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May Update: Schools Still Waiting to Open…

The Kenyan government still has the restrictions on movement in place. The closest recorded case remains about 70km away from the village. Most of the families here live from hand to mouth, and are struggling to raise basic food for their families. Our current focus remains paying our teachers’ salaries, and providing food and soap for extremely needy children. We were also able to pay for the school van comprehensive insurance this month. Thank you so much for the great support.

The government has established a committee that will advise the Ministry of Education on the reopening of schools, which we trust will occur soon. Schools have been closed since the 15th March. This has a huge impact on all students but particularly those in rural areas such as Mahanga Village. The committee will also review and reorganise the school calendar as part of the Covid-19 post-recovery strategy.

Calvine has been extremely grateful that he has been able to continue to pay staff salaries throughout this challenging time, and asks that we pass on his thanks to all of you who support Ark Quest Education Centre.

April Update: A Message from Calvine

The following communication has come directly from Calvine…

It’s our hope that you are all doing well despite the lockdown because of the global Covid19 pandemic. Our country has now confirmed 343 Covid19 cases, out of 17,492 samples tested, with 14 deaths across the country. At the village, the closest case is about 70km away, which is in Siaya, Nyanza province, our neighbouring province.

The government has been encouraging us to regularly clean our hands with soap or use sanitiser as often as possible, as well as to keeping social distance by staying at home. This is a very simple exercise at face value, but in reality, these families live from hand to mouth; they don’t have any food or cash to support their families. Many of them have no work and most families are struggling with hunger and poverty particularly at the moment. The possibility of sanitizers or soap is totally out of reach for them. These children have to go to the river to fetch drinking and cleaning water! They are only able to access tap water while at school, so we are really are trusting God for unique protection at this time. Our current focus is to support our teachers and pupils through this difficult season.

Recently, the government requested that we embrace eLearning during the time the children are at home. I was left wondering about the children at my village. How do they even access internet? This technology is beyond being a possibility for them!

Please pray for God’s protection for our village against the terrible effects of the heavy rainfall that is occurring in most parts of the country. Kenya is currently experiencing widespread heavy floods, with many homes being washed away. While the village has escaped the locust infestation, please pray that this does not negatively impact on the food supply for the village.

Thank you for the special donation which enabled us to buy materials to construct a door and 4 windows for the new classrooms. If you are interested in contributing toward a door or a window, please Ark Quest Trust know.

We wish you to know….

Calvine’s parents have both experienced some serious health issues recently, which has put added pressure on Calvine and Laura. Please pray for their continued recovery.

March Update: Covid 19 in Kenya

We understand that Covid 19 is a big concern for all of us at the moment, and this is also the case for Kenya. While the outbreak has caused the closure of schools (including Ark Quest Education Centre), there are no identified cases of Covid 19 at the village. All the support staff continue to work at the school. This includes the cooks, security, farm workers and those that manage the animals. Their food stocks are very low, which is a concern since the school continues to support the community through this current crisis.

We understand that, at this difficult time, it may be a challenge for some sponsors to continue their support. However, as a trust we are committed to supporting the school through this time. If you are unable to continue to provide support during this period, could you please contact the trust. info@arkquest.org

Increased sponsorship this year has allowed Ark Quest to pay all their government annual permits, monthly rates and obligations on time, for the first time. We are so grateful.

Some sad news. An original crack in the wall of one of the old school buildings extended, and because the block was in danger of  collapsing, 4 rooms have had to be demolished. However, the children were not at school, and so were safe. The construction of the new building will help enormously.

Regarding the new classrooms that have been built, these are very nearly complete. Steel windows, doors, frames, internal fixtures and fittings are all that are required to see these classrooms completed. Any contributions towards these needs will be gratefully received.

We trust that you are well and coping through this crisis which we all hope and pray will be over very quickly.

February Update: Wonderful Response to Sponsorship Appeal!

Thank you so much to all our generous donors. All the students who were featured in our website blog now have sponsors. Currently 26 primary students at Ark Quest Education Centre are sponsored, and 9 secondary students are financially supported to attend high school. Calvine is overwhelmed by the response which makes a tremendous difference to their ability to provide quality education for these children.

Some of you may have been aware of the reports of a locust plague in Kenya. We are relieved to be able to report that so far Ark Quest Education Centre has not been affected. Please pray for their continued protection, as locusts would cause serious damage to food sources for both the children and the cattle.

Recent photos show the progress on the first stage of the permanent school buildings. We look forward to seeing students beginning to use these facilities.

January Update: 2020 the Year of Plenty!

