To an American child, the idea of wearing a school uniform is outlandish. An American child’s perceived individualism, in part, comes from what they wear, what label is on their clothing and whether it is the hottest, most current style. In Kenya, the opposite is true.
As a former British colony, one of the far-reaching legacies of that rule in Kenya is the commonness and necessity of school uniforms. A student simply cannot go to school without a uniform. Due to the level of poverty, most families cannot afford to purchase a school uniform, thus the child is prevented from getting an education.
Even in a school like St. Irene Orthodox Mission Center, where a child who cannot afford an education will not be forbidden one, a uniform is still a very important matter. For many extremely poor children with inadequate family support, the uniform provided for them by St. Irene’s represents the first brand-new clothing they have ever owned. Wearing it is a matter of pride, and the clothing is lovingly cherished. It sets the child onto the first rung of the social ladder. It is a deeply felt experienced improvement of status. “I am just like the other children at school! I belong here!” The child is identified in the community as being one of the students of the school.
It promotes concern for cleanliness. Because the uniform must be kept presentable for school, the notion promotes hand washing and other necessities that we in the United States take for granted. It helps a child who is an orphan, or from a desperately poor family, to be accorded some respect in the greater community, as one who is improving him or herself with an education. It removes a target from off the back of a child and is one of the kindest gifts one can give to one whose very existence is threatened and marginal.
In other news from St. Irene Orthodox Mission Center, last month the crops were hit by frost. The maize crop was lost. Ever faithful, Fr. Constantinos did not give up. With some of the children, he was back in the garden planting cabbages. Pray for them that at the end of three months, God will bless their efforts and provide a bounty to harvest. In the video Father Constantios explains:
The Kenya Meteorlogical Department is warning of heavy rains and possible flooding in parts of the area. Read about it here. Please pray for moderate rain to water the crops and fill barrels with drinkable water.
Father Constantinos has put a 10-year Strategic Plan into place and has successfully purchased 1.25 acres of property for their permanent home. Though a 1000 litre water tank was purchased in January, sinking a bore hole to improve access to clean drinking water. This would improve the lives of not just those at the mission center but provide an income generating project of selling clean drinking water to the area’s community members.
You can donate to Orthodox Africa to help St. Irene Orthodox Mission Center with their long term goals here.