News flash: We are planning to expand the services we provide to our 73 children by opening a school — Little Lambs Academy. By having our own private school facility at the Home of Good Shepherd (HOTGS), we could better serve our children, guarantee they receive a holistic, quality education, continue our goal of becoming a self-sustaining organization and expand our Christian impact in the surrounding community.
It is exciting for me and my wife, Lucy, to report this news to our friends at St. Michael’s Church; much of this you may have already picked up from my sermons and other talks during the recent Global Impact Celebration. Back in our hometown of Nyahururu, Kenya, the board of the HOTGS has met several times to deliberate on the strategic plan for the home.
What is troubling is that many of our children who require and deserve the most attention at school are receiving the least due to teacher apathy. Despite making efforts at home, some of the children have continued to bring home report cards that show no change, with simply a “poor” or “fail” written in the comments section. The teachers have no suggestions for improvement and seem to have given up on some of our children with the most need.
By having our own school, we would clearly have a greater control regarding the education our children receive. We would be able to hand select our teachers and have them trained in teaching strategies more appropriate for students who have experienced trauma or are academically challenged. We would also be able to guarantee that our children receive ample academic instruction time and extra assistance when needed.
Furthermore, we must consider that many of our children are suffering from low self-esteem. As much as we work at HOTGS to make sure each child has a role in our family and feels valued and loved, the children spend a large amount of their time at school. Thus, for those students who are academically behind, who require extra attention or excel at skills outside the core subjects, school can be a place that triggers their feelings of inadequacy and negatively affect their development into successful adults.
The education system in Kenya is performance oriented and the main focus is on academics alone, which is fueled by the need for students to perform exemplary well in the national exams both in grade 8 and 12. Hence, many areas of a child’s growth are sacrificed and neglected and the only acknowledged and recognized excellence is academics. Our own school would allow us to control the curriculum and values to which our children are exposed. On top of offering the core national curriculum, the school would provide extracurricular subjects and opportunities such as art, theater, sports, technology and music classes. Studies show that at-risk students can gain confidence when they are exposed to the arts and physical education in school; with an increased self-esteem, they will ultimately show an improvement in their grades across all subjects. Similarly, the Christian values, morals and work ethic we work to instill in our children could now be emphasized and continued in the school setting. This holistic approach would be beneficial to the children of HGS and make the school an attractive private education option for neighborhood children.
Since the inception of Home of Good Shepherd, we have consistently strived to become a self-sustaining institution. We have been largely successful at this in terms of food. For example the chicken project has allowed us to feed the children with eggs and also generate income through the sale of surplus eggs to local stores and businesses. Such income is then used to offset other expenses. School fees are the largest single expense we have at HOTGS — an expense we did not believe we could supplement. However, the board, which draws members across several professions and a majority of its members from line ministries that work with children, has agreed that a school would help us become self-sustaining and also expand the scope of influence for HOTGS by reaching and ministering to more children coming from their homes as compared to only those living at HOTGS.
The school would be another step towards economic self-sustainment. As a private school, we would attract students from the community who would pay school fees at a cost. As we built up class size and grades the income generated from those students could be used to help cover the cost of some, or possibly all, of our children’s education.
We have been and will continue to be happy to receive volunteer teams of missionaries, but their impact has been limited by the children’s school schedule; this means that teams must come during school breaks or have to wait until the afternoon and evenings to have quality time with the children. The school would allow us to be more flexible in scheduling teams and it would also give our teams greater access to the HGS children as well as access to other pupils from the neighborhood for events like VBS. Overall the school would increase HOTGS presence in the community and would expand the impact of the gospel to the staff, neighborhood pupils and their families.
The school is the next logical step in guaranteeing HOTGS can provide our children with the education they need and deserve. It aligns with our mission of self-sustainment and would allow us to increase our Christian impact in the community. We plan to open the school in January 2018, beginning with grades kindergarten to grade 3, and adding a grade each year thereafter up until grade 8. The physical building would be located adjacent to HOTGS and would be a natural extension of our current facilities.
We are currently in the planning stages and will be working to develop a five-year implementation plan as well as a five-year financial plan for the school. We are also working on identifying arts curriculum and possible teacher trainings to make sure the school is an exceptional school.
In closing, please know that the school would also open the door for more specific missions’ teams from our partners in the USA, including teacher and educator teams for teacher trainings and or summer school programs or nursing/medical teams for yearly school physicals. When teams came to put on VBS, they would have access to our children at HOTGS and to the other children enrolled at the school. We welcome your prayers and your support as we move forward in this exciting adventure that will bless the lives of our children and our community as a whole.
If you have any questions, please email me at email@example.com.