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Students Become Ambassadors

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We are off on another African Adventure. This time I get to take with me not one, not two, but 4 former students!  It is one of those things that you can only imagine and hope for when they are sitting in your classroom as 9 and 10 year olds.  I’m always amazed when years later they contact me and say, “O.k. Mrs. Manuel, it’s time to go to Kenya!”  I’m a firm believer in the value of planting seeds and waiting and watching for those little sprouts to grow…..and they never disappoint!

We plan on doing a lot of renovation work on the school while we are there, while also continuing the work of piping the water from our well to the various locations around the school. We will also be delivering cows/goats/chickens to the needy in the village, which is always a lot of fun. Most our time will be spent with the  children at Ronesa Academy. Grant and Sophia will also get to meet their 4th grade Pen Pals!  We have 8 large bags packed with all the donations given to us from schools, soccer teams, family and friends. What an amazing privilege it is to watch this school go from 5 kids in a chicken coop (the original 5 in the picture above) to over 100 kids in a 7-classroom, fully accredited school. None of this would be possible without the hundreds of caring hearts that have poured into this project over the last 7 years. You have quite literally changed the lives of hundreds of children who would not otherwise have a school, essentials to learn, and hope for a better life.

Thank you again for all of you who have cared, given, and found purpose in making a difference….one person at a time.  “We rise by lifting others.”  ~ Robert Ingersoll

Ashe Oleng (Thank you)



Ronesa Update (6/28/16)

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It’s been an exciting 2 weeks so far here in Kenya, and especially wonderful being back “home” with Mama Sheila again. Our kids are thriving at Ronesa Academy and it’s been a lot of fun having my friend Andrea Graney and her two daughters with me. They were both former students of mine, so a teacher’s dream come true having them here! There are 133 students at Ronesa now and it’s fun watching them grow and learn from year to year. Their English is astounding, their education is top-notch, and their love for us and one another is something to behold. The water project is almost complete. I’m hoping to still be here when they connect the pump and finish building the tower/holding tanks area the week of July 3rd. Either way, the community is celebrating the bore hole and constantly thanking the, “Wonderful Friends from Colorado,” for making this dream a reality! Water is life and it has truly transformed the community here. Thank you so much for all my family, friends, and school community who have supported our sister school in Kenya! Trust me when I say that you have quite literally changed the trajectory of their lives here. Ashe Oleng! (Thank you in Maa:)



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Bore Hole for Ronesa and Namayiana Childrens Home (3/31/16)

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It’s been an awesome year of fundraising to bring life, in the form of water, to our beloved Olosho-Oibor village in Kenya. Because of all of you, the dream has come true! Ronesa Academy&Namayiana Children’s home have water! The drilling started last month, there were a few hiccups (TIA ~ This is Africa:>), but we now have water! We still need to install the pump, generator, tank/stand…so a bit more fundraising to do, but the hard part is over and the celebrating has begun. Ashe Oleng! (Thank you:>) Julie Manuel xoxo


Drilling for Water (2/22/16)

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The day has finally arrived…..Day one of drilling for water at our beloved Ronesa Academy/Namayiana Children’s Home in Kenya. They reached 48 meters in the first day! We are thrilled to see the fruit of so many donors who helped make this dream come true. Ashe Oleng (thank you in Maasai)!❤️?❤️ More photos to come with the kids tomorrow! Xoxo


Proof That Education Changes Lives (6/27/15)

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The family of Paulina that my sister Katy Donohue sponsors. The older Maasai is the one we feared for years because he was trying to “sell,” his daughter Monica. Paulina kept her away at school, thanks to Katy’s support, but he surprised us by walking 3 hours to meet us and thank us for educating his daughter and granddaughter. This is PROOF that Education changes things!!


