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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.

Excitement is Building!

We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of donors who have contributed towards the building of a new permanent structure for Ark Quest Education Centre to replace the present temporary buildings which are deteriorating. Team members who are travelling to Kenya have paid for their own tickets, and are actively fundraising for the build.

 

Calvine has had architectural designs drawn up for 16 multi-purpose classrooms, with the future in mind! We are aiming to build as many of these classrooms as possible, and so far funds have been raised to build the first 2 classrooms.

 

We wish to particularly acknowledge two major donors, who wish to remain anonymous, giving $10,000, and $5,000. Our total fund pool is approaching $30,000!

 

Please click on the link should you wish to contribute: Give a Little: Ark Quest Rebuild 

June Update: Sporting Success at Ark Quest!

Sporting Success: Ark Quest students have recently competed against neighbouring schools in a sports tournament. This was an exciting event for the students who participated enthusiastically in sports such as:, football, volleyball and handball. For the first time in the history of the school, they managed to produce the top scorer in soccer. Damlean Shawn Lumasai, was a star player throughout the competition. Ark Quest  has been selected along with a few other schools to contribute to a zonal team to participate in the sub-county competitions.

One of the aims of Ark Quest, is to improve their games department. The students are thrilled to be able to participate in a growing range of sports activities.

Visit from UK Supporter of Ark Quest: Sarah Jackson, will be in NZ from 4-7 August, and we are excited to be able to meet up with her. Sarah is a school teacher in the UK, who has visited Ark Quest several times, and has generated a great deal of support for the school. Sarah is hoping to establish a Trust in the UK and has growing support amongst colleagues and friends.

Congratulations to Laura: We wish to congratulate Laura (Calvine’s wife), who has recently gained her Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering!! What a great accomplishment.

 

May Update: “This school was God’s idea”

The response to our van appeal was truly amazing. Thank you so much to those who donated! Within 3 days we had received all the funds needed to ensure that the van was able to keep running safely and efficiently. We are so encouraged by Calvine’s faith, as he never doubts that God will provide for all of the schools needs. As he has often said, “This school was God’s idea”. We are all truly grateful.

 

We are excited for the team who will be going on the next trip in September. On this trip, the team will begin the construction of permanent classrooms. Many thanks to those of you who have supported the team in their fundraising initiatives so far. The Car Boot Sale and Sausage Sizzle were a great success. All funds raised are going directly to construction costs (and all team members have paid their own fares). Watch the Facebook page for more upcoming fundraising ventures.

 

  

 

April Update: Urgent

We would like to introduce Christine to you.  She is a Year 7 student at Ark Quest Education Centre. She lost her father early in her life and now lives with her grandmother, who can’t afford to raise school fees or even money for their basic needs. In spite of this, Christine is a strong girl who is determined to succeed at school, always achieves over 80%. Christine would love to be a doctor or a teacher someday. She is a great example of what Ark Quest is all about – shaping lives for a hopeful, bigger and better future.

The first term of the year was characterised by great success from the pupils. All classes have had their Term 1 exams, and their results are promising. We are looking forward to excellent performance in this year’s KCPE.

Urgent Need – Ark Quest School Van:

Because of his father’s ill health, Calvine has had significant medical expenses so far this year. As a result, he is struggling to cover the insurance and maintenance for the school van, which will both be due next month (May). He has asked for prayer – but we would be grateful for any extra financial assistance you would be able to give. The total cost for the van is: $1500 for insurance and transport license, $500 for speed governor and inspection certificate, and approximately $1300 for replacement of 4 tyres (Total $3300). The van performs an essential role in transporting students to and from school, and carting feed for the cows and supplies for the school.

The teachers have expressed their appreciation for the support given by the Ark Quest Trust, which has enabled the salaries to be paid on time. They have asked us to thank all our great supporters, for making this possible.

 

A Little Girl Called Oside…

This month we share the story of little Oside, a precious girl who joined Ark Quest School this year courtesy of your generous support. Unfortunately, she lost the older sister last year from malaria. Her parents don’t have any formal employment so, in order to raise a meal for each day, they have to constantly depend on odd jobs, which are a challenge to get at the village. Oside’s family has no money for clothes, shoes, or furniture. 

What a great blessing to have her access education. At Ark Quest, she is guaranteed of good breakfast and lunch before going home to join the rest of the family. You can imagine the excitement of the little girl while receiving two sets of uniform and shoes from Ark Quest courtesy of your generous support. This is the reality that faces many children out there in the community.

One of our exciting project this year is trusting God for a new school building to replace the now deteriorating structures that have served us so well for 10 years. This is a big vision for the future of the school and therefore the need for an even bigger team of people to pray and partner with us.

In September a small team will be heading to Ark Quest to begin the construction of the new school. A number of local fundraising initiatives will be taking place over the next few months. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for dates and events. All funds raised by this team will go towards construction costs for the new building.

Celebrate with us!

We are delighted to share Calvine and Laura’s good news on the birth of their son, Ebenezer. He was born January 11th, prematurely at 2.3kg (approximately 51/2lb). While there were initial concerns about around his health, at six weeks Ebenezer is now a flourishing 4.1kg.  We hope you enjoy the photographs.

It was a joy to view Emily and Chris Johnston on TVNZ The Project last week. This interview highlighted the work of their parents, Brian and Grace, and the ongoing impact this has had on Ark Quest Education Centre. You can view this fabulous footage if you click on the link below.

We are grateful for your ongoing support, which has enabled us to respond to a significant need. The water pump at Ark Quest, which provides fresh water for the school, and the wider community, is currently in need of repair. With your help, we have been able to assist in providing the funds to enable these urgent repairs to be made. THANK YOU!

Building a Legacy

Grace and Brian Johnston spent much of their life undertaking humanitarian relief work in Africa. Six years after their unexpected death, their children Chris and Emily have returned to Kenya to maintain and improve the school their parents built.

Posted by The Project NZ on Thursday, 21 February 2019