January is a busy month at Heroes of the Nation in Kenya, with children returning to school and about 50 new students entering Heroes Primary and High School Academies for the first time. Administrators, teachers, housemothers, cooks and campus staff have been preparing classrooms, dormitories, bedding, ordering food, and doing all the odds and ends needed to welcome our beautiful kids home from Christmas break. Getting off to a strong start is highly valued in our community, and as the children are encouraged, they show their potential in everything they do.
January also turned out to be an especially good time for our friends from Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry to visit. This talented team of photographers was invited to share their creative gifts with HTN. Their assignment? To capture the many incredible stories behind the scenes. Their images and footage will help us communicate the transition that takes place in the lives of our kids so that people who can’t actually be there to see it first hand can witness what makes Heroes of the Nation so special.
Besides filming our young heroes on site, the team had the opportunity to visit and photograph the Massai village where over 130 of our children currently come from as well as the local slum where many of our children lived prior to coming to HTN. They also were privileged to go to Nakuru to visit with over 45 of our university students and capture their stories as well.
Although the editing process is still underway, the pictures on this post are a few candid shots caught during the week. Toward the end of April, we’ll be holding a local (Redding, CA) photo art exhibit to showcase some of the team’s images and footage and to raise funds and awareness for our Heroes. Stay tuned for more info and photos in the coming weeks!
Heroes Academy, the educational and academic component of Heroes of the Nation, graduates between 20 and 40 students each December. At the end of grade 12, our students spend the month of November studying for and completing an exam administered by Kenya’s Ministry of Education, which tests their retention of knowledge over their years in high school. It is a rigorous exam, and both students and staff take it quite seriously (probably the equivalent of our SAT or ACT). Without a HS diploma, a student cannot apply for college and further choices will be restricted.
The exams are scored and our graduates have a minimum wait of six months before they are eligible to begin their college courses. Students who perform well may receive government and private sector scholarships and have a variety of choices for where they will continue their post-high school education. Students who have performed poorly, or not at the level their program or course requires, will have to complete a ‘bridge’ year, where they prove themselves a bit more.
Currently, we are not able to finance all our Heroes’ college programs, so the leadership staff must make decisions. Sadly, it’s often the difference between one student who has a sponsor, and one who does not, since the monthly sponsorship helps to cover a student’s living expenses while in college, and practical matters must be considered. Recently I heard of a very capable student who scored well and wanted to attend the Rift Valley Institute in Nakuru to study Tourism Management, but his sponsor had decided to remove his support just a few months earlier. Although I hadn’t met the student personally, at the time, the recommendation he was receiving from our African director was strong and beckoned my action. My monthly gift of $60 is making an enormous difference for this student, and I couldn’t be happier. I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with him last week, in Kenya, and I am absolutely and completely impressed with his heart, his mind and his vision! (Thank you, God, for the privilege to sow into what you’re already doing!!)
It has been 17 years since our first Heroes came to Violet and Weston Gitonga, and established Heroes of the Nation as an orphanage and school. Since then, we’ve seen those first children not only graduate Heroes academy, but graduate college, obtaining degrees in Finance, Law, Nursing, Tourism Management, Food & Beverage and more. We are so incredibly proud of our Heroes graduates and all the glory goes to you, Heavenly Father, for allowing us to love and serve our kids well!
If you’d like to sponsor one of our potential college students, please reach out and let us know! It will surely make a big difference in a very precious life!
In Him who always provides above and beyond,
Heroes of the Nation
Jobs are tough to find in Kenya, even for a well-educated young man or woman. Unemployment in the region for those age 18-25 is 40 percent, and to make matters worse, the labor market is undereducated. This lack of training for young people just out of high school leaves a whole generation in a precarious social position.
At Heroes of the Nation, we want to be part of the solution to this problem. That is one reason our kids are taught about business from an early age, and the entrepeneurial spirit is instilled in them at every grade. We know that business can become an engine for growth, creating jobs and giving people hope. Our Heroes grow up wanting to bring positive change to their communities, and we teach them that a great way to do that is to bring business to the region.
Because of a very special family from Washington who generously offer grants to our graduates to pursue and start their own businesses, many of our Heroes are able to begin living out their dream of being a business owner immediately after graduation from college. Hannah, who recently earned her degree in interior design, found her niche. Graduating around the time that Kenya outlawed plastic bags, she has opened up shop, and is now sewing and selling grocery bags, curtains and clothing. (Check out Hannah’s story).
Cecelia, another of our heroes, graduated in 2017 with a certificate in Cosmetology from Rift Valley College. She opened her own salon and shop in Nakuru town and has been serving customers for a few months already.
We couldn’t be more proud of all of our Heroes who study hard and take advantage of every opportunity, continuing to press on even though they face great challenges. They are the change their communities need, and it is a privilege to partner with each and every one of them!
When children come to live at Heroes of the Nation, one of the many blessings they receive is the gift of a regular schedule to give structure and stability to their lives. What does that look like? Well, here is a typical school day schedule for a Hero:
5:00 am: It’s time to rise and shine! The children dress for the day, put away their belongings, and tidy up their bedrooms.
5:30 am: Breakfast time. Yum! This is typically a bowl of porridge, made with cornmeal, fresh milk, oil and a little bit of sugar.
6:00 am: After breakfast, the children gather for worship in the dining hall and prayer gatherings in their classrooms.
