1 in 5?
1 in 5? Surprised, no. Sad, yes. I hate statistics. I live my life to defy them. I hate them just as much as I hate labels. Changing statistics and eliminating labels are tasks that drive me nearly every day in my personal world.
When the WAK team met Samuel in 2007, we didn’t know how significant this statistic would become to us. 1 in 5. There are a lot of other awful statistics about Kenya’s educational system. In the early years of WAK, we were consumed with the fact that an estimated 70 percent of Kenya’s children will not make it to eighth grade. We have worked hard to change that for the kids in Soweto. It’s been a team effort, from the donors here in the states to the dedicated teachers on the ground, each has done his part to work toward a new statistic. One that defies the norm, one that demonstrates even kids in a slum are valuable enough to receive a quality education.
But now, as we celebrate the upcoming graduation of our first class of eighth-graders, we are confronted with a new challenge—and a new statistic. The one that says that less that 50 percent of the 30 percent of Kenya’s children who attend primary school will make it through high school and achieve a secondary school diploma. That is less than 1 in 5.
We believe that with intense prayer and a whole lot of effort, that statistic can be changed. Since the beginning, we knew that we did not want our kids to be sitting around a table 30 years from now, trying to figure out how to help feed the kids in Soweto this month. A few years ago, we began looking for ways we could become part of sustainable change. With our partners in Kenya, we started researching secondary schools in Kenya, hoping to find a partner similar to ours who would be able to educate our students as they entered high school. It has been a tough journey, but we have found it is too cost prohibitive to send our “leavers” on a consistent basis to any of the schools we found. It is also becoming very apparent that these children will need not only the basic high school subjects, but also vocational training, given that the unemployment rate in Kenya is well over 40 percent.
But the need seems immense. To build a high school, we need a lot more land, which requires a capital investment. To run a regulated high school in Kenya, we needed a much larger monthly budget. The most sustainable solution seems to be to find a way to grow some of our own food and use local resources to generate income. And the needs extend far beyond high school. How do we ensure that all of our kids not only have food and education, but the love and stability of a family? And what about vast needs of the adults in that same community, including those impacted by AIDS or limited by their own education and resource constraints? Samuel began to share with us pieces of his vision for this very thing—it was exciting, yet overwhelming. We prayed and strategized, and prayed some more.
We have been overcrowded for some time now. Two pieces of land with great possibilities were identified—a five acre plot of land that was ideal for a school, plus a much larger plot of land that was ideal for farming, hydroponics, and community development.
Land. That was clearly where we had to start. Land? Are you serious? That was my reaction. Believe it or not, I am not the biggest dreamer on our team. Our own secondary school? Impossible. But then I remembered what God told Abraham and Sarah, “Is anything impossible for God?” I have to say no, it’s written in the Bible after all, but still…
I think we were all a little scared. We did a lot of researching, praying, and honestly, avoiding! We talked, and talked, but none of us were sure how to start the necessary fundraising campaign or even if we really should. With the help of our friends in the UK who also partner with the ministry in Soweto, we began a business plan, and yet, we still had no concrete plan for fundraising.
I think God hates statistics as much as I do. I also think He wanted us to see Him move in impossible ways. I believe He wanted us to see that He will accomplish His work through us, or not, it’s up to us to tag along and bring Him glory.
While we were still deliberating on what the staggered phases of our fundraising effort might look like, something incredible happened! God broke ground. Through an anonymous donor, an entire 5 acres of land now belongs to the ministry of Provision Education Center! This is five acres that lies about an hour from the school. It is plush green land nestled into the countryside, surrounded by small houses and primitive farms. It is land good for growing food, feeding cattle, housing poultry, and someday, we believe it will be the place of our Secondary School. I say our, because I believe that by walking this journey with our family in Kenya, we all become part of Kenya. From the little one who gave his five dollar allowance to the dear ones who made the land purchase possible, from those who go to Kenya, to those who support and pray, We are all Kenya. At this point, I am once again shedding tears of disbelief and gratitude. To you, our supporters, but more so to our God, who showed us He didn’t need a campaign or a nifty plan to raise funds, just a willing heart. I am forever changed.
Now, we are ready to defy yet one more statistic. 1 in 5? Not our kids. They are more than just a statistic. They are OUR kids, yours and mine. Together, I believe we can defy 1 in 5 for the kids of Soweto. We are not just raising survivors—we are partnering to empower the next generous of East African leaders! We do not serve the God of “1 in 5”, but the great Shepherd who left the 99 to save the one.
In the days ahead, you will see some pictures of the land God has given us, and catch a glimpse of Pastor Samuel and his team’s vision for the next steps. In the months and years ahead, we will continue to see how God’s plans unfold. The needs still seem immense—and they are—but they do not even cast a shadow on the breadth of God’s love, justice, and holiness. Although Philippians 1:6 was written to a different audience in a different era, these words echo into the lives of our extended family in Soweto, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion….” And we will be His witnesses together on this incredible journey!