Category Archives: MISSION 2015

A Tribute of Thanks

5.10.11 Photos from Iphone 126

One year ago, I sat on the plane en route to Kenya and wrote the following:
Tribute to my wonderful Mom.

As you read these words, you are beautiful mom. In you I have a guiding spirit and friend. Your unselfish ways cradled me as I spent otherwise sleepless nights preparing for the mission. You drove, shopped, called and endured the onslaught of demands. You never complained but instead, rose to the occasion by tackling the ever changing list of to do’s.

Storms threw umbrellas to the fields and tore branches from trees, all the while, you told me you were not afraid because you want to live life to the fullest.

I did not know how it would be, mom, having you stay with me while I was in the throws of preparing documents and financial reports for hundreds of children. I was afraid I’d disappoint you. But, these past 7 days have been filled with a gift I shall carry with me always. You are my hero… my friend and my treasure.

Thank you dad for sharing your wife with me – for giving her up to make sure that this mission and I have the support I need to trumpet success. Thank you Dad for believing in me – in my dreams and my calling – and for believing in the lives of each child we are helping through Matanya’s Hope. You are my greatest spokesperson!

I missed having you here this year Mom! I missed you every day! But I am so glad that you and Dad are enjoying Israel!
Mom and Dad Israel 2016

To our sponsors:
I thank each one of you for your continued support. Together, we are making this world a better place and that is the magic. Never Stop Believing. If you ever doubt your effect on the child you sponsor, just ask them what life was like before you entered their world. Through your student’s eyes, you are their angel and with your gift of sponsorship, hopelessness gives way to hope more every day!

Together, we are helping pave the way for a better life for some of the world’s orphans and vulnerable children.

I can't wait to serve these precious children porridge and love!

I can’t wait to serve these precious children porridge and love!

To George, thank you for coming through and organizing us, even when I am in Kenya. Shana, thank you for your time helping me navigate through documents and to do’s…and for the laughter we shared. Jeannette, Ann, Bob, Heidi, Xuan, Susan, Christian… thank you! Matanya’s Hope USA is finally a family! You are each so important and valued in my heart! I could write a book on answered prayers! To Adrienne and Cody, thank you from me and Tiger. Without your welcoming arms, this precious life may not have made it. To Carla, thank you for your countless hours of prayer and friendship. I could not do this without my own faith and dependency on God. And to our neighbors, thank you for your kind help during this time of service.

You are all part of what makes this light of hope shine!

Michelle Stark
Founder, Matanya’s Hope

Your donations are still very much needed.
Please donate at the top of this page or send your tax deductible donation to:
Matanya’s Hope
PO Box 562
Homewood, IL 60430



Annitah and her Sintoyei, sponsored by the same couple, now call themselves "sisters".

Annitah and her Sintoyei, sponsored by the same couple, now call themselves “sisters”.

I see her hurrying as she walks past me. her head is newly shaven. She wears a clean uniform and has toothbrush in hand.
Her round cheeks let me know she is called Annitah. Even in the darkness of early morning, I know her well.

My heart swells with a love and joy uncountable in this physical life. In my mind, I also see last year’s pictures where Annitah wore rags. I feel the pain again as I recall watching her bend over a basin of river water, scrubbing dishes and washing floors by hand. I smile briefly as I recall her standing closely to her cucu (grandmother) working on the shamba (farm) to help her earn a coin for school – for food – for life.

Annitah during last year's mission.  Today she is sponsored and has the hope of a life blessed by education.

Annitah during last year’s mission. Today she is sponsored and has the hope of a life blessed by education.

I feel overjoyed. Our little girl is sponsored. Today she is in uniform. She is going to school.

The house bustles with energy. More than 20 Matanya’s Hope children scurry about washing, packing and getting ready to go to their perspective boarding schools facilities. The holiday is over. Those with long hair are carefully braided. Many shades of brown skin glow from the newly applied oil. Names are shouted into the morning air. Quincy. Naishorwua. Lanto. Jennifer. Pendo. Christine, Felister. Nasieku. Lilian. Nashula. Naini. Resui. Sintoyei. Wewe (“You”). The names are more than 20 in one house!

