I hope this letter finds you in good health so far in 2009! I am writing to talk with you a bit about the "evolution" of Cherish Ministry to Meru. As with any new ministry, these first few years have been a period of learning-as-we-go. In that context, I want to explain to you the parameters of the Cherish sponsorship ministry as they have developed.
When we first began, we did a little of this and a little of that to help our Meru brothers and sisters and their children. We sent a few young people to vocational school, helped a family build a house, purchased some livestock for folks in need. All of these outreach efforts were blessings to both giver and recipients.
However, as we evolve, we are learning that loosely defined objectives in our mission sometimes lead to some significant misunderstandings in Meru.
Let me provide a hypotethical example. Let's say that one of our sponsored children graduates from high school, and because of the relationship that has developed between the student and his sponsor, the sponsor continues to send money for post-graduate studies. This has, in fact, been the case with some of our student-sponsor relationships.
Here's the problem: Other students in Meru, on hearing this, presume that their sponsors will also continue to send support for university or college when, in fact, it may not be possible for a sponsor to do so. In Kenya, as in the USA, post-graduate studies are much more costly than formal, K-12 education.
You can imagine the kids' disappointment when they learn that they've been mistaken or misled.
YOU WILL RECALL that in setting up these sponsorships, we encouraged sponsors to commit, if possible, to seeing a youngster through high school so that he/she might gain self-sufficiency. THIS REMAINS OUR OBJECTIVE.
In order to avoid misunderstandings in Meru, I am writing to inform you that we have set firm parameters around this education ministry to include only kids in pre-school and continuing through Primary (Grades 1-8 aka "Standard 1-8) AND Secondary levels (Grades 9-12 aka Form 1-4).
It pains us to have to be sticklers about this, as we know what it's like to develop a relationship with a youngster and want to continue to help out. The fact is, we have a handful of cases which began before these parameters were set in place that we will continue to honor until the higher level of education is complete. You might say that these cases have been "grandfathered" in as we worked with the HOPE team in Meru to formalize the parameters I outlined above.
To summarize, this means that as of Graduation 2008 (December)we can accept financial support only for students in grades pre-K through secondary school within the confines of this ministry, ie. CHERISH MINISTRY TO MERU at University Place Presbyterian Church.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN WE EXPECT YOU TO CUT OFF ASSISTANCE IF YOU DESIRE TO CONTINUE -- ONLY THAT YOUR DONATIONS TO YOUR STUDENT WILL HAVE TO BE PRIVATE AS OPPOSED TO GOING THROUGH THIS MINISTRY.
It is relatively painless to wire money through Western Union, and we can give you counsel on how that might be done IF YOU ARE INTERESTED.
FYI, students who test very high as they exit secondary school, indicating readiness for university level studies, can often secure government aid to continue. If your sponsored child is among these, please urge him/her to ask the folks at HOPE to help look into those possibilities. One of our Cherish kids is in his third year at Moi University thanks to government assistance.
FINALLY, we do want you to be aware that you can give to a general Emergency Fund through Cherish which goes into an EMERGENCY CRISIS fund in Meru. YOUR GIFT CANNOT BE EARMARKED FOR A SPECIFIC RECIPIENT HOWEVER. The folks at HOPE must have discretion to use these funds as they deem appropriate, including providing medical care for our HIV kids. HOPE does communicate to us regarding the use of these funds . In other words, there is accountability -- but designating the specific use of these funds is simply too labor-intensive-- AND we have worked with our friends at HOPE long enough now to be totally confident in their assessment of special/emergency needs among students and their families in Meru.
Please know that we are empathetic with those of you who desire to continue your support after high school. We pray that this will in no way diminish the relationships you have begun with these great kids in Meru. Perhaps you can think of it in much the same way as we do when it's time to send our own kids out to be on their own!
This is a long letter, and I've tried to be concise. If you have any questions, please call either me, Sharon Moffitt at 253-566-0806 or Karen Lau at 253-564-4690