Weekly Feature



2017-06-15 / Business

Shopping event to support education for secondary Kenyan students

by HOLLY N. LIPKA
Reporter


Secondary students, sponsored by Crossroads Springs Africa, pick up textbooks for the upcoming school year. Secondary students, sponsored by Crossroads Springs Africa, pick up textbooks for the upcoming school year. For children who live in the fourth-largest HIV epidemic area in the world, according to a 2016 UNAIDS report, it’s common to find a child who’s lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.

Largely due to this epidemic, only half of these orphans and vulnerable children are in secondary schools, where most attend with the help from organizations such as Crossroads Springs Africa.

Crossroads Springs Africa is a nonprofit organization that provides education and various necessities to these children so they can gain the skills and knowledge to become self-reliant and contributing citizens to their communities. Secondary schools, most of which are boarding schools, cost $700 per student.

“That $700 is more than most parents can earn in a year,” said Alison Hyde, president of Crossroads Springs Africa. “Most of their families are peasant farmers who grow food to feed their own family. If they’re lucky they can sell a little, but it’s impossible for most.”


Florence Odero Florence Odero To raise money for these children, Ten Thousand Villages, at 5596 Main St. in Williamsville, is hosting a benefit shopping day from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 15, where 15 percent or more of each purchase will benefit Crossroads Springs Africa. Kenyan tea will be served, and the Mill Middle School African Drumming Club, conducted by Jennifer Olsen, will perform from 5 to 6 p.m.

The organization began in 2004 with the Crossroads Springs Institute in Hamisi, Kenya. The institute provided primary education to children in prekindergarten through eighth grade.

To follow these students who have grown up, the organization reorganized two years ago and began supporting secondary students who attend various boarding schools in the same region of Hamisi.

The organization has also created a post-secondary program this year that will help students who graduate from high school go to college.

“After students graduate from high school, they wait to receive messages from colleges and universities,” said Hyde. “Three of our sponsored students have heard from universities, so they’re working with them to get started in September, and others had such high grades that it is possible they will be asked.”

Crossroads Springs Africa also partners with Kakamega Orphan Care Centre in Kakamega, Kenya, which provides advice and mentoring of the students and some medical care. They also have a selection committee that scouts for students who may benefit from a sponsorship.

A $700 sponsorship provides room and board, mattresses, uniforms, textbooks, backpacks, mosquito bed nets and paper.

Nancy Faletta is a donor for Crossroads Springs Africa and sponsors 16-year-old Florence Odero. Faletta, who was once an American Field Service exchange student, visited Hamisi with her daughter, Charley, who received grant money to spend eight weeks volunteering there from Harvard University in 2014.

“When you go over there, they warn you that there’s going to be someone who captures your heart, and there was someone for me,” said Nancy Faletta.

Faletta met Odero when the institute was still in service. Odero’s great presence and leadership skills stood out to her.

“Florence’s peers really look to her, the teachers look to her, and if the teachers wanted to gather up the students, it would be Florence who would get the students together,” said Faletta. “With a student like that, you think, oh my gosh, if they just had the opportunity, what could they do with their life.”

Odero is among 100 students who achieve sponsorships through Crossroads Springs Africa. Faletta said the children are very earnest about their education and do not take it for granted.

“They are very grateful for their education, and they just shower blessings on you for making it possible for them to get an education,” said Faletta. “Pencils are 1 inch long and are sharpened with a hand knife or razor blade, and students sit three at a desk to share a textbook. You just don’t realize what you take for granted until you’re with these students.”

The Crossroads Springs Africa nonprofit board meets monthly at Orchard Park Presbyterian Church. For more information visit www.crossroadsspringsafrica.org.

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