Taiyana holding a new set of markers for school.

Taiyana holding a new set of markers for school.

Let me be honest here. How many of us would give up our personal privacy to allow more than 20 children from different families – different cultures – different backgrounds and personalities to stay with us – to promote their education – to help them study and to develop a family? Most of these 20 are teens. If you have even one child of your own, you know, raising another soul is not easy. I don’t know how well I myself could do this. But I see it here. the 20+ students who live here during breaks range in age from 10-22. They come from all directions of Kenya and Tanzania (a neighboring country). I recall the day we traveled 17.5 hours to find Pendo and Witness in 2009 in Arusha Tanzania – and all we knew was their town and Witness’ name. God is SO good!

Moreen holding toothbrush and toothpaste, some of the many items donated to her for school.

Moreen holding toothbrush and toothpaste, some of the many items donated to her for school.

Last night I watched another procedure as Mrs. Mugo divided school supplies among the students. Bars of soap for washing clothes. Bars of soap for bathing. Colgate. Toothbrushes. Shoe polish. Toilette paper. Pens, pencils, erasers…supplies overflowed. You make them possible. Thank you Matanya’s hope for every contribution to these children’s lives. There are no adequate words to say what you are doing for these kids. You are hope to their souls. Let them grow, God, to become Your next servants to lift this nation.

Jeff Wambugu proudly displays his two new uniforms sweaters!  He is ready to go back to school.

Jeff Wambugu proudly displays his two new uniforms sweaters! He is ready to go back to school.

For all that I see, for all the joys, for all the triumphs over the challenges we face in every direction, thank you.

I don’t know how to express to you, our donors and sponsors, the magnitude of your gifts of love, education and even life support that you are giving to these souls.

I pray for strength as we continue together. Let us touch these lives to forever change the world for the better. Amen

Resui holds her new bookbag!.  What a great gift!

Resui holds her new bookbag!. What a great gift!



B’nai Torah Mitzvah Day

On Sunday, November 1, B’nai Torah Congregation of Boca Raton, Florida held it’s second annual Mitzvah Day.

Matanya’s Hope joined over 45 agencies and projects representing aid to those in need both in the USA, Israel and Kenya. Over 900 volunteers contributed to making this event a huge success.

School children participated in letter writing to Pamela, a 5th grade Matanya’s Hope student in Kenya who is sponsored by B’nai Torah 3rd graders. The children wrote letters to other Matanya’s Hope students in need of sponsorship. One girl who won the hearts of many is Naishorwua: a young student whose tribal customs are known to promote the marriage of girls at the tender age of 9 or 10. Naishorwua is 10 and desperately needs a sponsor to remain in school. Her parents are in full support of Naishorwua remaining in school.

Naishorwua holding a thank you sign for B'nai Torah during the 2015 mission.

Naishorwua holding a thank you sign for B’nai Torah during the 2015 mission.

Sponsorship is currently being discussed for Linzy, one of Matanya’s Hope’s university age students, wanting desperately to become a nurse. Linzy herself is a victim of abuse and is frequently threatened by her step father who denies her an education. Linzy’s motivation is her younger 5-year-old sister who suffers from a brain tumor. “I want to help my sister”, Linzy states, “and I want to be able to help other children like her.”

Though beaten down by cruelty, Linzy carries hope in her heart that she will become a nurse and help those in need.

Though beaten down by cruelty, Linzy carries hope in her heart that she will become a nurse and help those in need.

We offer much thanks to Jewel Prince and all volunteer knitters who joined hands to make lovable dolls for the sick and needy. We are elated to be the recipients of 30 dolls for our children in Kenya…and look forward to bringing photos of our children with dolls in hand – back to you!


We thank B’nai Torah Mitzvah Day participants for the more than 50 pounds of donations you made possible for our students including: bed sheets, shoes, book bags, school supplies, dental hygiene supplies, socks, fleece jackets and winter coats.

Here, my sweet friend Sammie wears his coat one last time before sending it to Kenya where it will help a boy in need.

