From Madison to Kenya via Leigh Vierstra

This Sunday First Congregational will have a great opportunity to hear about PA-MOJA, a project that connects people and wildlife. More importantly, it is connecting students from East High School in Madison to Malek Secondary in Laikipia, Kenya. Leading the program for East High School is our very own Leigh Viersta.  Many of you remember Leigh as a child of First Cong, but she has also been supported by First Cong in her personal growth. In 2006 Leigh traveled to the Marshall Islands, as a teacher. You might remember Leigh brought back baskets as a gift to the church. We use these baskets to collect our offering the first Sunday of every month, which we will be using this Sunday. It is our honor to promote this adventure of learning for youth in the PA-MOJA Project.

First, a little history of the Project. PA-MOJA (Swahili for together) is a non-profit organization started in 2006 by a Canadian primatologist. Through educational development PA-MOJA aims to help all people see the value in protecting the environment that sustains them. PA-MOJA helps communities through two strategic partnerships: first, working in conjunction with Ol Pejeta Conservancy, East Africa’s 2nd largest Rhino conservancy, and North American schools to build understanding, awareness, and empathy towards other cultures and wildlife species. Second, PA-MOJA partners with North American and Kenyan schools to fund scholarships and improve the educational infrastructures of Kenyan schools so that students have a place in which to effectively learn, end the cycle of poverty and reduce the communities’ reliance on unsustainable poaching as a main economic activity. These sustainability measures include funding infrastructure systems such as water tanks, classrooms, and biogas for the school lunch program to ensure that these communities thrive.

The mission of the East High School program is to help East High School students grow into global citizens and future leaders. The program has three parts. Part one is to Explore. Students begin their exploration of Kenyan culture and prepare for their in-country learning experience. With the goal of creating globally and culturally competent graduates, East High School has spent the last two years learning and growing together with Malek Secondary. Part two is Interact. After two years of exchanging words and images, the students are ready to work side by side. This is where the funding becomes essential. The full cost for one individual is $4000. To make the program inclusive to all, each student will be funded 100% for the travel experience. No one should be kept from this great opportunity because of expense. Part three is Reflect, Present & Act.  Upon the students return from Kenya, the students will be responsible for reflecting on their experience and presenting to donors, community members and peers.

We are proud to have Leigh as a member of First Congregational. We are excited that she is part of such wonderful programming in the public schools. We are grateful to have the opportunity to help fund one of the students who is part of the PA-MOJA Project. Come and hear both Leigh and the students talk about this great project this Sunday. And don’t forget to bring your checkbook!

~ Eldonna Hazen


Posted on April 28, 2015 at 10:32 am in Featured Content.

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