thanks for the correction. when are you coming back?

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