A Mixed Blessing

I have often wondered where the term, “a mixed blessing” came from. It seems counter to what a blessing really is. How could there be negative attachments to blessings? Maybe “negative” is too strong a word, maybe I can use the word, “challenge” to describe the situation.

This is the time of year when school starts in Kenya and other countries in Africa. The Kenyan school year starts in January and ends sometime in November. The kids go to school year-round, and only have a big block of time off around Christmas. With the new school year, we receive requests to help get school fees paid for our secondary school students. This is much like high school for the U.S. All our sponsored kids go to public school, which is “free” to all Kenyan citizens. Where I am from, “free” means without cost…not so in Kenya. In Kenya, the children are free to attend school as long as they can pay for: a uniform, books, testing fees, teacher’s training, a ream of paper, field trip fees, and so on. The list of added fees is long. For our younger children, the fees are affordable with sponsorship, but once a child enters secondary school, the fees are more than what we send for their sponsorship.

We are ecstatic that our kids are entering high school! It wasn’t that long ago that we worried about their survival! When we started the sponsorship programs in Kenya over 10 years ago, the orphans were young, high school was not an immediate necessity. As the first kids entered secondary school, it wasn’t too difficult to pay their fees. Now that we have hundreds entering secondary school, we have this conundrum. And our kids are smart! National Testing of Level 8 (8th graders) determines where they will be offered entrance to high school. If you do extremely well, you are offered a National Secondary School admission. This generally requires boarding and travel, but it is the highest quality education. Many of our kids qualify for the National Level school. The lower your score, the lower the standard of education is made available to you. The costs align with this standard as well. It cost much more in fees to attend a National Level school than the local level school. It doesn’t sound like a free education, does it? The local level schools cost around $39 per month in fees, which is more than the sponsorship amount we ask you to pay! How do these kids get to attend any secondary school let alone the higher quality ones they qualify for?

Our guys in Kenya are doing what they can to send kids to the local level secondary schools. They believe that education of these orphans is the one thing that will help them become productive citizens in Kenya. Besides their faith in God, they need the best education available to them. We have resorted to pretty drastic measures to help get these fees paid. There are younger kids in our programs that are helping subsidize the high school aged kids. We take a portion of their monthly support to help pay for the older kids. The older kids have almost all of their monthly support earmarked for their school fees. Much like social security, we are using the younger children to help pay for the older ones. It is helping now, but it creates holes in the budgets in Kenya. With costs increasing for everything, we know we are on a slippery slope!

We thank God everyday that our orphans in Kenya are thriving with your sponsorship. They are healthy. They are living. They are growing old enough to attend secondary school and even universities! That is a blessing! But this blessing comes with the challenges I mention here.

Please help us send our children to secondary school and beyond. We have created a special account just for these types of expenses. If you would like to help, please send a donation earmarked for “Education” in the comments and we will make sure it is used for this purpose.

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