Crafting an Education for Kenya
Seventy-five children in Ngong, Kenya will receive a home and an education because of the efforts of a local woman and her craft store.
Wedged between two rustic buildings on Trade Street is whimsical UMOJA African Crafts. Handwoven brightly colored assortments of jewelry, art, and knick-knacks skim the walls in every direction.
The owner, Purity Ruchugo, 55, a native of Kenya, started a ministry called Sister2Sister when her family emigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s. The ministry empowers women in Kenya such as mothers of special needs children, girls in need of health education, and single mothers. In 2012, she opened her store in Winston-Salem, selling goods made by the women back in Kenya. The proceeds go towards helping these women and their children improve their quality of life.
With a population of over 100,000, Ngong, best known in this country for the backdrop of the movie “Out of Africa,” is located southwest of Nairobi. In Ngong, elementary, middle and vocational education are free, but high school is not. Most children have no chance of ever attaining higher education. Ruchugo wanted to help these kids get a high school degree, so she allocated a division of Sister2Sister to fund high school education.
April Ruchugo, Purity’s daughter, noted the two success stories of Kenyan students Ezekiel Ewaton and William Ayemum. Through Sister2Sister funding, these boys were able to attend high school and are now attending medical school and journalism school, respectively.
The ministry also provides lunch for almost 100 orphans every day at schools in Ngong. Many of the children currently assisted by Sister2Sister have no place to go when the school day ends. There is no home waiting for them. The food they receive at school is likely the only meal they have all day. Many children come to school hungry, and providing food allows them to enjoy school and be able to focus on what they are learning.
The newest project of this ministry is a children’s home and school currently under construction in Ngong. The project is entirely donation-based, so construction is occurring as the funds generate.
“Hard to say when it will be completed, but it’s always my prayer that it is sooner than later,” said Ruchugo. “So, we hope, and you never know, someone could come along and say let’s finish it. That’s my prayer, but then there’s also fun in letting many people play a part.”
The building was designed by Kenyan architects and engineers, and is currently providing additional local jobs with construction, gardening, and work within the new institution.
“The project has been great for the economy, and has generated a positive reaction,” said Rev. Laura Spangler, of Lloyd Presbyterian Church on Chestnut Street. Rev. Spangler, a member of the board of Sister2Sister, and her husband are active members of the ministry and have been to Kenya to visit the women and children on more than one occasion.
“We want[ed] to do more,” said April Ruchugo. “That’s really how the idea started; just knowing there was a need in that community and trying to see what could we do.”
The ministry currently serves children that either have families who do not have the means to take care of them, or no family at all. The new children’s home will house 65 – 75 children, and the school will take in upwards of 75 with a final headcount depending on demand and space.
“These are children who don’t have a chance, or any hope,” said Ruchugo. “With this home and school, they can grow up, with their basic needs met.”
Contacting Charles Mungania, a board member and overseer of the project, proved difficult as the time difference and public transportation didn’t allow for a verbal conversation to occur. “Sister2Sister International is transforming lives in many communities,” said Mungania, via a text exchange facilitated by Purity. “The locals are happy because Sister2Sister is providing work and bringing in development. This organization caters to the whole person.”
Ruchugo travels twice a year with a ministry group to Kenya to check in with the families they are supporting. She is taking April Ruchugo on her next trip this October.
“We have so many blessings, to go to school, and have a house to come home to,” said April Ruchugo. “It’s a wonderful thing to bless someone with the same opportunity, to tell these children that there’s no limit to what you can do and who you can be.”