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Life in Kenya can be hard no matter who you are, but especially so for the working poor. I frequently get asked “Why help those people over there–when there are so many struggling families right here in the US?” I’ve given many answers over the years, but I suppose the answer I always come back to is simply “Because I can”. It seems like that reality always leaves me with the concrete choice: Do what I can, or tell myself something to feel OK not doing what I can.
Anne and I have spent our careers and adult life helping the vulnerable members of our community here and have no plans to change that. Yet coming along side Kenyan friends and the children and families in Kiang’ombe is different.
Teachers in Kenya earn a decent wage by local standards, around $300 per month. That comes out to just under $2 per hour. The working poor survive on far less, $100 – $150 per month is a typical wage: $0.65 – $0.95 an hour. Most of the families in Kiang’ombe earn much less. The remarkable thing is that basic goods / services like food, water, cooking fuel, gasoline, transportation costs, electricity, school, etc … are basically the same price as here in Portland, some even more expensive. There is also NO SOCIAL SAFETY NET. No child welfare department, no government housing assistance, no Wic, no shelters, no mental health system, no food stamps, no public health insurance, no fully free public school, no clothes closets, absolutely nothing. If you can’t pay for something up front, in cash … you don’t get it. Families must make their own way and carve out a life for themselves or die trying. Many in Kiang’ombe are not able to succeed in meeting the most basic needs for their children, while working their hardest to do so.
That is the difference.
At Ameena Project, everyone who has gotten involved has decided that they too can work for change, work for justice, work for the dignity and opportunity that all people deserve. What do you earn? How much is 1 hour of your work worth? In Oregon the current minimum wage is $9.10, I’m guessing most people reading this earn even more than that. Would you consider spending 1 hour of your work a month to come along side the children and families Ameena Project serves in Kiang’ombe. With just 1 minimum wage hour a month we could provide 75 meals to kids who really need it. What could your 1 hour do? Please consider donating what you earn per hour once a month by signing up for a recurring donation at http://ameenaproject.org/how-you-can-help/. We all work 160 or more hours a month, just 1 invested in the lives of children and families in Kiang’ombe will do so much.
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He is the perfect example of everything we hope to achieve at Ameena Project. The doors of opportunity and hope have been opened for young Kennedy because all of you believed he deserved it and put your time, talents, and resources to work for his sake. Kennedy was one of our first students and finished the program successfully to enter the local school system healthy, eager, and ready to learn.
He rushed up to greet me with a huge smile and walked me by hand to his humble home to show off his proud achievement. Kennedy earned a nearly perfect score on his annual exams this year ranking him at the very top of his class. 1 of 6 children in his family he has overcome insurmountable barriers and is solidly on his way to becoming everything he was made to be.
Little sister zainabu is following in his footsteps attending Ameena Centre daily building the foundation she will need to thrive. His mom volunteers at the project and works with our staff to learn new ways to manage her scarce resources, family, and home. Watching her children come alive to health, opportunity, and education is now a reality she had never before even dared to dream possible.
One day Kennedy will change the world for others, as you have changed the world for him.
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Meeting Day with the Community and Parents
Some Shots from Class Time and the New School Site
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In case you missed it you can click HERE to read it. You can also sign up on the bottom of the home page to receive it direct to your email.
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This weekend ultra-endurance athlete Christian Isakson put on three events to raise funds and awareness about Ameena Project. It was a whirlwind at times and was truly humbling to watch him pour himself into each individual event and each person who attended. Ameena Project people were there in the background and left deeply grateful for Christian, his friends at More Than Sport, and the remarkable way Friends of Ameena have been woven together to make it all possible. Two worlds crashed into each other in the best of ways. Elite athletes who live in the spotlight turned that light in another direction to light up the lives of some of the most needy and forgotten children in our world. They explained that the real champions serve others and challenged everyone to courageously take risks and find their own place to do more. We are all built to win. We are all built for greatness. We live out our innate purpose when we put our needs aside to help another. Listen to Christian express how sport and service come together in his life: Christian’s Thoughts
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Last month the board of directors got together and reviewed 2013 goals, operations, and financial policies. Our monthly recurring contributions have remained quite consistent and continue to be several hundred dollars per month below our actual operating costs. However, our overall base of support has grown as people share the Ameena Project story and so our cash reserves continued to creep up over the course of the year. At the end of 2013 we are no longer worried about our ability to continue operations in Kiang’ombe and look forward to implementing new and expanded initiatives in 2014.
Since the beginning, Ameena Project has maintained a primary goal of 100% financial efficiency, meaning, we want every single penny donors contribute to be used meeting the needs of the children we serve. This is a core principle of our work and we hope to be able to continue meeting this goal long term – to us it just makes sense. In a world where helping seems to have become it’s own industry , we hope to stand out as one place where people know for sure that their money makes a difference where it matters … all of it. Being 100% volunteer run and doing everything possible to minimize domestic expenses has helped us achieve this goal but there are still costs to doing business. There are bank fees, PayPal fees, international transfer fees, costs associated with web hosting, fundraising, business software, etc… To date, all of these costs have been covered privately by the board to ensure that all donor contributions are put to work in Kiang’ombe. Another large expense has been travel which has all been paid for personally by Ian and Anne May and volunteers traveling with them. We’ve been asked several times why we do this and the answer is simple … because we can. Now this doesn’t mean it is not a hardship, it costs a lot to travel and work in Kenya, but up until this point it has just been the right approach for us. There’s a great saying (not sure who said it), “A principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money” – this really resonates with us.
Looking ahead, in 2014 we are on solid ground for ongoing operations in Kiang’ombe and have decided to make some minor changes in our financial policies to help make our domestic operations more sustainable long term. Up to this point we have not solicited or allowed private or corporate donations to cover anything but Kiang’ombe program operations. In 2014 we will begin to allow donors the ability to designate contributions to cover domestic operations and /or travel for those interested in supporting our work in that way. ALL regular contributions will continue to be used 100% for program operation in Kiang’ombe enriching the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in Kenya.
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2014 Kenyan School list! We leave 2/21/14. Please post a comment under the list of what you want to help with!!! Someone from Ameena Project can pick up the item from you, or you can have it shipped or dropped @12190 SW Butner Rd, Portland OR, 97225! This was such a success in the past years, we are excited to see what you all come up with!
–6 Toy vehicles, 6-10 inch. (sturdy plastic preferred over metal for weight concerns)
–6 Toy baby dolls (black if possible)
–4 sets each Plastic numbers & letters
–15 boxes large sized crayons (preschool appropriate)
–Any number of Thematic books (nature, animals, seasons, transportation, cultures, foods, plants etc)
–Preschool level books with Bible or value themes
–Dozen or more Game dice (larger sized if possible)
–Supplies to restock the 1st aid kits e.g. Band aids, neosporin, antiseptic wipes, anti fungal cream, burn cream, other ideas welcome
–Latex gloves sized medium
–10 preschool wooden puzzles, any theme
–20 plastic jump ropes, good quality so they last!
–1 LED solar lantern
–2 Bicycle pumps with extra needles
–3 Pairs sunglasses, 1 women’s, 2 teen boys
–1 Full/queen size comforter, any color
–1 Pair teen boy soccer cleats, size 6.5
–1 Digital camera pref. Canon Elph
Financial contribution towards Tech bundle for all 5 staff ($400 total) to increase on the go communication/internet access.