Volunteering

Sponsor an Umoja Staff Member for Christmas

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Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya are setting a target of 100 Sponsorship pledges before Christmas. To find out how to be involved see the latest Newletter.http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=27451c8c3723a00be8f99956a&id=a8530045fe&e=d69a26e1c7

Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya sponsored by Rotary Australia

First Children have arrived at Umoja

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Umoja Orphanage Kenya, Rotary
Newsletter – We did it! 5 years to the day.

We have to share the most exciting news that the first children have arrived at Umoja Orphanage Kenya. It’s five years to the day that Cathy Booth founded the project. Fundraising ventures like this writing competition contribute to the orphanage. Without these and all the wonderful volunteers the orphanage would not be available to these gorgeous kids who need a home desperately. It’s wonderful to see Cathy’s dream come to life. If you’d like to be a part of it you can encourage your friends to enter this competition. Every little bit helps. I’d like to thank those writers who have already entered, some have even entered twice and donated extra (above the small entry fee) and that is just fantastic. Time is running out so encourage your writing friends and hurry up and enter.

To read the full newsletter about the progress at Umoja Orphanage Kenya Project click on this link NEWSLETTER.

This competition is a small stone in the ocean compared to the other ways you can help the project. You can sponsor a child or equipment for the project, you can even volunteer to travel to Africa to help build the orphanage. So many options to help out. If you don’t want to enter this but want to help just go to Umoja Home to get the full story. The main reason I started this competition was to fund raise for the project but ultimately raising awareness for the project and the bigger things people can do to help is what matters, so I don’t care if you don’t enter as long as you do support the project in some way.

However, if you do love writing – why not enter?

You have the fun of testing your writing skills with the wonderful theme of ‘peace’ and you’ll feel great knowing that you’ve donated to a very worthy, wonderful cause.

I’d like to congratulate Cathy and her team for everything they’ve achieved so far. There’s so much more to do but I know they’ll do it.

And a big welcome to the Umoja children. We all hope you enjoy your new safe home (pictures of them are in the newsletter).

ENTER TODAY

Help promote Umoja Writing Competition

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We always give this competition plenty of time for entrants to write and send in their entry. Don’t leave it too late though, and miss the deadline. Get working on your entry today. The theme is ‘Peace’ and in today’s world there’s plenty of scope to find a story within our theme. We all want a peaceful world and umoja is all about unity and peace. The small entry fee goes directly to the Umoja Orphanage Kenya Project.

If you would like to help us promote the competition please download the flyer and distribute where you can, your school, university, workplace, gym, library, local book store – anywhere you may find writers. Thank you in advance.

Umoja Writing Comp 2016 Flyer

Front of Umoja Writing Competition Flyer.
Front of Umoja Writing Competition Flyer.

Where does my Umoja Writing Comp entry fee go?

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Where does your Umoja Writing Competition Entry Fee go?

If you haven’t read more about it yet  you can read the latest Rotary Newletter and even subscribe to it if you like.

The biggest highlights from the latest on the Umoja Orphanage Kenya are:

  • 2016 will be the year we open the doors to the first children’s home (need $10,00 more to achieve this).
  • Education of our social worker, Kevin (sponsored through university and the first person in his village to attain a university degree). How cool is that!
  • Training our first house mamma (who will look after our orphans beautifully).
  • Completion of our chicken shed (will house 300 chickens but we need to fill it).
  • 40ft container of donated goods arrived on site (full of bedding and clothing ready for the orphans).
  • Three-level water tower to hold 50,000 litres of water (thanks to a grant from Australian Aid).
  • Kitchen with traditional Lamu ceilings.
  • Cathy did some guest speaking at Rotary Clubs in NSW.
  • Thank you to all the kind helpers, especially 90 year old Rene who is in a nursing home in Bundaberg and knits for the children.
Traditional construction of Umoja Orphanage children's home.
Traditional construction of Umoja Orphanage children’s home.
The progress is going well in Kenya.
The progress is going well in Kenya.
Traditional Lamu ceiling.
Traditional Lamu ceiling.

So you can see that just $10 will go a long way (but if you can give more when you enter that would be gratefully appreciated too). Let’s all make this the best fundraiser for Umoja Orphanage yet. Tell all your writing friends. Tell all your non-writing friends. We welcome essayists, poets, travel writers and creative writers, so even novices can give it a go. Have fun and remember that writing can be a gateway to anywhere.

Enter today: Entry Form

Ready, set, write!

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Ready and set to write your entry for Umoja Writing Competition 2016?

