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A School of Life and Hope
by Ronne Rock
Posted on Tuesday, October 21, 2014
She stands - a picture of grace - in the doorway of the Candlelight School in the slums of Nairobi. This is holy ground for Alice and her husband, Fred, founders and directors of the place that offers far more than education for vulnerable children in the slums of Kenya’s capital city.

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The constant metallic din of hammers chipping away at stones fills the air of the slum. Breaking rocks is the primary source of income for families living in metal shanties and cinder block cells. From dawn until dusk, they labor in the stifling heat and sudden rains, earning 100 shillings a day. The work done to make others wealthy rarely provides enough to keep food on the table.

Across a river of waste, the Kenyan Army conducts military drills with live rounds. Wayward shots go ignored in this place where lives are lived in obscurity. The sewage of the entire city snakes through the center of the Nairobi slum, and trash dances around our feet in search of a resting place as Alice takes us to the homes of her students.

immaculate-homeOur first stop is at Immaculate’s (pictured right) home, hidden in an alleyway on an unmarked road. Her single mother sits with her five children in the corrugated metal shed that provides little more than shelter. Abandoned by her husband, she now struggles to be both mother and father. Her eyes light up when she talks about the immaculateonly daughter attending school. Immaculate wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Her mom says it will be the hardest of roads. The slum doesn’t give up its own easily, and the odds are stacked against Immaculate. But there is a hope that burns deep inside - hope she will rise above the ruin through the Candlelight School.

boysinslums“We would love for more students to be sponsored like Immaculate, because most parents are unable to pay school fees or have enough money for meals. But the children need to come to school, so we help them as we can. The parents struggle to get involved because of the shame they feel. We make visits like this to the homes to tell them how proud we are of their children.”

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Alice knows far too well how important it is for children to feel accepted and loved. She and her husband Fred were both orphaned as children. Now they are parents to five children, including one infant rescued from abandonment. And here in the slum, they offer love and education to 400 students ranging in age from 3 to 13.

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Some children walk more than two hours to find belonging at Candlelight School, and their gratitude is evident in the respect and discipline shown by them in each crowded classroom. A feeding program was discontinued due to a lack of funds, but Alice believes it will return as more children are sponsored. “We do what we can for the children - if we have food, we share it.”

candlelightEven a growing number of Muslim children have found a safe place at Candlelight. “Children see other children happy and content - and they want to be happy too. Because we want to offer real care for the children, we know that many of our students come from homes where there is illness or abuse or neglect - and in some candlelightschool2homes the students are the ones taking care of their own parents. We begin every day with music therapy. We have found that singing with their friends helps even our most troubled students with their pain. They see friends rather than abuse. And they feel peace rather than fear.”

The students at Candlelight are bright and eager to learn. Students smile and share their dreams of being doctors, engineers, and teachers. They understand the value of the education they are receiving, and believe it will help them to care for their families and transform the slum itself.

“For these children, Candlelight School is more than a place to learn. It is life and hope. I understand where they have been - and the passion to help them flows in my heart because of that. If we looked to get paid for what we do, it would prove too difficult. But the love of Christ compels us to care. And because of that, we are strengthened.”

You can make a meaningful impact in the life of a child like Immaculate through child sponsorship. We urgently need sponsors for these children. Please click here to learn how you can become a sponsor.


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