Here, my sweet friend Sammie wears his coat one last time before sending it to Kenya where it will help a boy in need.


It is easy to appreciate the sheer delight on our student’s faces when they receive gifts you make possible. Sophie and her sister Madison were moved to tears after viewing photos from this year’s mission of orphaned children receiving donations of clothing and much needed underwear – all which Sophie and Madison contributed to Matanya’s Hope during B’nai Torah’s Mitzvah Day last year. As a part of her own Mitzvah Project, Sophie is determined to raise enough money for (sponsored student) Pamela’s family to have a safe latrine (outdoor toilet). This is the only toilet this family of orphaned girls and 2 elderly grandparents will have. Currently, their latrine is made of rotted, unstable wood and must be filled in. As it is, it presents a potentially lethal risk of falling through to the rotting feces below.

We thank Summer Faerman for her pure dedication to this event and Hands on Tzedakah’s Ron and Meryl Gallatin for making it possible for organizations like Matanya’s Hope to make this world a better place. HOT helped Matanya’s Hope fund four 10,000-liter rainwater storage tanks and three porridge programs for children in desperate need of food.

Ron and Meryl Gallatin enjoy viewing photos of their donations in the hands of those in need.

Ron and Meryl Gallatin enjoy viewing photos of their donations in the hands of those in need.

I personally extend my heartfelt thanks to my incredible parents, Andrea and Arthur Stark, who introduced Matanya’s Hope to all of you at B’nai Torah.


What Boxes?

2015 Mission – a message from my heart
Michelle Stark

For those of you who know me, you know it was a tough thing for me to post Patrick’s blog.
His kind words were overwhelming.

This mission has been different from any thus far. During each of the past 9 years, we carried up to 70 fifty pound duffel bags filled with medication, school supplies, blankets, coats, shoes, book bags, and so many additional needed items.
Donations this year were equally as wonderful however, airline transport proved to be a great challenge and we shipped more than 3,500 pounds by boat. This meant me packing 32 boxes of donations, most weighing over 100 lbs. We shipped the first 17 boxes out by March expecting to see them at the end of May (just before our arrival) and then shipped second half out by May, expecting that by the end of June we would see them as well.

The first group of boxes arrived more than 7 weeks late. We visited the kids and had to be very creative in disbursing supplies to them. We focused almost completely to information gathering, counseling and encouragement. Thank God that the bags we carried had just enough supplies to sustain us! By the time the first set of boxes arrived, we put ourselves on turbo speed: unpacking, sorting and delivering all we could. We traveled cross-country with relief supplies in hand. THANK YOU DONORS! Despite the wait, these donations have been a huge blessing!


Today we sit in Nairobi. Again…we are waiting. Most of the sponsor gifts to their kids are in the boxes that have been sitting at Mombasa Port, waiting for someone in the government to release them. What a conundrum!

I’ve just returned from the airport where I changed my flight from September 1 to September 29. All this to say; I still don’t know when we will get the boxes. I miss my son, my family, my shower, the smell of clean clothes coming from the dryer, my bed and the ease of doing my work in my office… but I am determined to do everything I can to get these donations to the kids and others in need.

To each of you who have helped to support Matanya’s Hope, thank you. Thank you for your donations, your sponsorships for these precious students, your encouragement and prayers. To those of you who are with me in Kenya, thank you from the core of my being for your time, your love and your dedication to this mission. We are joined together by hope; all of us.

As we move into the September month, let us stand in faith. Even the unknown shall be made great when we make our first priority the children.





A Message from Me, Patrick

Thoughts from a sponsored student

My name is Patrick Muriuki. I graduated from high school last year and will be joining University in September (just a few weeks from now). In the Kenyan system, we have one year out before joining university. I feel honored to write this blog entry. I have spent the last six weeks with Michelle and other mission team members; I’ve been working as a volunteer to assist Matanya’s Hope reach the students, as they did for so many years to reach out to me.

In these six weeks, I have learned lessons that I feel need to be shared with students and sponsors. I should begin by saying that I never thought that volunteering with Matanya’s Hope would be such a difficult and demanding task. Please don’t get me wrong. It’s been one of the best things I have ever done, but it’s not easy.