If not, start thinking about our theme ‘Peace’. Plenty to write about there. We all hope for a peaceful planet full of love and happiness, so what better theme for this year’s writing competition. Begin your entry today.

Must-Enter-Page

I am very pleased to announce the commencement of our 2016 competition to fundraise for Umoja Orphanage Kenya in a literary way. We’ve added poetry to our usual entries of either short fiction, essay or travel article up to 1,000 words. There’s plenty of scope for all sorts of writers. We’d love you to get involved. Please pass the competition details on to your fellow writing friends, groups and networks. The more entries we receive the more money we raise for Umoja Orphanage Kenya and that’s what we are aiming for.

Founder of the Umoja Orphanage, Cathy Booth is excited that there is a good possibility the house will be finished by April, so we can intake our first children. It’s taken since 2011 to get to that point from conception to welcoming the orphans into their new home. There’s plenty of people lending a hand, volunteering, building, planting, digging trenches, installing tanks and all sorts of things to make the orphanage come together – unity (umoja). Read more at: Progress so far.

Congratulations and a big thanks to everyone involved, but we still need funds, at least $10,000 (and of course it’s ongoing). If we could raise that much with this writing competition how great would that be – what satisfaction every entrant would feel having helped by entering and donating their entry fee?

Our Writing Competition starts today

This year we’ve changed the format and prizes slightly. We offered prize money previously, but we found our winners always donated it back, so it wasn’t the prize money that made people enter. It was a love of writing and a need to help those less fortunate than us. See our new Entry Form page for full information on how to enter. It’s a minimum of $10 entry but you’re welcome to pay more if you can afford to or want to. Both winners so far have progressed with their writing dreams since their wins – Winners.

If you’re a Rotary member you may have heard Cathy speaking about the cause. As if she isn’t busy enough when a school year finishes but then she gives her free time to talk at Rotary Clubs around the country about the project. If you want to know more sign up for the Newsletter.

Okay.

Ready

Set

Enter

 

Of Nice and Mean by Nancy Lindah Ilamwenya

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Highly Commended goes to African entrant Nancy Lindah Ilamwenya.

Nancy is a Kenyan living in Ethopia and is just 26 years old. Here is Nancy’s entry: Of Nice and Mean

“Do you think George and Lennie’s friendship was genuine or was it based on convenience?”

Uncomfortable silence, occasionally interrupted by officious rustling of John Steinbeck’s, “Of Mice and Men” novels in oblivious fingers, searching for what is not only an elusive answer, but more so, a fantastical idea, especially for our teenage minds….true companionship.

“I would like one of you to please justify this relationship.”Miss Amweno begins again, determination in her voice.

“George is a strikingly witty fellow whose charisma casts spells wherever he goes. He is self –driven and agreeable.” My mind wanders off to the movie version; Channing Tatum should have played George. I wouldn’t have any problems answering Miss Amweno.…his eyes…Channing’s eyes…

“Lennie on the other hand, well juxtaposed to his best friend George. At 6 feet and change, his gargantuan mass dwarfs most average men.” Miss Amweno continues with unadulterated vigor, clearly unconscious of the fact that most of her words are too big for us.

“His thunderous voice emerges to clearly proclaim his mental handicap…an epitome of awkwardness. So boys and girls…How can these two contradictory personages be best of pals?” She pants as if never to speak again.

Painful silence lingers. We notice her left eye begin to twitch. Signs of frustration.  She mumbles to herself, anger slowly sneaking to her face. She bites her lower lip and we gear up to receive outbursts of why we are better off on the streets and our places taken by those unfortunate street children, how we should be banished to rural Pokot where we can learn to appreciate some paltry beans accompanied with yellow ugali, listening to the omniscient voice of the Almighty self-contained teacher, seated on parched ground, under an ancient teak. But like most of what she says, gets in through one ear and leaves through the other. Hers is a tough job.

Thing is, Miss Amweno is a great teacher. Admittedly, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to eavesdrop on my other teachers’ out-spoken frustrations about their meager stipend and how on the first chance to leave the profession, they would. I have to say, nothing kills learning than the knowledge that you, the student, are but a bridge, not a destination. But Miss Amweno loves us. We know it and that is why we readily forgive her outbursts. We love that she screeches birthday songs to all of us at random times of the year. We love that she walks around with a tear-stained blouse after mediating teenage scuffles. We love that she would know if we had a rough night. We love that she knows our pets by name. We love that she scribbles proverbs at the corner of the board every morning. We even learnt to embrace the Feelings Jar. Miss Amweno makes school, home.

