Partners and Friends,
We pray that you all are well. We are well, but we feel like we have entered bit of a time warp! Kenya’s fight against Covid has been going well, and in many ways better than most other places around the world. However, with the emergence of new variants, Kenya’s cases are rising and hospital wards have been filling up. In an effort to combat this, Kenya has returned to the same lock-down measures we were facing in March of last year, with a few differences. Schools are closed, restaurants are only open for take away services, no travel into or out of the lock-down zone (Nairobi and surrounding counties), and there is an 8:00pm curfew. One positive is that we are well equipped and familiar with how to function in this situation. We have had a lot of practice! Also, many of our projects and partners are within the lock-down zone, so we’ve been able to continue visiting. Unfortunately, Jamie did have to postpone several trips to locations outside the lock-down zone. Most of these were partnerships he hasn’t been able to visit in over a year, which is difficult, because we were finally at a point that some sense of normalcy had returned, so he had several trips planned. So it goes. Fortunately, the current measures seem to be helping. Only 4 weeks in and we are already seeing a significant drop in cases, deaths and infection rate. That being said, these types of measures always have negative impacts on livelihoods, especially those that are the most vulnerable (more on this below).
The kids are troopers and are doing an amazing job navigating on-line learning and being flexible with our every shifting schedules. They are adaptable and able to adjust to nearly any situation. Though, like many kids around the globe, they do miss friends and are grieving the loss of social experiences and school events and activities.
One good piece of news on the fight against Covid is that Kenya has started the vaccination roll out! Unfortunately, as with many things in our world, it is exposing the drastic divide between the rich and the poor in this country. Many people are finding it very difficult to gain access, and the current vaccination plan doesn’t have the majority of the population having access for years. We are praying that Kenya’s access to vaccines increases through COVAX, and that manufacturing and distribution continues to improve.
Speaking of vaccinations….we are coming to the States for a couple of months this summer! This is a regularly scheduled furlough, however, with travel restrictions and complications and the kids modified school schedule (before going back on-line), we hadn’t known for certain if we would be able to travel home this year. However, with the kids going back on-line and their ability to school from anywhere, and with us having access to vaccination this summer, we decided that it would be possible to come home. So we made a fairly sudden decision to come in mid-May! We have a lot to do to be in a position to leave for the summer, but we have time to get everything in order. We know international travel in the time of Covid is going to be a bit more tedious, but we are so excited that we will get to see family, partners, and friends for the first time in 2 years! Unfortunately, we will only be home for a little over two months, so we won’t be able to travel to as many churches as we would like. But we are going to try to get to as many as we can in this short period. We will be reaching out to pastors, missions directors and churches within the week. We are also working on an update video that we will send to all of our churches and partners that we are unable to visit.
As always, here are a few family shots from the last few months. Fortunately, (before things locked-down again) we were able to go camping in Samburu National Reserve a few months ago (this is a reserve we’ve always wanted to visit, but had never made happen), and take a trip to the Coast over the kids Spring Break (things locked down while we were away, so fortunately we got back in to Nairobi!). In February, Sophie also performed in the school talent show in front of hundreds of people. We were so proud of her. We’ve also had many wonderful weekend hikes in Karura Forest the last few months. Looking at these photos reminds us that even with this difficult season, and current lock-down, we are so grateful that we have had pockets to “get out” and enjoy this beautiful country.
Ministry and Project Updates
A fairly constant area of focus for us this past year has been relief. Due to Kenya’s Covid lock-downs in 2020 and 2021, many people have lost income and consistent work. So many people in Kenya work in the informal sector. When the economy is disrupted, or the flow of commerce is negatively affected, opportunities for employment are scarce. In addition, with schools, churches, and restaurants being closed for much of 2020 and now again for this past month, many teachers, pastors, and workers in the service industry have suffered greatly. The result is that relief distributions to partner communities have become a fairly regular occurrence.
In addition to the effects of the pandemic, Kenya has also been devastated by environmental disasters that have destroyed livelihoods. Flooding has become a yearly event (sometimes twice a year) in the Tana River Delta, and over the last year locust invasions have infested cropland throughout the country. We are not in a position to scratch the surface of helping to meet the needs that these types of events create. However, we are grateful that, in partnership with incredible partners within these communities, we have been able to respond through food aid and relief.
Please keep the people of Kenya in your prayers, especially those that reside in informal settlements, rural areas that depend on agriculture, and those in extremely remote areas that lack development and infrastructure.
Smile Star’d-Days 4 Girls Enterprise
Smile Star’d-Days 4 Girls Enterprise is an amazing organization started by our partner, Alice Mwangi. The enterprise creates sustainable, reusable sanitary pad kids for young girls in order to help them stay in school. They also provide education on feminine hygiene in local schools. In order to meet this demand, local women are hired and trained as seamstresses. This has the added benefit of providing these women, and their families, with dependable and consistent work. The enterprise started a little over 2 years ago with 4 seamstresses, but has quickly grown to employ 10 women, as well as a team of educational trainers and facilitators. This growth led to a great problem….the building they had was not large enough for all 10 women to work comfortably. We are happy to report that a new building is nearly complete! It will provide a more spacious workspace, as well as additional storage and work rooms. We are very excited about this development!
