Conference call with Kenya

Jenny Scarborough
Conference call with Kenya

Ocracoke United Methodist Youth gathered to video chat with Kenyan kids.

The young people in Kenya are part of the Zimbabwe Orphan Endeavor, a program that empowers orphaned children in Africa to become self sufficient. 

The power was out on the February Saturday the group gathered, so they met in one of the EMS rooms, which has a generator back up.  The Kenyans gathered in a tall, whitewashed chapel with sun pouring in through skylights and high windows.  "I hate to have established a connection with Kenya, and not be able to talk because we are the problem," said Methodist church Pastor Laura Stern. 

The Ocracoke kids heard from the Kenyan kids about how the ZOE program changed their lives.  ZOE keeps siblings together, educates them about their rights, helps them retain family property, links them to government support structures, and shares the word of the Bible.  The participants are encouraged, but not forced, to embrace Christianity.

The Kenyan kids create mutually supporting groups and run their own businesses.  They raise pigs, chickens, goats and cows, grow crops, and bake and sell bread.  ZOE provides them with start up capital.  It is an empowerment, rather than a relief program, explained one of the Kenyan staff members.  "These kids can help themselves, but just need a little support," he said.

Younger children attend nursery and elementary school.  For fun, they like to sing in the village, visit one another, and help the older people in their communities, they told the Ocracoke group. 

Many of the orphans lost their parents to AIDS, and ZOE educates them about the disease, how to prevent transmission, and how to take care of one another should they find they are infected with HIV.

"The ZOE program started because an Eastern North Carolina pastor heard from youth in the church that they needed to do more to help AIDS orphans," explained Pastor Stern.  Now eight years old, the program serves 20,000 youth, and works in Rwanda, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Kenya. 

ZOE founder Greg Jenks visited Ocracoke last spring to preach and tell the congregation about the program.

In December, the Methodist church raised over $3,500 with an ornament sale organized by Merle Davis, Molly and Karen Lovejoy.   Molly is excited about the possibility of joining a mission trip to visit a ZOE program. 

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