I know that many students who are sponsored and probably some sponsors too,do not understand the struggle and sacrifices that Michelle encounters in the mission and in Matanya’s Hope in general. It involves traveling from school to school, giving students school supplies, sitting and talking to students who at times are not able to open up emotionally, thus requiring a lot more love and encouragement. Talking of this, I will give you a good example, Michelle and I recently traveled with two students. We went to a Bata Shop to buy school shoes for a girl in need and while we were there, we asked one of the students if he needed school shoes. The answer was “no”. He said, “I have a pair.”. The same occurred when we were at the bookstore purchasing revision (review) books for another student. We left the Bata shop. It was getting quite dark. We were hungry & exhausted to the bone; to say we were ready to go back home for a meal and rest is an understatement. We piled into our car for the long, bumpy, dusty ride home. The noise makes it hard to hear much but a barely audible voice seemed to be coming from behind Michelle. The same student who said he did not need shoes was whispering, “Michelle, I need shoes.” I think Michelle’s eyes got as big as her face! “Shoes?” she asked. “But we were in the Bata shop. What happened that you did not tell me 2 hours ago when I asked you?” “Mine are torn”, he said, “and they can not be repaired.” I just looked at Michelle and prayed: “Lord, I wish I had half her patience.” She is indeed so patient.

We spent 3 of the first weeks following up on student medical issues, booking appointments with doctors, waiting in long lines, and bearing all of the pressure because we knew there was the mission work ahead of us. When the day finally came and we could start issuing students with clothing, shoes, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, blankets, and school supplies, we were more than ready for the task.

The work is tiring and anyone who does it will know, no words can fully cover the absolute exhaustion demanded by the hours and hands on labor required to serve well. We begin working as a team at 8 am (that is not to mention the earlier work we do prior…each on our own whether it is accounting, film, agenda, etc.). By 9:00 PM, we are still at it and sometimes this is also time for the first meal we are taking since breakfast.

It is amazing that Michelle travels all of the way from the USA to come and work this much, especially after spending 4 months packing and labeling every donation that comes to Kenya. That comes to thousands of pounds of donated goods which many sponsors are kind enough to give. I have come to know Michelle is one rare woman to find. She is an angel to so many souls.

When I mentioned how overwhelmed I was the day we had to unpack 17 boxes of donated goods and organize the items completely to make distribution easy for the students, Michelle explained to me that Matanya’s Hope is driven by transparency. “That is why I label each item”, she told me. “It helps me to communicate to the donors where their heart felt donations have gone. It’s unbearably time consuming, but it is a sure way to help the donors feel connected to this project and feel some of that same joy we feel here.” I can report first hand how many donations I have received over the years from Matanya’s Hope donors who so freely give to help us and how grateful I am. Thank you.

If I tell you the truth, I feel guilty that all through, I never realized this pain, hard work and pressure that Michelle goes through. It’s only by serving that I know it first hand, and it is my hearts desire to give back. Maybe I, too, can become a voice for the students following in my footsteps.

To all of the sponsored students, please get it from me, what you get from Matanya’s Hope means that someone somewhere sacrificed their resources, time and some even chose to bear pain for your sake. They are not asking for your “thank you” but they are praying for you and praying that their donation will help to somehow bring you comfort or even further you in life. But it is me who is saying; don’t take it lightly. No one in this world is entitled. Every gift you receive comes from hard work, hours of dedication, lost sleep and a lot of love. Use all wisely. Become the great men and women of this nation’s upcoming generation.

To all of the sponsors: you helped make this happen. I can assure you that every single sponsorship and donation is appreciated. It is amazing to me how you love these kids, inspire them and above all, how you are so loved by them – from across the globe! This world really is small. It is one thing I will always look forward to year after year.

