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Federal Way Public Academy supports Kenyan school for AIDS orphans

Crossroads Springs Institute is a school and orphan center in Hamisi, Kenya. - Courtesy photo
Crossroads Springs Institute is a school and orphan center in Hamisi, Kenya.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

On a morning in May 2005, a third-grade student named Anastasia donned her pink and blue uniform and walked to school. Her mother had died that morning, following the death of her father earlier. She found loving care, food, clothing, shelter and education at Crossroads Springs Institute, a school and orphan center in Hamisi, Kenya.

Anastasia spoke, and the students from the Federal Way Public Academy listened. Their aim was to build bridges of understanding through work projects for children who are at a crossroads in their lives. They believed there were springs of hope if they were energetic and decisive in their planning.

Today, we can hear the sounds of trowels slapping mortar between bricks, and African drums beating rhythms for children’s feet, because Federal Way Public Academy students have opened their hearts to the HIV/AIDS orphans of Crossroads Springs.

The Academy became aware of Hamisi (located in the Western province of Kenya next to Uganda, 20 miles from Kisumo) by the grandparents of two of its students. They had helped build the school and knew that the children whose parents had died of AIDS were struggling to get food, take care of younger siblings, and stay in school.

Crossroads Springs was founded in 2004 by Dr. R. Meshack Isiaho, who took an unfinished brick building, originally intended as a tourist hotel, and built a school that now houses and serves 350 children from early childhood development to the eighth grade.

Students consistently score first in the district and region on national exams, earning awards, school trophies, and acceptance in boarding schools for grades nine through 12. Current eighth-graders will take national exams at the end of the school year in December.

The Community Service Group at the Federal Way Public Academy has supported the Crossroads Springs Institute since fall 2005. Early on, academy students realized the need to care and support these orphaned children as their parents would have done if they had lived. They also recognized that these children with no education, or an incomplete education, often migrate to the cities — homeless and without hope.

The Public Academy began fundraising events with a yearly carnival and bake sales. African jewelry and artifacts, as well as note cards, were sold to support the endeavor with all proceeds going to the general account for food, uniforms and teacher and cook salaries.

In some years the students raised funds for a specific purpose  such as a pair of shoes for each student, PE uniforms, the building of a well, or a sweater for each student.

In a country where tens of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes amid the 2008 brutal and common post-election violence of corruption, bribery and scare tactics — and whereas of 2007, 8,400 children have been orphaned in the Hamisi Division due to HIV/AIDS — it is not hard for the Federal Way Public Academy students to imagine the child who has nowhere to go amid destruction and suffering.

The crisis of orphans is real, and the Crossroads Springs School became a predominant and safe haven.

With the assistance of the Public Academy and other donors from North America, people of Crossroads Springs no longer have to walk long distances for water and wood. In addition, they no longer have to collect wood shavings and cook on an outside wood fire. They now have a kitchen at the school, plus a wood stove that conserves wood to serve students two meals a day. A much-needed working well was also built.

The Public Academy’s Community Service group continues their dedication and hard work to support the Kenyan school, and have begun planning events for this school year. They understand what a dollar can do (a child’s uniform is $4; mosquito netting is $5). The Honor Society has held a coin drive in October.

The FWPA annual carnival is being held 5 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 to raise funds for Crossroads Springs. The public is invited to attend and support this endeavor.

It is a sobering thought that these orphaned children have been met by images of sickness and death, yet with the safe educational environment of Crossroads Springs provided with the help of the Public Academy, this is a crucial moment for these students to become useful, healthy and self-sufficient participants in the future of Kenya.

Learn more

Federal Way Public Academy is located at 34620 9th Ave. S. To learn more, visit http://schools.fwps.org/pa or contact Heather Hamashima at fwsoccerfamily@comcast.net.

(Note: This article was contributed by Heather Hamashima and contains passages from a 2010 report in The Mirror by Maureen Hathaway.)

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