It has been a number of years since several of us journeyed to Kenya and started The Mama Ada Foundation. After spending time in Mama Ada’s beautiful green gazebo in her yard, we came back determined to open a nonprofit organization in the United States.
Thanks to scholarships from The Mama Ada Foundation (since high school), Maurine Lagat (right) was able to recently graduate from Moi University. She is now a Registered Nurse at Alexandria Hospital, thanks in part to Japheth Yegon – another scholarship alum and head of administration at the hospital. Maurine and Japheth no longer lie awake with worry at night – for they have futures of opportunity and hope.
We welcome Stan Tiony to our Mama Ada Village - a village insofar as we are a group of folks who work together to transform people's lives in Kenya. Pictured above left is Stan, as he leads a farmer training.
Often in my daily life, I’m going to the same places, with “my people.” And while I know different sorts of people, I am bound in many ways to similar experiences with others. Yesterday and today and hopefully tomorrow, I am blessed to have food, as one example, as are many of my friends and family.
I’ve had many conversations with my sons, Evan and Ben, about how we each have gifts – not just a special few, but everyone has gifts. Some might have easy conversations with others, some might have the ability to fix a faucet or a motor, some might create beautiful paintings, while others solve math problems with the precision of a calculator.
Very often, I write about our Kenyan friends in this blog. About our abiding respect for the students and the farmers, about our love for our partners and friends in Kenya, of our deep hopes that by reaching out to one another, we are all participating in a future of goodness for our world.
Perhaps you know this quote:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
Recently, Bishop Christopher Rutto from Kenya visited us in Minnesota (pictured here with Sharon Engel and the Rev. Katherine Lewis at St. David’s). During his visit, we took a walk through my neighborhood.
Have you ever considered how much of your day is “thinking” and how much of it is “action”? How much of your time is thinking about the future, perhaps just circles of worry about something?
Do you remember what you thought about when you were seven-years-old? Or 11- or 16-years-old? What do you remember of your childhood? Of your dreams? Of your fears?
For the past 10 years and more, I’ve known young people in Kenya. It’s been a love of my life to be a part of creating The Mama Ada Foundation – an organization that breathes opportunity into other’s lives, with a gift of tuition and seeds.
An object has “patina” through an oxidation process that yields greens and browns and blues on its surface, over time. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about patina - not in terms of pretty copper but more in terms of friendship.
This past December, I received a phone call from Bill Stull, a friend from Kentucky. Bill is always working to make a positive difference for others. He’s like a breath of fresh air and a jolt of inspiration.
Lately, I’ve been in a funk about my schedule.
It seems that my hours have been chewed up by all things asunder. I’ve complained to friends, complained to family….I’ve mostly and mightily competed to have The Busiest Schedule of All.
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks at The Mama Ada Foundation. We recently held our ninth annual gala in Minnesota. This event is not only a fundraiser for students and farmers in Kenya - it is also a celebration of friendships, near and far. One of my fondest memories from this year’s gala will be the young people who joined us (some even volunteered to help us put on the event!).
This blog is hard to write.
It is such, as we try to describe our beloved friend and partner, Jim Engel, who recently passed away. Sometimes we wonder, what are the words and where are the words to say all that is in our hearts? It is such now.
Several weeks ago, I sat at my computer. It was late afternoon and drowsiness rung ambition dry. A bling sounded and there was a message.
It was from a young man named Daniel Koech, sending greetings to The Mama Ada Foundation. He recounted how his family, on a few acre farm near Mama Ada’s home, had been given a gift of seeds and a cow through our organization. He recounted that he had received scholarships to complete high school in Kenya.
“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person.” ― Audrey Hepburn
Last week was a challenging one; I suspect you know the kind. In the middle of it, though, I began to remember something about our friends in Kenya.
As a little girl, I remember my beautiful mother dressed in her “birthday dress” - a bright pink and hot orange striped dress. She would bake a cherry cake and hang colorful streamers every year. In third grade, I remember gazing at the black board to see April 29, as I hoped the day would never end. My birthday.