I can’t consider this complete without saying a word to my sponsors Tom and Karen. You are a blessing to my life. You have shaped me, shaped my future and my destiny. You have taken me from hopelessness…not ever knowing if I would see the inside of a high school and you have sponsored me throughout. You have blessed me with education. You really shined the light in my life. Now that I am to join University, I can only pray that God will keep us together. I look forward to joining the team of sponsors one day when I, too, shall sponsor kids and shine the light in their lives as you have done in mine.

I love you.



Kijabe Hospital

Kijabe Hospital

Sometimes an event in life will precipitate an action plan. For me, that is exactly what happened when Matanya’s Hope traveled to Kijabe Hospital two days ago. We came for Winnie and Christine. We departed two days later, mission accomplished and enriched beyond measure.

He was being carried up the steep mountainous walkway. A carpet of concrete created the pathway beneath his feet. His daughter and grandson each respectively looped their arms through his, helping him to use whatever futile energy may have been left in his bony legs.

They called Christine’s name and we were ushered into the hallway where she would begin the next process of her “waiting” journey. Seated in a very basic wheelchair immediately in front of us was mzee (our old man). His head flopped from side to side – fairly routinely – just like a baby might flop its head when trying to look up. He looked exhausted – and it was obvious he was overcome by an unwell kind of weakness.

Tianka and I exchanged empathetic glances and concurred that we wished we had the neck pillow to give him for support. Then I had an idea.

I went to the nurse and asked for a towel or blanket. We can use that to drape around his neck and help support his head. The nurse looked but could not find a single item for us to use. She offered to allow mzee to lay on the exam table in a vacant room. I looked around.

She offered. But I think that meant “I move him”. In the USA, this would be highly frowned upon and even worthy of a potential law suit – but I did not see another way. Tianka and I agreed and carefully turned the wheelchair towards the room.

Movement was slow. Mzee’ one leg rested comfortably on the leg rest while the other leg dangled freely – not by plan – but because there was no leg rest to be had for the other side. I lifted the free leg and cradled it into my arm – while squatting to make the level comfortable for him – and just like that, Tianka pushed the chair and I squat-walked to the room.

After adjusting the head rest and with help from mzee’ son, we lifted our new friend onto the table and allowed the exhausted man to lay back and rest. That small exertion was almost too much for him.

He closed his eyes. His son tenderly held his hand. And then came the most amazing – most heartfelt – toothless “thank you” from our dear man. He spoke to us with love. Gosh, we really helped him, I thought. Hearing him warmed me emotionally to the core.

We stood by his side. “Baridi” he said. (Cold). With no blankets on site, his daughter laid her shawl over him and I took my fleece jacket and lay it over mzee’s chest. I just wanted him to get better.

Mzee used what little energy he had to weakly – half eye – glance at his grandson – and again at us. His dry tongue was coated with a film from dehydration. “I am grateful” he managed. Oooh! “No…..we need to do more. I don’t want you to suffer”, I almost cried to myself.

I could not bare the tell tale signs of mzee’s dehydration. “When did he have water?” I asked his daughter; “He is so dry.” “He hasn’t taken anything” she replied. The nurse helped us find a thermos of hot water and we poured mzee a cup. We added a little water from our supply of room temperature Dasani – just to cool it down enough for him to consume comfortably – and then (perhaps wrongfully) I took the spoon intended for hot chocolate and brought it to mzee so we could spoon feed him the water.

He sipped eagerly. His lips sucked in around his gums as he filled himself with life giving fluids. “Pole” (slowly) we encouraged him.

Mzee finished the whole cup. As he did, I was called into the room with Christine. The doctor was ready for her.

When I came out, I learned mzee had been transferred to the ward where he would undergo further treatment. The jacket he returned to Tianka was all that remained. In fact, I am wearing it right now.

I pray for this man.
I pray for his comfort and for his recovery. He touched my soul.

To Mzee with love.

Winnie – My Story

Hi.  I am Winifred Kinya.  By the grace of God, I've been sponsored by the Robinson's through  Matanya's Hope.  Thank you for changing my life!

Hi. I am Winifred Kinya. By the grace of God, I’ve been sponsored by the Robinson’s through Matanya’s Hope. Thank you for changing my life!