7:00 am: It’s time for school to begin! Children go to their age-appropriate grades. Besides the core subjects, Heroes offers students extracurricular activities such as sports, dance, entrepeneurial and business training, and agriculture clubs. Our goal to bring programs to our kids that will expand their vision, tap into their hidden talents, and help them have fun.
10:30 am: Recess for tea time or additional porridge for the young ones, a welcome high point of the morning.
11:00 am: It’s time to return to class for another hour, then out at 12:00 for recess and playtime.
1:00 pm: Yay, it’s lunchtime!
2:00 pm: Students return to class for a couple more hours, and are dismissed at 4:00. They use this time for bathing, laundry, and other preparations.
5:00 pm: Fresh from the showers, our children now head to study hall for homework and exam prep for an hour.
6:00 pm: It’s time for dinner, lovingly prepared and served in the dining hall.
7:00 pm: Once they’re done eating, our kids return to study hall or head for prayer and worship meeting.
8:00 pm: Teeth brushing and all those things that go into getting ready for bed. Giggles and Laughter. Prayers and last minute conversations.
8:30 pm: It’s time for lights out, and quiet descends on Heroes of the Nation as the children settle into their warm, clean beds for the night, with kind, caring adults to watch over them.
It’s beautiful to watch the children thrive in this structure. Secure in the knowledge that they have abundant food, shelter, and love, they come alive. To learn more about Heroes of the Nation orphanage in Kenya or to find out how you can be a part of bringing life to these young heroes, check out our website at htn.org.
Heroes of the Nation is not just a place where orphans and at-risk children can be fed and housed. Our kids do so well because it is more…
For one thing, our school is really more like a home. The environment is happy and free, and our staff is very friendly to the children, treating them like family, not just students to be taught academics. Our young heroes feel safe and cared for, both in the home and in school. Since our staff lives on campus and are around all the time, it really does feel like a big family, with lots of acceptance and valuing of the children. Beyond that, staff members are dedicated, love their work, and not there for the salaries but because they have a heart for being parents/older brother/sister to the children.
Another reason our kids do so well is the fact that Heroes campus is located in a rural environment. Issues that affect children who live in urban develpments do not affect our kids. Within our gates, respect is taught, but without fear. This helps the children thrive and feel free to excel. Also, university students visit from time to time, giving our kids vision for their futures and motivating them to do well. At Heroes of the Nation, our staff are all teachers and school administrators by training. These experienced educators know how to help kids to see that the sky is the limit, and create a Christian environment where children learn that “God is always near me and loves me.”
We make sure our young heroes lack nothing. They eat well, getting plenty of quality food; their emotional and spiritual wounds and needs are addressed; they are loved, cherished, and shown that they can perform and chase their dreams. Visiting Mission Teams bring a lot of love, and the visitors show great interest in their well being, in who they are, and this, too, encourages them to work hard. Knowing that sponsors and donors believe in them also helps them strive for excellence and become the next heroes of their nation.
To see how you can be part of this beautiful thing happening in Kenya, explore our website, meet some of our kids, and check out upcoming missions opportunites. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Jot us a note and we’ll get back to you!
There is nothing generic about Heroes of the Nation. Each child has his or her own story, and often the beginnings are difficult. It’s our business to help turn that around: bring beauty from ashes. Replace mourning with joy. Set them free to soar. Here is a letter from one of our heroes, Samson Gitau-Gitonga.
I am Samson and I am 19 years old. I joined Heroes of the Nation at the age of 7. At that time I didn’t know anybody in my life. My parents had abandoned me because of the poor life we had and I ended up taking myself to Heroes of the Nation. I was not chased away nor threatened. I was welcomed.
I was given a chance to school there because I had no other place to go. I was provided with everything I required to keep my life going. I never went hungry, naked and never lacked anything of which I knew many out there wished to get. This new home was a paradise to me.
I never wanted to lose the chance of being at Heroes because I had seen other children dropping out of school and living a miserable life. I stayed from grade one all the way to grade eight where I was given the opportunity of being the school entertainment prefect, which many wanted. It was a good time being a leader. I also managed to participate in other school activities and gained myself valuable certificates and was satisfied that what I had done was good.
When I joined grade nine at Heroes Academy, I got to see many new faces around me. I knew what I had come for in school and despite so many challenges, I didn’t give up because I know God has created me for a reason and so I have to chase my goals. I know education is a key to success, and so I did my best to avoid any discouragement or misleading from my friends.
When I was in grade 10, God answered my prayers and brought my mom back to me. She had been looking for me for many years and we were both happy to see one another. I could not deny her because she brought me into this world despite the challenges. It was my family, united again. I could go home to her during the school breaks and during the holidays. I never worried because Heroes of the Nation was always beside me.
In grade eleven, I was chosen to be the student body leader, because I was obedient and God fearing. I believe God had put that leadership in me since I was a small boy. I acted as the school’s student leader through my graduation from grade twelve.
It has been a long journey, and a testimony to tell. I thank the Almighty King for the distance I’ve gone and for giving me a good family that enabled me to do well in life. I still look forward for all that is ahead, with the guidance and good work ethic that was cultivated in me at Heroes of the Nation.
GOD BLESS HEROES OF THE NATION FOR SAVING MY LIFE.
To help other children like Sam, please visit our website to see how you can get involved through donation, sponsorship, and short-term mission trips. Also, check out our recent post on how sponsoring a child can make a huge difference.