Guilford >> As World AIDS Day approaches, December 1st, the Guilford Community Church is working to help orphaned Kenyan children whose guardian's lives have been devastated by HIV/AIDS.
The Guilford church has supported children orphaned by AIDS in Kenya since 2006 and will venture off again February 10-19, 2016. Each year a group of teens and adults from the church visits the small village of Kaiguchu where they perform service projects and engage with the community. This time, they will be there during the opening of Kaiguchu's first secondary school, which will allow 43 orphans a chance they would not otherwise have to attend secondary school.
"It's a amazing how a little bit goes along way," said Pastor of the Guilford Community Church, the Rev. Lise Sparrow. Sparrow has been spearheading this trip since the start and says she is most impressed to see the progress over the past nine years.
This year each participant is to required to raise $2,200, some of which will be gained through two fundraisers. The teens are selling Kenyan tea in boxes decorated by Kenyan women living in poverty for $9 per box, and coffee for $15 per pound. This can be purchased at the church's holiday bazar on Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., or through Sparrow, who can be reached at 802-257-2776 or GCCUCC@sover.net.
This February 12 youth and adults will travel back to the village to celebrate the opening of the new high school that will host 43 Kenyan freshmen high school students. In addition, The Guilford Community Church will supply medical supplies for the village clinic and school. Among other tasks, Sparrow says they will plant trees and help the Kenyan children with their English.
"Currently, if they want to go to high school there, they have to pay tuition," Sparrow explained. She said it cost the Kenyan students about $700 per year to attend and board. "That amount may not sound like a lot to us, but it can be pretty prohibitive in that area."
The Guilford Community Church works with an organization from Connecticut called, Cross Cultural Thresholds, which has made it possible for all 43 students to attend this school for free. According to Sparrow, the school's construction was funded through Cross Cultural Thresholds.
Nine years ago, Sparrow and her service group taught the Kaiguchu youth group some proper carpenter skills, which they are currently using to build the school in their local village. During the upcoming trip some of the teens will stay in the boarding rooms with the Kenyan students and attend classes with them. The adults will be housed through host families in the village.
Sparrow's first visit to Kenya took place in 2006 with her son, Guillaume, where they originally met the Kaiguchu youth group. After hearing their stories they decided to support this group monetarily, which was used for their basic needs. Then in 2009 the Kenyan government said primary schools may be put in place as long as they wore uniforms. The Guilford Community Church took it upon themselves and will provide the students with their required uniforms for this school that opens in February.
In 2013 The Brattleboro Area Interfaith Youth Group, which consisted of the Guilford Community Church and three others, raised money to purchase over 140 pairs of shoes for children in the village, planted trees on site, interacted with the children and gained a cross-cultural experience through homestays in the village of Kaiguchu. Sparrow said planting trees in that community is important for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it provides fuel and prevents erosion.
"The people (from Kaiguchu) are really hardworking and upbeat and welcoming," said Sparrow. "I really do believe had it been another community, we may have not been so successful if we didn't work with a community that was ready to go."
After nine years of working with this community, Sparrow said she hopes that in 10 years from now HIV/AIDS will not be as prevalent in the region and that they will be more independent. "I think we'll continue to have a relationship with them, but I think they are becoming more and more self sufficient each year."