My name is Winifred Kinya. Some of you may already recognize me from the video on facebook (though I don’t have internet, Michelle has shared the video with me). I am the elder of the two sisters being interviewed.

For the first few years of my life, until 2010, I lived in a very happy family. But all was to change when alcohol took over my dad’s life. He frequently came home drunk and furious. He would demand his supper. It was only my mom who could face him. On one occasion, she told him: “For some few days now you have not been bringing food into this house. How do you expect the chidlren to survive?” My dad got more furious. He threw everything to the ground and turned to my mom and started yelling at her. He slapped her in front of us. We feared this man who used to be so kind; we did not know why our dad changed.

My elder sister became our protector and took us to her room. At the same time, my mum left the house and walked into the night. We locked ourselves in the room.

Morning brought a new day and my dad followed his usual routine. He left for work around 10. My mum came home and told us to pack; my youngest sister Annita and I would be moving out to my grandparents rural home in Meru. My elder siblings would remain in Nairobi for school.

We could not make it to Meru. My mom did not have enough money to facilitate our travels. We stayed with her aunt for the night and through her goodness, she gave us transport to complete our journey. Although my grandparents were old and no longer worked, they welcomed us with opened hands; I heard my grandmother say to my mum, “these are my kids and nobody will take them away ever, even if it is their father; from today this is their home.” My mom looked for a school and enrolled us in Victory Academy to continue with our education. I was in class 5 while Annita was in day care.

Empty pockets were plentiful; money was tough to get. Mum worked long hours every day, working on other people’s shambas (farms) plucking tea leaves for about $1.50 a day. She raised half of our fees but this was not enough to keep us in school. We were sent home for 3-4 weeks without attending class. The next term was the same. I did not even do my end of term exams because of school fees due.

In 2011, my mom spent some time trying to work on her marriage with my dad. We all dreamed of a family the way it used to be. Soon, mum got a younger child and my dad denied the baby. He refused to give even a single coin for her care. My grandparents paid for everything. First us and now our baby sister. Though they relied on the little they could earn by picking tea, they taught us to give unselfishly and with love.

The years were hard. I could not find peace because every day was a day where the school could send me home for fees. I missed so many lessons. My hopes of finishing primary school or ever going to high school were low. I saw others being sponsored, but my name was not chosen.

Then, in 2014, an angel from above, Michelle Stark, found me crying. I explained to her that I was the only one in my class without a way to go on our class tour. She walked with me and listened to my story. She promised to work hard to find me a sponsor.

Today, I am able to learn well through the support of Matanya’s Hope and my wonderful sponsors Barrie and Gail Robertson. I never leave school for fees.

Thank you for standing by my side. Today I am at Kijabe Hospital with Michelle and the missions team. They brought me here for medical treatment after learning that my voice has been reduced to whispers since last year. Tomorrow I go through a naseo-ensopologial scope. Matanya’s Hope has not left my side.

My dream is to complete my education with a degree in banking or accounting. I want to use my resources to help other children like me, most of all, those who have been orphaned.

Michelle has helped my sister and I. Now my mom never works on other people’s shambas (farms). Though she cleans toilets in the big city far from home, I am very proud of my mom. She stands by our sides with love. She shares every coin she earns with a kind and giving heart. I thank God for such role models in my life!

Thank you Matanya’s Hope.
Thank you Barrie and Gail Robertson.
Thank you Mom.

I thank Bill and Heather Cooper for sponsoring my little sister Annita.  You have been a mighty blessing to her!

I thank Bill and Heather Cooper for sponsoring my little sister Annita. You have been a mighty blessing to her!

You are all a part of my wonderful family!

Winifred Kinya
Standard 8
Matanya’s Hope


Nancy – Reach for the Stars

Standing outside of Matanya Primary School, Nancy is overjoyed with the gift of shoes and a book bag.

Standing outside of Matanya Primary School, Nancy is overjoyed with the gift of shoes and a book bag.

Our tires sputtered over rocks spewing them wildly onto the dust filled road behind us. The sun had set long ago. Our stomaches ached for food – but our day could not yet release us. We navigated through a maze of barbed wire fences and and sagebrush. One direction looked the same as the next. But we were on mission.

