Church of Our Saviour, Somerset, MA
"For the last 7 years, Church of Our Saviour has been part of an exciting church-based project that involves the larger Somerset community and communities in Amagoro, Kenya and Nairobi. One of our local schools, North Elementary, began a pen-pal relationship with Amagoro Primary school in 2010. In 2012, Church of Our Saviour organized families of children with pen-pals in Amagoro, other parishioners and local educators to travel to Amagoro, Kenya. The youth of Amagoro and Somerset brainstormed for ways to help Amagoro Primary School, and decided to plant a bean garden. The garden fed the students and their families; and excess crops were sold to buy more supplies for the school. Since then we have maintained the relationship. We began with pen-pal letters, but transitioned to email, Facebook and Skype. While we were in Africa in 2012, we met up with and visited another NGO in Nairobi called “Be the Change Kenya. (They have since renamed the organization Tatua.)
The vision of the African Mission group of Church of Saviour, Somerset is a reciprocal, multi-generational and community-based partnership with two NGOs in Kenya: Elewana Education Project headed by Reverend Zach Drennen, and Tatua headed by Natalie Finstad. Our goal is to empower our local youth and the youth of Kenya to become agents of change in their communities.”
“…in organizing this trip, we joined with the Leadership Development Initiative (LDI), and used that training to help create a plan for this second trip. The result: clearer roles for group members, and clearer goals for the trip as a whole. Interestingly, the training we received in Kenya, from Tatua, is based on LDI principles as well. This made for powerful continuity between trip design and learning once in Kenya. The other excellent example of continuity: three of our partners from Amagoro also attended the Tatua training outside Nairobi, so that our work together was always “on the same page… Receiving Tatua training in Kenya, side by side with our partners from Amagoro, made for a deeper shared purpose...”
Post-trip Reflection on the questions “how this experience affected your group as Christians in your partner community and back in your home community.”
The biggest impact for our group: Tatua training. Why? Because our training, and time spent sharing with Kenyan and Ugandan colleagues, and visits to community campaigns like the home for street children, brought about an epiphany. Our group truly came to understand the difference between charity and justice work. And we came to hear from Kenyan colleagues first hand this foundational truth: throwing foreign money at problems does not transform communities. Communities transform communities. This inspires us in our own work in the Somerset/Greater Fall River area. Our community faces so many struggles, and with our food pantries and soup kitchens we are putting band aids on systemic problems. After the time in Kenya, we feel inspired to dig deeper and to strive for justice through more collaborative projects with the friends we serve.
As for our youth group, their first project involved a supplies drive for the homeless. They made up over 150 “survival bag” backpacks filled with snacks, first aid kits, long underwear, Mylar blankets, etc., and distributed them to folks at the shelters and food banks and shelter motels. Beyond this, the group met with a formerly homeless woman named Ginger, to hear her story. Her message: Supplies are great. Conversation is better. Human connection, best of all. We are learning to think about mission in new ways, and we have our friends in Kenya to thank for this.