Tana River Irrigation/Agriculture Projects
We are excited to report that the 5th Community Irrigation/Agriculture project in Tana River has been completed! This project is in a community called Bandi, a community we have had a long relationship with through disaster relief and food aid. It was delayed due to heavy rains earlier in the year, but now the work is completed and the farm is already producing food for the community (pictured below). If you would like to read specific details about each of these projects and how they are impacting these communities, you can read about them here: https://dunningsinkenya.com/2021/04/21/an-update-on-tana-river-projects/
We are currently working with our partner, Bocha, on plans to do yet another project in a community called Mtampani. This project will be managed by Grace, a tremendous leader in her community. She has a heart to help meet the needs in her community as well as a desire to share the love of Christ with them. This project will serve as catalyst for each of these desires!
CFS: Rosslyn Cultural Field Studies
In March, I was able to take a group of seniors from Rosslyn Academy on a Cultural Field Studies trip to Ormanie Suswa. Each year Rosslyn sends 16 groups of HS students to different locations all over Kenya for cultural learning and service. This a huge initiative that Jessica coordinates and plans each year. As of February, Jamie has also agreed to volunteer a bit of time each week to Rosslyn as their Service Learning Coordinator. This involves finding opportunities to connect Rosslyn students and staff with service opportunities throughout Nairobi and Kenya. Part of this involves assisting Jess with coordinating CFS, so this is now something that we will do together.
Due to Covid, most of this year’s trips had to be cancelled, but we were still able to offer the Seniors an opportunity. Making sure that the teams were responsible and safe (for themselves and the host communities) during Covid required a lot of extra planning and logistics. Ensuring all activities were outdoors, modified sleeping arrangements, washing stations, providing masks, transportation adjustments, Covid tests for 70 participants before and after the trip.….it was a lot to manage. However, to give these students this opportunity after a year of losses made it worth it. Not to mention, the benefit to the communities. They were all grateful for the opportunity to host the students.
Jamie also hosted a site in Ormanie Suswa, and Ethan joined the team as well. The team was immersed in Masai culture. They learned to slaughter a goat, build fire traditionally, night hunt with nothing but flashlights and sticks (successfully!), and even track wild elephants. They also ministered in the local church and assisted the community with rebuilding the barrier fence around the community dam that was trampled by elephants. It was a great experience for the students and community, especially after a year of social isolation and distance.
Odhole Elevated Pit Latrine Project
We were able to provide another elevated pit latrine in the community of Odhole. The elders of the community requested these last year because the community does not have enough latrines for the population of the community, and the ones that exist often flood during rainy season. This leads to sickness and disease. This is the 3rd one we have been able to provide. We hope to continue providing them at different locations throughout the community. This effort not only improves sanitation and dignity among the community, but it also serves as an opportunity to continue building relationships and establish trust with the elders and leadership. This, along with other relief and sustainability efforts we have conducted in Odhole, further empower the team of local missionaries that reside there to work and minister.
Hosanna Dairy Project
This Hosanna Dairy Project continues to grow and improve. Currently there are 6 heifers and 4 calves with two more on the way! The project is growing so quickly that we are now making plans to build another cow shed/feeding area to house the expanding herd.
They are currently producing around 70 liters of milk a day! Around 20-25 liters of this are consumed by the children and staff each day, and the remaining is sold at around $0.40 a liter. The income generated, in addition the savings from eliminating the need to purchase milk for consumption, is making a huge difference.
This project is one incredible example of our desire to see our partner programs empowered through self-sustainability initiatives! The ministry of this home is so important, as very real needs are met, and the love of Christ is shown to these children and community on a daily basis. This dairy project serves as a catalyst for helping make that ministry continue and thrive.
St Joyuna Chicken Project
Another great example of a successful sustainability project (and micro-finance loan initiative) is the chicken project at St. Joyuna Christian school. The project was started with a gift of 200 broilers, feed, feeders, etc., but it was expanded through a micro-finance loan we were able to offer. The project now has 400-450 broilers at a time, groups of 200-250 purchased 3-4 weeks apart. This ensures that 200 chickens are ready to sale every 3-4 weeks, while the newest brood are growing.
These funds help sustain the feeding program and meet the financial obligations of the school. A few pics of the current brood (as of April) are below!
- For the country of Kenya, and all nations that lack adequate access, to gain greater access to Covid vaccines.
- For safety and protection as we travel to the States for a couple of months this summer.
- That we would love God and others as He loves us, and that we will be faithful in all the areas that we are being called.
- For continued direction and wisdom in our work.
- For our marriage to grow stronger every day.
- For Sophie and Ethan…that they will feel a meaningful connection to our ministry and that they both will grow to love and follow Jesus.
- For the Nation of Kenya, and the individuals, ministries, communities and churches that we have partnerships with.
- For our extended families as they live life without having us and the kids nearby.
- For good health, safety and protection.
Can we pray for you? Please send us your requests at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We love and appreciate you all! Your support, prayers, and encouragement mean everything to us. Thank you for partnering with us.
Grace and Peace,
Jamie, Jessica, Sophie and Ethan