I was recently fortunate to join other CWS staff on a trip to Kenya and Tanzania. During our visit we were privileged to see a number of locations where the support you provide to CWS has resulted in tangible, life-changing improvements for those in a particular community.
We saw everything from rehabilitated schools where students are now thriving academically in a safe environment; to water projects where sand dams, reservoirs or refurbished canals have revitalized the local community. They enable residents to have safe drinking water and greatly improved food security with a stable source of water for their livestock and to irrigate their crops.
Etched in my mind are the broad smiles of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS who formed their own working group and are making significant strides in supporting themselves, returning to school and feeling empowered. They generate income for themselves by going through the garbage in the slums where they live and are paid for recycling the plastic and other materials they find. The enthusiasm of those children was amazing and very touching.
Nor will I forget the entrepreneurial spirit and warm reception we received from the group we met in Muranga, Kenya. Rebuffed by banks due to their lack of collateral, each family in this group received a small micro-enterprise loan provided by CWS. They eagerly told us about all they have accomplished since establishing their new business ventures. As a group, they now manage a private loan fund where they borrow from each other, repay the loan with interest and watch their projects grow. They literally danced with joy as they shared their remarkable stories.
In order to see all these wonderful examples of what your gifts to CWS are doing, we had to spend many hours in the van to reach each location. By my rough count, we spent at least twice as much time en route as we did visiting any one community. That is a lot of “seat time.” I do not share this as a criticism; far from it. To me it was a testimony to the fact that the CWS Africa staff makes a great effort to reach those who are the least served and in the farthest reaches of the country. I believe that is true no matter what part of the world we are talking about. The staff CWS has in place around the world is wonderful, hard-working and very committed to our mission.
On one occasion I asked CWS staff member Mary Obiero what makes CWS different from other nonprofits in Kenya. She was quick to state the point I am trying to make; as staff, they will go wherever they need to go to meet and work with those in need. It is often not convenient because, in some cases, roads barely exist and it means they spend nights away from their own homes and families.
I came away from that experience very impressed and all the more confident that the investment you make, as a donor to CWS, is having a significant impact through the empowerment of the most vulnerable.
The other observation I have is that those we are helping are very attached to the staff member(s) that work with them. The relationships go very deep and it was very evident in the interactions we were blessed to see. I came away from this trip convinced that CWS is a very good steward of the support you provide. It is put to use in a very meaningful way.
Be assured, it means so very much to those we serve; and I thank you for your support.
Ronald Blaum, Director of Gift Planning