Be sure to pray for the 17 high school students and volunteers who are in Kenya now. They personally will meet the people who are doing the hard and holy work of reintegrating street children back into families. Pray for safe travels and life changing experiences. Along with the most recent stats which show 160 children reintegrated to homes, I wanted to share a story from our director that shows the power of what church engagement in the process can look like:
We have a boy on campus who has a mother who is really struggling. She was sick sometime back and had a problem with her legs that is slowly resolving. She was living in a one-room rental with herself and her children that her aunt owned. That one-room rental was not a good situation for the family, and our staff were struggling with the right place to take this boy. The mom is someone who would constantly move from one place to another, eventually unable to pay rent and forced to move to a new place all over again. This has been the environment that this boy has grown up in and why he ended up on the streets. After visiting several times, we came to understand the lengths she was going to were simply to try to provide better for her children.
During one of those visits our social worker happened to find this woman’s pastor of the church she regularly attended. Our social worker shared with the pastor some of the challenges we were having with the family and finding a suitable home for the child, as the mom was constantly moving from one place to the next and never settled. The pastor heard our social worker and, on his own, approached the mother and sat with her. The mom was able to share that she needed help to remain stable. She had a piece of property from her family with the title deed but no structure was there. She needed help to build a structure. (We were not even aware of this). The pastor shared with the congregation, they did a fundraiser, and within a week built her a small home on her own property! It was incredible. Now the family has a place to call their own that doesn’t charge rent and is suitable for them. The boy gets to go home for a weekend visit this coming weekend to see his new home and stay there with his family. This could change a lot for this family, allowing the mom to be stable and settled and stop moving around so much due to not being able to pay rent and getting kicked out of several places. This could be a big deal in helping the boy settle at home and get back to school. We are so excited about the way God provided for this family. Attached are photos of the new home the church built for the family. God is so good!
OCTOBER 2018: from Dan Hamer:
I received word that Kuny, the boy in the picture passed away this week. He was a street boy who spent much of his life on the streets of Kitale. Sadly, life is short for children who spend their days and nights on the streets. I mourn for this poor boy and so many others like him who have not been able to live the life that God intended for them. But I rejoice that children like Kuny now have hope and an advocate in Kitale. Our Agape team in Kitale is already making a difference in the lives of street children. Street children are being welcomed into the Agape Center where the children and their families are being prepared for reintegrating the children back into families. It is working, miracles are happening, and children have already been reintegrated into families and are part of an extensive program of follow-up.
We are conducting another conference the first week of November in Kitale where we will continue to drive home the message of the value of these children and the Church’s responsibility to care for them. Agape is a tool for the Church to help it care for these children, it does not relieve the Church of responsibility. Pray that hearts are opened during this conference.
You might want to take a few moments to watch this short video that was created by our friends at an organization called Chosen and Dearly Loved. It talks about the work of Agape in Kisumu and the expansion into Kitale.
Thank you so much for your continued financial and prayer support for The Kitale Project. You are truly making a difference.
JULY 2018: from Dan Hamer:
I recently returned from Kitale, Kenya and was absolutely blown away from how God is already using your faithful gifts to The Kitale Project to get children off the streets and back into families. The Kenyan staff led by Jonathan and Andrea Dowell have been remarkable in how they have hit the ground running with the official opening on July 1. Already 21 children have been reintegrated! Some of these children were in the program that has so graciously provided us our initial facilities, some were from another program that just sent all of their residents to us for lack of any other options, and some were placed with us by the local officials.
I was there to witness the reintegration of a little boy who had been found on the streets and normally would have remained on the streets or he would have been sent to an orphanage where he likely would have spent the rest of his life until he turned eighteen. The Agape staff found his family in four hours and returned him to a grateful family who had little hope of ever finding him. Four hours of our staff time and a family was made whole again!
Another boy was on the streets who had stolen less than fifty cents from his father but was afraid to return home to face the consequences. The Agape staff was able to reconcile the relationship between the father and son and develop a plan for the boy to repay the funds. Imagine that, for fifty cents that boy would have spent a hopeless life on the streets and likely died there, alone and broken! God had other plans thanks to the work of Agape.
We know that Agape can reintegrate children off the streets. They proved that in Kisumu and are already proving it in Kitale. The real challenge comes in mobilizing the churches in Kitale to see their responsibility for these children and the families that care for them. If we can bring about a return to the Kenyan values towards orphans and street children that existed prior to the HIV/AIDS pandemic we know that the changes we are seeing will be permanent and sustainable. That is our commitment to the churches in Kitale and we have plans and partners to make it a reality just as we are mobilizing churches in the Seattle area to care for the foster children and vulnerable youth that God has placed in our communities. Together we can do this! Thank you for your generous support and your prayers.
Your support for The Kitale Project has already provided for incredible opportunities to see God’s love for the street children of Kitale and we don’t even officially open the Kitale facility until July 1!!! Last week the Kitale police decided to brutally arrest 43 young boys and 1 young girl off the streets and place them in the adult prison in town. As you can imagine, these are intolerable conditions for adults, let alone children. A few Agape staff members who were in Kitale were able to partner with some other organizations in town to get the children released from jail and taken to safe places until steps could be taken to begin the reintegration process. As a result of the County needing Agape’s assistance with these children, they immediately issued the license that we had struggled to obtain which could have dragged on for weeks and threatened the planned opening in July!
Somehow in the midst of rescuing 44 street children from jail, we were able to hold 280 interviews for the 35 remaining positions for staff in Kitale. Obviously, there was no shortage of incredible, qualified Kenya workers to come alongside the 11 staff who have transferred from Kisumu.
