But whilst the rain and the drop in temperature has made life a lot more comfortable for us, it has also made us very aware again of the challenges that poverty brings to families trying to care for their children. Believe it or not, the rain in Africa still falls as ‘cold’ rain and the relatively cool temperatures, less than 20 degrees on Friday morning, would have felt distinctly ‘cold’ to both the children and the adults here. Many of our pupils have a 30 to 45 minute walk to school, through the bush, over very muddy paths and rocky streams. On Friday, only one child arrived in a pair of wellies, for most, the only footwear they possess is a pair of what they call slippers (flip flops). About two thirds of the children came in a sweater or a fleece but, as you can imagine, these were pretty wet or at least very damp by the time they reached school. There were probably no more than three children with anything that resembled a ‘jacket’ and a good number who came in nothing but their short sleeved, school shirts with their shorts or pinafore.
Rightly or wrongly we now have a large number of children in our two schools, 180 in the Primary School and 50 in the High School. They continue to receive a porridge breakfast, a cooked lunch and a good education which, with God’s help, we truly believe has the potential to change their lives. I say rightly or wrongly because perhaps, if we had fewer children, we wouldn’t struggle as hard as we do to keep them in a clean and untorn uniform, we might even be able to buy every child a pair of proper school shoes and a pair of gum-boots (wellies) and a sweater and a waterproof! None of those things seem unreasonable to desire or to request but are currently beyond our means to provide. Perhaps we should have been more sensible about the number of children we admit to our school, may be our faith levels just aren’t great enough…. The problem is I’m still meeting widowed mothers with chronic poor health and grandmothers being called upon to become mothers again … women who are simply defeated in their efforts to keep their children fed and regularly in school. Some of our classes are full (for obvious reasons we try not to go above 30 in a class, though our class 1 has just squeezed number 32) so sometimes we cannot add even one of their children to the school … but we still have to use what we’ve got to find some way of extending ‘hope’ and ‘kindness’ to them too.
Forgive me … in a typically British way, I’ve just turned good news into bad news - this must sound like I’m complaining about the weather when in actual fact I’m delighted because it is an answer to prayer and exactly what we’ve been longing for…. for weeks! Last Monday I had felt so sorry for our High School students who were taken out of the classroom for two days in order to prepare our fields for planting. Many of you will already know that at Hope and Kindness we ‘Farm God’s Way!’ This basically means we do everything the best way that God has shown us in nature, it involves conserving the soil and the rain water and giving the seeds the best chance to produce the strongest plants. The only drawback is that it’s very labour intensive and involves digging a lot of holes! We knew the rainy season was drawing near so in spite of the clear blue skies, blazing sunshine and temperatures in the thirties, our High School students were made to leave the relative comfort of their classrooms for two long, hard days of toil on the farm. Then, “hallelujah,” on Tuesday night we had a little rain, followed by a bit more on Wednesday and Thursday night and, as I said, on Friday it rained almost all day. For the last four evenings we’ve had a good downpour in the late afternoon or early evening. As well as refilling all of our roof harvest water tanks (a total of 60,000 litres) we have seen that within one week we have almost 100% success with the germination of our maize plants. I know God’s word says he “makes the sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil” but I hope that our students will be really encouraged with the timing of this particular rain and will believe more and more that there is a God who is for them and who is able to do so much more than they can imagine if they are just willing (to quote a new friend who preached here recently) to give Him whatever they already have in their hands.
P.S if anyone has any contacts with the people who make those plastic capes that you can buy to keep you dry on a wet day at a UK ‘Theme park’ please send us their details … they could be just what we’re looking for ….
Students preparing for planting maize seeds
Great germination rate!
The rain outside our house