Annual Letter 2020

We are in awe that we have now completed our second year as a non-profit organization and turned the corner to begin our third year!  The challenges we experienced during our first year of ministry caused us to think differently, stretch and grow. Our second year of ministry has brought new partnerships, new insights, and new opportunities as well as new challenges like the Coronavirus pandemic.

We have just celebrated having our first paid partner, Jane, on the job as our Program Manager for one year and we are thrilled at how she has been able to move the mission forward with her head, heart and hands doing the work on the ground in Kenya.

We’ve learned from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that if we focus on training and educating women, we will have the greatest community impact.  While we have no plans to exclude men, our current focus is on developing programs that allow women (with their heavy domestic loads) to participate.  In February, we launched our first Catering Cohort of 27 women over 30 years old. With the partnership of a local private vocational school and a local church we are able to offer catering classes on the mountain at times when the women can participate.  We have one 59-year-old woman who walks an hour each way to class and has been known to run the last portion of her journey so as not to be late to class!  The ladies are dreaming and planning of starting businesses together when they complete their training courses.

The data we have collected in the scholarship application process is steering our decisions, allowing us to be more effective and directing the long-term vision.  We have gained clarity in what the needs of the community are based on the data rather than our own ideas of what they need.  We have learned what types of training the residents of Korio, Mathatia & Mbau-ini are interested in receiving.  The top five requests for training are: catering, truck driving, hairdressing/barbering, dressmaking/tailoring and cosmetology.  With the exception of two extreme cases, all of our students contribute 20% of their tuition fees.  To date, we have approved 68 of 106 applications for scholarships (84% female, 16% male).  We have a mix of students studying at government and private vocational schools off the mountain, doing apprenticeship training in the nearest town, and in our catering classes brought to the mountain.

With the scholarship program, each student is being trained in their area of passion and interest and we are able to invest in the local community by partnering with local trades men and women for apprenticeships, a local church to host classes and national and local schools to increase enrollment.

As the pandemic hit Kenya, schools and businesses closed down and people were told to stay home.  In the area where we serve, people must work daily or they will not eat.  This has caused severe food insecurity in our communities.  One of our core values is differentiating between a time of crisis and a time to work towards development.  Our aim is to apply compassion to crisis situations and strive for justice in developing self-sustaining programs to address chronic poverty.  In this time of a global pandemic, we have extended a hand of compassion in a crisis situation.  As of this writing, we have delivered more than 150 food packages consisting of rice, maize flour, wheat flour, oil, sugar, salt, tea and soap.  Each package consists of supplies to feed a typical Kenyan family for 2-3 days.  As we await the Kenyan government re-opening of schools and businesses, Jane continues to visit our students and their families, checking on their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and informing us of any serious challenges that we can potentially assist with.  All of our scholars are looking forward to returning to their respective training locations.

Once the Kenyan economy opens again, we will offer a second Catering Cohort (we currently have a full waiting list).  We are also moving forward with a partnership with a local NGO (non-government organization) doing value-added agriculture.  We plan to offer organic farming training to our communities and help to build a supply chain of local farmers to build local agriculture business.  Our desire is to continue to partner with local community leaders to hear their ideas for self-sustainability and to develop other partnerships with local community leaders to promote education and agriculture as ways to increase household incomes above the extreme poverty level, an average of $2/day.

Lately, I (Nancy) have had a song lyric from Help Somebody by Van Zant buzzing in my head.  “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”  Pretty much captures 2020 right?  Who could have foreseen this pandemic bringing the entire globe to a screeching halt? While some of our plans for Hearts of Hope for 2020 are, like the rest of the planet, currently on hold, we are seeing God show up in big ways in the work we have been able to accomplish.  We have heard stories from the field of God showing up through Hearts of Hope just in time to feed a family that had nothing to eat that day.  We are quick to give God the glory in these situations and trust our families see His faithfulness in the work we do.

As we begin our third year of ministry, we would like to thank you for your spiritual and financial support as we continue on this journey.  The commitment of our monthly donors has allowed us to continue to invest in dedicated staff on the ground in Kenya.  Without your prayer and financial support, we would not be successful.  We pray that you will continue to support us in this way, as you feel led.  We look forward to partnering together to fill hearts full of hope in our scholars, their families and their communities.

“Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble, the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.” – Psalm 41:1-2

For His glory,

Kevin & Nancy Sell
Hearts of Hope International, Inc.