Christian Curriculum

Rotary trio in Mississippi witness poverty in Kenya

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) – In a small village about an hour’s drive from Nairobi, Kenya, a mother pretends to start dinner preparations and prays for her children to fall asleep early before noticing that they haven’t nothing to eat.

This is the scene Lucy Walker recently set for the Columbus Rotary Club in Lion Hills as she recounted a summer mission trip to Kenya.

“There was a mom and she had three little kids,” Walker said. “They had no food and they were starving. She said she put rocks in boiling water at night hoping they would fall asleep before she realized they weren’t getting any food. This is the impact this club had at the time. … Thanks to the donation this club made, they fed hundreds of hungry people during COVID.

Walker was accompanied by her husband, Bill, and former Columbus Municipal School District superintendent, Cherie Labat, to Kenya through Global Connections, an organization that seeks to help people experiencing poverty around the world.

Walker said the Rotary Club’s donation this year helped a children’s center in Limuru, Kenya, receive needed supplies such as vitamins for children for a year.

Labat said she got involved with Global Connections about a year ago when she and her husband adopted a family in Africa. She said one of the most eye-opening experiences for her this summer was visiting the slums of Kenya.

“I’m very intrigued by issues of poverty, and that’s my heart’s work outside of educating students,” Labat said. “My first visit to the slums when I arrived in Kenya, I think my mouth was open the whole time because you think you understand poverty to that degree, but I think actually seeing it and seeing children and people without shoes (makes) an impact on you.

During Labat’s time there, she saw many people lean on their Christian faith to help them through difficult times. She said people have accepted to love their neighbor as they love themselves and to share what little resources they have.

“Even when they have a little, they give a lot,” Labat said. “It’s a very special community within a community to be a part of and to be seen. Even in our donations in the slums, they always gave to someone else or found the opportunity to give to someone else.

During their travels through the East African nation, Labat said every community visited had three basic needs: clean water, school and church. She said she learned more about the importance of water quality and the science behind how it works in rural villages.

“You think about here (in Mississippi) and what makes a great community,” Labat said. “It’s a school, a church, and we’ve learned now that it’s clean water in the state.”

She said she was intrigued by the national curriculum, which emphasizes love and character, then core subjects like math, reading and science.

With the great sense of community and impact the team has had together, Labat said the trip changed his definition of family.

“We often define family as part of our perspective,” Labat said. “I think there was a family among us from Global Connections, and I saw families ranging from grandmothers and aunts raising children to mothers raising children to mothers and fathers trying to make their best for their children in a very difficult situation. It was a nice experience.