Just two weeks earlier we discovered Nancy, a 7th grade orphaned girl who was rejected by her own family and then sent away from an orphanage because it closed. Nancy has courage. She has a dream to learn and to be “someone” (as she puts it) in society. She should know, she is already one exceptional human being! Maybe you read about her on our blog.

Tonight, we were driving to see Nancy. To see where she lives. To bring her food. Earlier today, our car broke down just 500 kilometers from school. We could not give up on visiting Nancy in school. We just couldn’t. With bags in tow, we exited our vehicle. The wind whipped our faces; dust blew everywhere. It was colder than we had anticipated. But we had no choice. If we were to see Nancy, we would have to walk.

Mr. Mugo came to our rescue. His old pick up was a welcome sight! After looking at our car and making arrangements to cure it’s ills, he drove our team to Matanya Primary.

Jumping down from the pick up in front of Matanya Primary School

Jumping down from the pick up in front of Matanya Primary School

A few days back, Quincy’s family eagerly sponsored this brilliant child.

With our car back in working order, I think you could feel the excitement as we rolled to a stop in front of Nancy’s compound. Now, one of 7 other children, Nancy resides with her aunt in a small, wood and mud structure. There is rarely time to study. Nancy must meet the demands of fetching water from a near by river, caring for the younger children and fetching firewood for the family’s warmth and cooking needs. She trades schedules with her cousins, sometimes cooking…sometimes washing dishes, utensils or the old garments we may use for rags, but they use for clothes.

Nancy was adorned in a well worn but still brightly colored fabric. Underneath, her baby cousin Moses slept on her back. He snored rhythmically in the peace of the evening breeze.
Our mission team rushed out of the small doorway of our car – we were all so eager to see Nancy again!


The blackness of night required our unaccustomed eyes to shine our flashlights on the dusty path before us. We walked one by one to Nancy’s home. I don’t know how we managed to hold back tears as we entered the small mud and wood structure. Nancy beamed. “This is my home”, Nancy told us. “Here is where I study”. A small wooden table atop a hard dirt floor was her desk. She sat down and showed us her books – books we’d given her a few weeks ago.

“Do you want to see where I sleep?”, Nancy asked. “Sure! Yes!” We replied. We each followed Nancy through a small opening in the wood and mud hut. What we entered may not be able to be adequately described.

Hanging clothes cluttered several random lines strewn about the low ceiling. Nancy pointed through the darkness to her bed. “Five of us sleep here” she said. We wanted to gasp but held back our shock. Five of them! Five bodies laid in that smal bed? How!? Yet Nancy spoke with joy. She spoke with love. This was her home.

Our cameras clicked. I don’t know about the others, but I felt ashamed. How do I take pictures? Yet how do I explain this without the visual images? We celebrated Nancy and all she showed us with her. Even when we discovered the family of chickens sleeping under her bed, we brought our focus on the joy of being together.

With that, we slipped through the curtain dividing the dirt doorway from the sitting room. There, Quincy sat next to Nancy on the one small couch.

Quincy told Nancy she loved her and confirmed her family's support.  "You won't have to worry about school fees anymore.  Just work hard and reach for your dreams.".

Quincy told Nancy she loved her and confirmed her family’s support. “You won’t have to worry about school fees anymore. Just work hard and reach for your dreams.”.

My mom and baby sister made you a video. We love you and we want to support you through school.” I watched Nancy fight tears. I was fighting then myself.

Jonah followed, “Nancy, I want you to know that if Quincy’s family did not sponsor you, I would have sponsored you myself. I am so proud of you and I know you can make it.”

We took photos and shared stories and dreams. But most of all, we shared hope…hope made possible by saying yes to sponsorship. In this case, by saying yes to Nancy.

Thank you McKown family for this magnanimous gift of love.

Michelle Stark
Matanya’s Hope

Nancy in class at Matanya Primary School. Dream big sweet girl!

Nancy in class at Matanya Primary School.
Dream big sweet girl!

