Federal Way Public Academy sends hope to Kenyan orphanage

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

By MAUREEN HATHAWAY, Federal Way resident

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.

In 2001, teacher Barry Linn, along with director and founder Dr. Ray Griffen, thought that community service at the academy should focus on both the local and international level. This concept has continued under the current leadership of Principal Kurt Lauer and Dawn Dale, the Community Service Group advisor.

Sixth-grade students are required to perform 10 hours of community service; seventh-grade students, 20 hours; and eighth- through 10th-grade, 30 hours. The Federal Way Public Academy emphasizes a challenging and “traditional” academic curriculum. Students who attend the academy receive a rigorous academic instruction that will help them prepare for the college or university of their choice.

The academy opened in September 1999 with 120 seventh- and eighth-grade students. With the addition of sixth, ninth and 10th grades, the school now accommodates 300 students. Students completing Public Academy studies go on to the Advanced Placement program; the International Baccalaureate program; Puget Sound Early College; Running Start; the Cambridge Program; or one of the district’s high school regular 11th grade programs.

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, Kenya (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 which in 2009 now houses and serves 320 children from early childhood development to grade 8.

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. The community service groups to date have raised more than $6,500.

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 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 has just been completed.

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. (child’s uniform is $4; mosquito netting is $5). 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.

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