Maybe you remember the feeling of waking as a child on your birthday, filled with hours of fun or at least something special ahead.
Last year, Dustin Parks was an intern at The Mama Ada Foundation. He is a student at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. We are so thankful to know Dustin as we are just sure that he’ll contribute awesome things to our world (and he is already doing so, even before his college graduation)!
We decided to ask Dustin some questions so that you could meet this inspiring student in the United States!
“GRATITUDE IS NOT ONLY THE GREATEST OF VIRTUES, BUT THE PARENT OF ALL THE OTHERS.” MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO
At The Mama Ada Foundation, we are always talking to people. We ask for advice, perspective, and ideas to move our work forward for students and farmers in Kenya. Recently, I heard from three people in as many days about the importance of thanking donors.
For several weeks, we have run our Seeds of Hope Campaign to raise funds for seeds for farmers. Our focus has been on finding new donors or encouraging donors to give again; it is honestly hard work to raise enough funds for all the farmers who are in such desperate need. But with this advice about thankfulness, my focus pivoted to all the people who have given already. And the funny thing about thankfulness is that once it moves in, there is less room for “not enough.”
“LIFE IS SHORT AND WE NEVER HAVE ENOUGH TIME FOR THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO TRAVEL THE WAY WITH US. O, BE SWIFT TO LOVE! MAKE HASTE TO BE KIND.” HENRI-FRÉDÉRIC AMIEL
Several days ago I attended a memorial service for Rebecca Koech’s father, Wilson Koech. Rebecca is a dear friend to many of us at The Mama Ada Foundation. Wilson passed away in Kenya, but Rebecca held a service for him at St. David’s Church in Minnetonka, Minnesota, where we met Mama Ada some years ago.
During this time of singing and prayers, there were also stories told about Wilson. Many in attendance had come to the United States after growing up near Wilson’s home in Kenya. It was remarkable to hear about his life and how he had come to be a successful and generous farmer, as well as a teacher.
IMAGINATION: “THE ABILITY TO FORM A PICTURE IN YOUR MIND OF SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE NOT SEEN OR EXPERIENCED” (MERRIAM WEBSTER)
Kenya seems so far away.
I admit to sighing as I wonder what to write to convince all of you to make a donation so that farmers will have seeds to plant in their fields in Kenya – as we have just launched our Seeds of Hope Campaign .I’m sitting on a bench in America’s oldest mall, waiting for my son, watching people with their shopping bags. It is honestly hard for me to transport myself all the way around the world, while sitting here beneath a banner that says "EAT, DRINK, PLAY, WATCH."
I’m immersed in raising two teen sons = equal parts exhilaration and exhaustion. A myriad of practical questions cross my mind minute-by-minute; how to teach them life skills “in time” and make sure they get enough sleep and on. And of late, I’ve wondered more about how to show or cajole or convince or teach my sons the equal importance of the head and the heart; how to turn to each in good time, as their lives unfold.
Recently, I’ve noticed how I get distracted by my phone. I spend more time than I will admit googling a dazzling array of topics (yesterday I even watched the video about Leonardo DiCaprio giving Lady Gaga “that look”). I’ve become aware of my little phone sucking time out of my life; back in the day, there would be a “tick, tick, tick”. The other day, I watched with some sad fascination that “distracted walking” is now a leading cause of injury or even death in the United States; we are literally walking into cars and buses while holding our phones.
I’ve been thinking about the “whole story” lately. How often do we dare to tell ourselves a whole story? Often, I prefer to tell myself part of a story – perhaps the part that I’m comfortable with, acquainted with, know best. The part that makes me feel safest, perhaps least accountable, and is the easiest.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about all the people who give of their time, treasure and talent to The Mama Ada Foundation. Our organization’s heart beat is made possible by people in the United States and Kenya and other parts of the world coming forward to give in so many ways. We’d like to especially tell you about two remarkable men who have been a sheer joy to work with for the past year.
The Experience of Many Kenyan Students
William Koech is an alum of The Mama Ada Foundation’s tuition scholarship program who is working with other alums to form the Mama Ada Alumni Association in Kenya.