You see, my parents split up as soon as I turned seven. A few months later, my mother was arrested for fraud and all her assets frozen. Predictably, my father immediately re-married and promptly forgot about us. As fate had it, I was left in the young but capable hands of Bwire, my eighteen year old genius of a brother. “Genius” is not to be used lightly, as he went on to win a scholarship to an Ivy League university in the USA after innovating something I regrettably don’t have the capacity to describe. Worth mentioning( to emphasize his brilliance) he made a living concocting some hallucinogen in our house which he peddled to supplement the little allowance collected from reluctant  relatives.

On my brother’s departure, I went to live with my aunt, who only accepted to host me in the hope that Bwire’s pursuit of prosperity would thrive and she would have a legitimate claim, on my account.

So as I watch the all too familiar transformation of Miss Amweno’s furrowed face to her sympathetic look, I am reminded of Mama.  Not in a way that compares. No! In a way that conjures up feelings of foul rejection, constant absenteeism, and numbing loneliness. I have to say that her incarceration was of no consequence to our relationship, because we didn’t have any.

Miss Amweno is it! I don’t think she knows it but most of us count on her presence for our daily dose of affection. Miss Amweno is it! The semblance of a mother we all wish we had.

“Hallo? Akisa! Are you with us?” I hear her say. Suddenly, an epiphany so real, a divine intervention through I, a humble medium.

“Yes, Akisa… Kindly enlighten us.” She responds with apparent pride.

“Well Miss…it indeed is tempting…in fact natural, to choose the negative aspect, seeing that we live in a skeptical world.” I begin. “Skeptical, meaning doubtful of each other’s inherent goodness,” I look around, silence of a church.

“Why is it difficult for us to conclude that one can love without expecting something in return? Lennie is mentally challenged.  He is a child in a man’s body. He can barely make sense to save his life. He cannot remember who he is, let alone what he is supposed to do. He has irrational tendencies further exacerbating his isolation.” I pause and look around. Everyone is listening.

“Why is it difficult to believe that George could find a true friend in Lennie? Couldn’t have George searched and found Lennie’s soul? An ability that few humans possess.”

I look around again. Eyes opening up to my truth. Minds consuming my revelation.

With the confidence of a pundit and humility of a priest, I rested my case, “Miss Amweno, there is no better example than our relationship, you Miss Amweno with us. You symbolize George, us Lennie. You love us, in spite… It is like questioning your fondness for us.”

Miss Amweno smiles, eyes gleam behind a curtain of joyful tears, and then she clinches my point so accurately, “Only one who can dig beyond physical differences will to justify the relationship.

Thank you Nancy for a story reflecting the wonderful roles of teachers. We hope your placing will encourage other African writers to craft their writing skills. Readers please comment below.

 

The winner is – ‘Tiny Teacher’ by Kirsten Leggett

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Today we announce the winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015. It is both exciting and sad to come to this point in our competition. Exciting because our winner is about to find out, and sad because this year’s competition is over.

We’d like to thank everyone who entered to help make this fundraising and literacy venture a success. Though entrant numbers were down, we still managed to raise valued funds for Umoja Orphanage Kenya, and the wonderful work Cathy and her team do. We thank you all and hope you enjoyed crafting your story and entering our competition.

This year we allowed African entrant the chance to enter free, so they could enjoy the process of entering the competition. The competition has been designed to help Kenyan literacy levels and provide funding for the orphanage that will also have classrooms.

African Special Mention

We’d like to make special mention of our highest ranked African entrant, Nancy Lindah Ilamwenya from Ethiopa. Her entry ‘Of Nice and Mean’ was a beautifully crafted entry. Continue your writing, Nancy and we wish you the best of luck with your life goals. We will post Nancy’s entry and the winning entry on the blog in the coming days.

The Winner

Okay here we go with the drum roll. Now for the overall winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015. The winner is Kirsten Leggett from Tasmania, with her wonderful entry ‘Tiny Teacher’. Congratulations Kirsten.

Please return to see these entries. Now you be the judges when these four entries are posted let us know what you think of them. Give only literary feedback, thank you.

A quick thank you again to our judges Deborah Lawrence, teacher and literacy consultant (and also the sponsor of our trophy) and Shanyn Limpus, communications officer for Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

Please visit the orphanage Facebook page to see the latest information on the volunteer group who have just visited Kenya with Cathy. If you are interested in volunteering overseas you couldn’t find a better place to go.