We are excited about the year ahead. Already opportunities are in the pipeline for greater support for Ark Quest Education Centre, and we believe that this will be a year of tremendous growth for all associated with the school. We are already seeing the first fruits of this with our student sponsorships. Thanks to generous sponsors, 6 student have been able to take up places at secondary schools. This is a record! Also, a number of Ark Quest primary students are now benefiting from sponsorship. What a blessing for the school and these families!

Steady progress has been made on the building of the first 3 permanent classrooms. The roof of the first floor will be completed very soon.

Teachers and students have recently returned to school after the summer break, and the year has begun well.

We hope that you have had a refreshing summer break. We thank you for your continued support and hope that 2020 will indeed be a year of plenty for you too!

Child Sponsorship Opportunities

Sponsorship Please Note: The following students have now all received sponsorship thanks to our generous donors.

Sponsorship to Secondary School

Students who have qualified to go to Secondary School by gaining the necessary marks in the Kenya Primary Certificate of Education (KPCE) exam. These students require funding to attend Secondary School for the next 4 years. Without sponsorship they will be unable to go to Secondary School, or attain any future university qualifications.

The cost for this is $1600 per year (approx. $135 per month) which includes full board, uniform, and stationery costs.

Class 8

Sponsorship to Attend Ark Quest Education Centre

Students who continue to attend Ark Quest Education Centre, and are unable to pay their school fees due to extreme poverty.

The cost for this is $520 per year (or $10 per week).

Class 7

Class 6

Class 5

Class 4

Class 3

PP2

PP1

November Update: The Walls Go Up!

Building Progress:

We have been extremely impressed with the speed at which the building has progressed since the team left. The building process in Kenya is extremely labour intensive since they lack the modern building equipment that we all take for granted. The team’s gift of a commercial concrete mixer certainly improved the efficiency of the pouring of concrete for the ground floor.Prior to this purchase, the mixing of the concrete was done on the dirt ground using shovels. It is exciting to see the walls going up and the first three classrooms drawing closer to completion. 

Year 7 Maker Fair Donation

Special thanks to the Bethlehem College Year 7 classes (7LAM and 7RRM) who donated the proceeds from their Maker Fair fundraiser to Ark Quest Education Centre.The funds will be used for annual maintenance on the water pump. This will enable the students to continue to have access to the only safe drinking water in the community.

October Update: Our Recent Ark Quest Adventure!

Recently a team of eight visited Ark Quest Education Centre and participated in the beginning stages of the construction of the permanent classrooms.

Valuable time was spent with Calvine and his team, renewing relationships and gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges faced daily by the dedicated staff. We also had the opportunity to share with teaching staff and students, about life in New Zealand, and bring a greater cross-cultural understanding.

We were able to visit the homes of some students, who are in extreme poverty, living on less than $1 per day. Their houses are made of mud, and finance is often raised through sale of produce from the land they live on. They will walk to get water, and mostly have no electricity. They cook on an open fire within their living/sleeping area.

As some members of the team support the secondary education of past Ark Quest students, we visited 2 students in their high schools and were impressed by the high quality of their education.

Ark Quest Education Centre currently has approximately 130 students, who are fed twice daily. The school is excelling academically, and is ranked 3rd in the Vihiga County (approximately 400 schools).

For more detailed up-to-date information about Ark Quest, please Click here.

Ark Quest Latest Information

Ark Quest School

The school currently has approximately 130 students who are fed twice daily: porridge at morning tea, and beans with maize for lunch. The school is excelling academically and is ranked 3rd in the Vihiga County (approximately 400 schools). Every year there are students who qualify for Secondary Schooling.

Due to extreme poverty in the village, many of the primary students are unable to afford the school fees, and Calvine will not send students away if their families are unable to pay. The cost of school fees for these students (which contribute to the running of the school) is just over $500 per year (or $10 per week).

The school faces significant running costs such as: wages for support staff, the school license, private school registration, exam fees, and transport costs such as fuel and maintenance for the van and the water pump.

Teacher salaries are paid every month with funds sent by the trust. Support staff (farm workers, cooks, cleaners, administrator, guards, cow workers etc.) are not paid on time every month, due to insufficient funds. They are paid when other money arrives usually from Calvine, and yet they are grateful to work and to receive what they are given. Currently the teacher salaries (averaging $75-$100NZD per month around $3 per day) are significantly lower than what would be received in a government school.

Building Stage 1

The first phase of building 3 classrooms is complete: the foundations have been finished, and building is progressing. There are enough funds raised to finish 3 classrooms, which will be used until the next phase of building can be completed.

The current mud classrooms are functioning and being used by the school. However, they are not up to standard and we saw signs of the rear of the buildings sinking. The MOE have also indicated the size of the classrooms is too small. We noticed that the lighting is very poor with only one light bulb in some of the classes, and frequent power outages.

