Witnessing the Work of CWS in Kenya





March 16, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             


       Norman resident Brenda Wheelock recently spent two weeks in Kenya as part of a 10-member delegation representing the Great Plains Region of Church World Service.


       Founded in 1946, Church World Service is a cooperative ministry of 35 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations, providing sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief, and refugee assistance around the world. Most of those participating in the Kenya trip support the work of Church World Service by leading or participating in community CROP Walks. During their journey, the CWS delegation saw first hand how money raised through U.S. CROP Walks is supporting and empowering people in East Africa.


       Wheelock has been a CROP Walk volunteer for seven years and served last year as co-chair of the Cleveland County CROP Walk. CROP, which stands for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty, raised nearly $21,000 last fall to fight hunger and poverty, with 25 percent of the funds staying in Norman to benefit Food and Shelter for Friends.


              “I appreciate all the community support that I received for this trip and look forward to sharing stories and photos so that others can get a glimpse into the lives of everyday people in Kenya,” Wheelock said. “Most of the people I met had so little in terms of material wealth, and yet they live with a spirit of joy and abundance, appreciating and sharing what little they have with others. It was an incredibly inspiring experience.”


       Throughout their travels, Wheelock said, the delegation was greeted with warm hospitality, entertained with native songs and presented with handmade gifts such as baskets and jewelry.


       The group visited youth in the Mathare slum of Nairobi and in rural Yatta who have become the heads of their households due to the devastating effects of AIDS/HIV and other diseases. Church World Service works with local partner organizations to administer the Giving Hope Program, empowering orphans and vulnerable children through education, emotional support, vocational training and seed funds for small businesses. The delegation visited an Improved Livelihoods project in the Ngong township that is serving women through functional adult literacy training, small business loans, peer support and business management training. The participants have established personal savings as well as a group savings account, which they use to support each other for education, business or emergency needs.


       The delegation also saw examples of how Church World Service’s Emergency Response Program is responding to drought and critical food shortages affecting an estimated 10 million Kenyans. The group visited the Eastern Province village of Kwakaseke, where the community had received emergency food, seed and assistance to build a sand dam in during a drought in 2006.  Similar projects are currently taking place throughout the drought-stricken region.


       During a visit to the Kaikungu Village in the Mwingi District, members of the CWS delegation helped distribute 100 bags of Maize to the famine-hit community, with priority given to those most vulnerable, including children and the elderly. The group also visited Kaikungu to see Church World Service Water for Life projects, including the construction of a new sand dam and a solar-powered borehole well.

       Regina Abraham, a member of the village committee overseeing the water projects, said the community is forever grateful to Church World Service for transforming their community from “a valley of dry bones to a place of new life.”


       “Maybe you can not tell from the depths of our hearts how much we are grateful,” she said. “But you can see it in our faces.”


       The delegation also had the opportunity to visit the Wangu Primary School in the Mathare slum.  The school, located next to a city dump, received Safe School Zones support from Church World Service to build a protective wall around the school, to provide clean water and warm lunches, and to create clean sanitation facilities. Since joining Safe Schools Zones, the school has improved academically and several children have left the slums to pursue higher education.


       “This trip gave me a new appreciation for Church World Service and the way that they give people a hand up rather than a hand out,”  Wheelock said.  “Each project that we visited was a success because of the community involvement and investment.  The people we met are so committed to building a better future for themselves and their children.”


       The U.S. delegation capped off their stay in Kenya with a safari at Amboseli National Park near the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, where they saw elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras and a variety of native wildlife. They also visited a sanctuary for orphaned baby elephants and fed giraffes by hand at a giraffe education center in Nairobi.


       Wheelock is available to give presentations on her African journey. For more information, call (405) 620-1305.