Naini and Winifred sharing a walk in Kenya's Rift Valley

Sponsorship and Love in the Mara


In 2011, I traveled to Kenya for the first time. I loved the warm and gracious people in Kenya. Everywhere the people were happy despite overwhelming poverty. The magnificence of the landscape and the wildlife soon won my heart. As part of our trip, we visited a school called Matanya Primary. Having been a teacher and having worked in schools and around children for many years, I stood in this school for two hours and cried. The children sang and danced for us in the most miserable classrooms I had ever visited. The floors were a deeply rutted mud/dirt combination. There were high water marks on the slatted walls, which did little to hold the elements out. No electricity, no running water, very few books, pitted blackboards were just some of the issues. I made a vow to try to help this area.

Through our travel guide, I learned of an organization called Matanya’s Hope. Long story short, I was able to meet Michelle Stark, Founder of Matanya’s Hope. I began a fund and resource collection at Decatur Middle School to bring shoes, blankets, school supplies and funds to help her mission in Kenya.

In 2013, I chose to travel and volunteer with M.HG. Again, even though our travel style was very different, I found warmth and graciousness everywhere we went. This time, I was able to visit many schools in rural Kenya. I met several hundred children who needed nourishment, shoes, clothing, school supplies and more. In Kenya, school fees must be paid and many children missed school due to a lack of fees.

At a school in the Mara called Sekanani Primary, I fell in love with a young girl who recited a most beautiful poem called: “Girl Child”. She spoke of and against early marriage, female circumcision, lack of education and freedom for girl children. Michelle and I were both moved to tears. We actually filmed her and had her repeat her performance several times until we had a great video.

During the time we spent with Christine Naini, we learned she had no sponsor and really no hope of attending high school. I quickly stepped up to sponsorship. I saw a young girl (about 12) who could speak passionately about almost taboo subjects for hundreds of girls. Much later, I learned that Naini had also written the poem she recited. What I knew at the time was that she needed to continue her education through high school and hopefully beyond.

The joy on Naini’s face when she learned she had a sponsor was so wonderful to observe. She quickly disappeared and remained away for some time, only to come back with her widowed mother. Her mother and I embraced each other and even through it meant Naini would go to a boarding school and would be away from home, her mother was so happy.

Now Naini goes to one of the best boarding schools in Kenya. She receives a rigorous education without needing to fetch water, collect firewood or do laundry (other than her own). She eats 3 meals a day (in a country where children can go without meals for 2-3 days). She is free to pursue her education and her desire to be a surgeon.

I hear from Naini occasionally through a teacher who gives her computer access and one or two letters each year. I love the days I hear from her and I replay her video of “Girl Child” when I just want to hear her voice.

Sponsorship is amazing.

I get to help in a most amazing way. My heart knows that I am helping a young girl become all she can be. I know she receives enough food every day. I know she has the potential to be very influential in her world. I know that somewhere, way across this world, someone prays for me as I pray for her.

This year, we had our first reunion. I traveled to Kenya for the second time with Matanya’s Hope and traveled many hours to Slopesview Academy. Suddenly, there she was! We both ran to each other and we both began to smile and cry. Later she was able to share how she really likes her school and how her exam grades are improving since moving her from her original school. We were able to have 3 precious days together (due to medical treatment). The first think I notice about Naini is that she has grown a foot and is taller than me. (Nutrition and genetics – I am sure!)

Naini during a tour I shared with her to Lake Naivasha.  We enjoyed the beauty of Kenyan wildlife

Naini during a tour I shared with her to Lake Naivasha. We enjoyed the beauty of Kenyan wildlife

We shared laughter and tears and stories these3 days. She calls me an angel in her blog, but I receive so much more than I give. I get to see the world through Naini’s eyes and know she has hope above all else. I always come home so grateful for the life I have been given.

A sponsorship of a child can enrich both the child and the sponsor. For $125 a month, you can pace a child living in abject poverty into a boarding school with 3 meals daily. Sponsored students also receive 2 school uniforms, shoes, blankets, school supplies, transport, minor medical care and a chest for their belongings. But the best gift of all will be the love and care they receive from you.