Cows: Raising money through sale of dairy

In 2018 the cow herd diminished due to infection in the herd. Four cows died and Calvine was forced to dry off the others in order to save them. This was a difficult time, since the cows required continued feeding, but were not providing any income. Since then the herd has recovered, and is supplying milk for the students, and surplus milk is being sold to the dairy company and it is almost covering costs.

Secondary School Students

Each year, students from Ark Quest Education Centre qualify for places in various secondary schools, most of which are boarding schools. Which school they are selected for is dependent on the results they achieve in the end of year exam (Kenya Primary Certificate of Education). The national school accepts the students with the highest grades, and is the most expensive, followed by regional schools and then local schools. The majority of student who qualify are selected for schools they cannot afford to attend without sponsorship. As a result, often students are unable to go to secondary school. In 2020, Calvine foresees at least 5 students being eligible for secondary schooling. If you are interested in supporting a student to secondary school please let us know.

School Vans

The school now has 2 vans. One van is used to transport children to and from school, and for local trips. The other van is used to transport feed for the cattle. When we saw one load of cow feed arrive at the house, the van was full of 15-20 50kg bags of feed, which men unloaded themselves and carried to the cow shed. There are approximately 17 cows now. The van is also used to transport manure from the cow shed to the paddocks around the farm where Napier grass, maize, bananas and other fruit are grown. The roads are rugged (to say the least!) and so regular maintenance is imperative. The school vans also require fuel, regular replacement of tyres, suspension, and licensing.

Family

We were all very aware of the pressure that Calvine has on him within his local community. His standing in the local community means that he is seen as a source of income, so that when there is a need within a family, he is the person they will first approach. While he doesn’t always provide for these needs, often the need is so great, there is little choice in the situation. E.g. We saw a mother who had been living in a shack, and who could not feed her family. Calvine told them to come to the school to eat the food provided to the students, and the mother was employed to do small tasks around the school and paid a little. With this money, she was able to build larger mud-house so her family could be dry.

Calvine’s father Fred is unwell and there are significant monthly medical costs for his ongoing treatment. We met Fred, who is a local pastor with responsibilities across the local community. In spite of illness, he continues to minister to a number of churches in the area, and hold regular prayer meetings.

Calvine’s mother Leah is currently studying at theological college. She manages the support staff at Ark Quest, and oversees the running of the school. While we were there, we noticed her presence with the Year 8 students, motivating them and also providing a level of correction when needed.

Our Thoughts

Our perception of the school was very positive. We were amazed at the level of the teaching and learning, and how eager the children are to be at school. The teachers were very thankful for any resources we are able to provide, and so when each teacher was provided with 2 sets of coloured pencils, 2 pens, and a blackboard duster, they were extremely grateful. The children will often share pencils, and rubbers, and any books and paper are quite precious.

We are very aware of the pressure Calvine and Laura are under to keep Ark Quest Education Centre afloat. Despite this, they both remain very positive and passionate about God’s work in Mahanga Village and the enormous impact the school is having there. Calvine shared about the story of Gideon and how he thought he had a capable army to fight, but God chose just a few to fight the Midianites, reducing the army drastically. This is what he has also experienced, but his faith and trust in God is as strong as ever. And so our faith is also strengthened and we continue to hold our dear friends in prayer and provide support as we can.

August Update: It’s all go at Ark Quest!

Sam and Hannah Johnston (Bethlehem College past students), recently visited Ark Quest Education Centre and have sent this report.

 

There have been big changes since our visit last year. The expansion of the cow shed, thanks to Chris and Emily, has allowed the herd toincrease. The subsequent increase in milk production helps to provide income for the school. Eucalyptus trees, and Napier grass for the dairy cows, have also grown significantly. In the future, the trees will be used for timber. The chicken farm is still going strong. It’s exciting to see all these projects being well established for the purpose of providing for the children at Ark Quest School.

 

It was encouraging to see Class 3 working on a new project. They were using the resources they could find – old flour sacks, tree branches, paint tin lids – to build wheelbarrows and make aprons and brushes. Once they had made their outfits and tools, they then went into the main part of the village and started cleaning up all the rubbish as a way to serve the community. I was blown away seeing Ark Quest students serving and setting an example in their village.

 

In October, Class 8 will sit major exams to determine which high school they will get into. They are committed to doing their best for them. I was also humbled to see the dedication of the teachers, who do all they can to ensure their students are well prepared. Education will transform the lives of the students, their families and the community.

The next major project is the building of new classrooms. This will begin with a team in September who will build the first three classrooms. It’s all go at Ark Quest!

 

There will be no September Blog update as the team will be in Kenya. Watch this space in October for a report on our building venture.