July 31, 2013

By Terri Williams

In Missouri school will be starting again in just weeks. Our schools are equipped with buildings, desks and even electronics to varying degrees. This is the time of year we see all the great bargains in crayons, spiral notebooks rulers and pencils and often remember others by picking up an extra box of crayons or notebook to put together a School Kit or Readin’ & Writin’ Pack. Education is a key betterment tool to stitch together neighborhoods and communities. And improved communities are a key contributor to ending hunger and poverty. 
    
Church World Service through their Blankets+ program uses seed grants to establish Safe Schools in parts of the world where violence is a daily, sometimes constant, fear for parents and students. In Kenya eight years ago 10 pilot Schools were selected to receive grant funds. Teachers, parents and students worked together to determine the needs in each setting. One of the schools Wangu Elementary, in Nairobi, Kenya used funds to build a protective wall around the school grounds to separate it from the dump next to the playground. They also used funds to make building upgrades with restrooms and showers. These improvements were planned and implemented by the community.
    
Teachers and parents together encouraged teenagers to stop vandalizing the school in exchange for a place to come play soccer and to shower in the evenings and weekends. Once the teens saw that the elementary school welcomed the teens in appropriate ways after school hours they too felt it was ‘theirs’ and took pride in caring for the school. 
    
The community has formed clubs for varying interests such as music and gardening. The gardening club has landscaped, planted fruit trees and shrubs. The students too feel proud of their school and continue to show improvement in retention. The school is now recognized as one of the top schools in the city. Safe School Zones have grown from the initial 10 pilot schools to more than 70 in 2010, and continue to spread to other countries in Africa. The CWS Safe School Zone program literally helped the Kenyan Government write the book on School Safety.
    
Festival of Sharing participants have been major contributors over the years to development programs such as this and many others through the money raised through the Festival Quilt Auction. This year Church World Service and Festival of Sharing are challenging congregations to support a student by bidding and purchasing a quilt. Just $100 will support a student for a school year. Join the excitement on Saturday October 19th as the silent auction begins at 8:30 am and ends at noon. The live auction bids start at 12:30 pm.

For more information about the Festival of Sharing you can email Terri Williams at festival@socket.net 
or contact her at Creative Ministries at 573-474-3332. See you in Sedalia on October 19!