Our team from Student Ministries returned safely from their incredible time in Kitale and saw firsthand how God is using Overlake to transform the community. They were able to share much of the trip with five Kenyan students who were helpful in gaining insight into what God is doing in Kenya.
One of our future outreach workers was in town and encountered a young street boy who was willing to go home. So she cleaned him up and took him home immediately. The family was so excited they were singing and dancing that their lost boy was found! All of this before we even have the facility open! God is not waiting to do good works so we are open to every opportunity that He presents to us. We are ready!
Thank you for your continued financial support and prayers!
A team of students and leaders from our high school ministry are currently in Kitale and will be providing a program for the children while we conduct a training on Trauma Informed Care for approximately 200 caregivers and church leaders. They are being joined by high school students from Kitale who will be learning and serving alongside our students and can hopefully be key leaders in the community to bring about hope and healing for the street children of Kitale. From all reports, it has been an amazing trip for them so far.
There will also be a meeting this week of the Agape leadership staff with the ten key Kitale pastors who we took to Kisumu last year to view firsthand the work of Agape. On that trip the pastors quickly saw the value and success of the reintegration process and invited us to work with them to create a program in Kitale. The staff in Kitale are reporting that the local government officials have been remarkably supportive and have even offered property (which we don’t need) and office space until we open in July. We were even offered another property by a Sikh temple but are going forward with the original property offered to us from the orphanage that is losing its funding. We have signed the memorandum of understanding with that organization and the lawyers are trying to figure out some complicated Kenyan property issues so that eventually we will avoid issues down the road.
Thank you for your prayers and continued generosity as we seek to open fully by July 1. God is clearly at work!
Thank you so much for your support of The Kitale Project. Your continued support of our efforts to return children from the streets to families is already making a difference. It is so fun to have a front row seat to watch what God is doing in Kitale, Kenya!
Jonathon and Andrea Dowell are the young missionary couple who have been serving in Kisumu at Agape for the past five years and have agreed to move to Kitale to lead the opening of the replication. They gave birth to their first daughter, Madison Joy in December and have spent the past two weeks in the States introducing her to her American family. Jonathon and Andrea return to Kenya next week and will hit the ground running! They plan to move to Kitale in April to continue the work of building strong relationships with church leaders, other organizations, and the local government officials.
An amazing thing has happened related to some friends of ours in Kitale who operate an orphanage that receives it funding from the United Kingdom. They have been notified that their funding will no longer be available after June. However, when they learned about our plans to replicate the Kitale program they presented us with the opportunity to take over their compound which is a huge blessing! It is in a great location in Kitale and although we will need to make some building modifications it is a clear confirmation of God’s blessing on this project.
With plans to officially take over the property on July 1st, there is a lot to do in four months. We have identified key staff from Kisumu that will be a part of our team in Kitale, including four staff members whom we will promote to manager positions in Kitale. Beyond these four managers, our desire is to bring at least one member of the Kisumu staff from each department to Kitale and fill the remaining staff positions with local candidates. We ultimately will have 41 Kenyan nationals employed in our new center. Having experienced staff from the opening day will assure us that we will be able to serve these children well.
We have a team of thirteen from Overlake Student Ministries going in April to assist in training. They will be joined by five Kenyan students who will join our students for every aspect of the trip. We see this as a great way to assist local Kenyan students who want to get involved with the Kitale project as well as create opportunities of ongoing relationship and support from our students for their work at Agape. As we have seen from recent events in Florida we know how much impact students can have on shaping their culture and the attitudes of their families. Perhaps this can be one more way to start changing the stigma that accompanies children who are forced to spend time on the streets of Kenya.
The next adult team will likely be scheduled for early November if everything goes as planned. We will keep you posted of that opportunity.
Thank you so much for your generosity and prayers. God is at work!
What a blessing it has been to see Overlake unite to help the street children of Kitale, Kenya! Almost 500 families have already committed financially to this dream of returning street children to families. We have come close enough to reaching our financial goals that we are going full steam ahead! We hope to be fully operational with our transition facility by the end of June.
Jonathon and Andrea Dowell, an American missionary couple who have been serving at Agape in Kisumu have already begun making plans to move to Kitale. They will be recruiting a team for Kitale which will consist of a few experienced Kenyan staff members from Kisumu as well as hiring the balance of the team from the Kitale community. We anticipate a staff of 41 Kenyans who will serve various roles including managers, social workers, house parents, teachers, counselors, guards, cooks, and administrative help, all of whom need to be fully trained by the time we open.
Things are progressing nicely on acquiring the property we have identified which is in a great location just outside of town. It will need some renovations but it should enable us immediately to house a total of 30 children at a time. It also allows us the opportunity to provide a full service program for girls which has always been critical to our vision for this project. The funds raised by Student Ministries will pay for new beds and bedding and a fully functional kitchen will be possible thanks to the generosity of the amazing children of Kidtown! What an incredible church-wide effort this has been.
The Student Ministries team is planning a trip in April that will primarily focus on trauma training for pastors and caregivers as well as agricultural trainings in the villages. The first adult trip will likely occur in late June depending on how we progress on the tentative timetable of being fully functional by the end of June.
We have been in contact with our agricultural team about how we can grow our own food on the property as well as create income producing opportunities to support the program. We also want to be sure that we integrate agricultural skills into our curriculum. God even brought a wonderful couple to Overlake who just happen to own property in Kitale who are willing to help in this effort!
Thank you for your willingness to be a part of this historic effort! God is clearly at work.
When God’s children are in need, you be the one to help them out. – Romans 12:13 (TLB)
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