Mighty Mt. Kilimanjaro (6/10/15)

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We made it to the rooftop of Africa! It is hard to put into words what this experience was like, but suffice to say, it was the hardest thing any of us have ever done in our entire lives. I’m not going to lie……there were a few tears when I finally saw the famous Kilimanjaro signs. I just couldn’t believe I was there. I’ve seen so many photos of people in that very spot and dreamed of being there one day. After 6 days of climbing over 15,000 feet, it was our turn to stand in that very spot ….and it felt amazing! We started our final ascent at midnight, with our two fabulous guides and 4 of our fearless porters right along side us making sure we succeeded. Each step was laborous, every breath intentional, and after 6 and hours we finally reached our goal JUST as the sun broke through the horizon. It could not have been more perfect. All 4 of us made it to the top, without incident, and I couldn’t be more proud to have shared this experience with my husband Rod, step-daughter Ali Rose Manuel, and my awesome cousin Brad Gorman. We achieved a personal goal, but did it for a GREATER purpose…… provide a well for our beloved school and Children’s Home in Kenya. Thank you again for your help in making their dreams come true as well! ( pun intended:>)…/kilimanjaro-walk-for-wate…/331904


Started Kilimanjaro Walk for Water Fundraiser (4/15/15)

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Today we launched the Kilimanjaro Walk for Water Fundraiser to raise $30,000 to drill a bore hole that will provide fresh water to the children of Ronesa Academy, Namayiana Children’s Home and the villagers of Olosho-Oibor, Kenya.
To encourage support for our fundraiser, from June 4th through June 10, 2015, my husband Rod and I will begin one of the biggest challenges of our lives: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro! Mt. Kilimanjaro rises 19,341 feet above the plains of Africa, or 5,895 meters. We are committed to the climb and are asking people interested in helping to donate one penny per meter, or $58.95. If that does not fit your budget then consider donating 1/2 of that ($29.48) or 1/10 of that ($5.90). Any amount you are able to contribute is most welcome! Your entire donation is tax deductable and will go directly to the project, as we are covering all of our own expenses.
For more information and to donate please see

Evans in Maasailand 097

Two Worlds… One Community (7/31/14)

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Jemimah: Is everyone in America rich?
Teacha Juliet: No, not everyone, some are rich and some are poor.
Jemimah: Does everyone have a flush toilet?
Teacha Juliet: Yes, most everyone does.
Jemimah: Then WHY teach, do you say they are not ALL rich?!

Like so many conversations I’ve had in Africa, I am constantly reminded of how “very rich,” most of us are. There are close to 8 billion people in the world, and the bottom billion live without running water, electricity….and yes, flush toilets! That is a lot of people. It should awaken something disturbing in all of us. There are places so sad the mind goes quesy trying to understand. And yet, I have found that it is in these places, where life is never more real, more raw, and shockingly more alive than anywhere I’ve ever been. There is an incredible freedom and scope to Africa that you don’t find in the U.S. In the U.S, almost everything is controlled, even predictable. In Africa, there’s an intrigue, a fascination and a sense that you really can expand and create change. It’s what I refer to often when I say that Africa is, “horribly wonderful!”

This is the view of George’s house in the Dongoretti slums where I often stay overnight when transitioning from Nairobi. It’s “comfortable,” because he has flush toilets, electricity, and running water. Strangely however, I’m always anxious to return to our village where none of those things exist. What does exist are people who love and live in a way that is both inviting and wonderfully contagious. Whether here or in Africa, it is truly people who make a house a home!

I returned just a few days ago from Africa and like always, it takes some time to process and to try to get my head and heart in the same place. It was another visit full of daily moments that amazed and humbled me at the same time. One of our favorite things we do is deliver goats, chickens, and cows to the needy of Maasailand. Below are a few of those photos. The first beneficiary is with Mama Ian. She is a widow with 4 young children. She was left without any animals, and even having problems claiming her late husbands land benefits from the government as they often take from woman what once belonged to the men. She is forced to ask neighbors for milk, just to feed her kids tea every morning…..often their only “meal,” for the day. She was so grateful and daughter Precious sure loved her chicken! Thank you to the Forsythe family from Shaffer Elementary for the donation!

The next photo is of Mama Rose and her grandmother. She is a co-wife, with a polygamist husband (not in the photo) who has a drinking problem. She is left to fend for herself and her 3 children. She also has a hilarious grandmother who lives with them. She couldn’t stop laughing at my white skin and rarely let go of me during my visit. We took Rose a cow to help provide daily milk for her family. She was overcome as we walked the 7km in intense heat to bring her the cow. (Thank you to the Bergman family from Shaffer Elementary) To me it was an animal, (who didn’t cooperate very well by the way in that long walk), but to her it was life. My secret grumbling was quickly put aside as I was compelled to accept gifts of jewelry and hot African Chai. I was thankful for the long walk home. It once again helped me to compose myself and just be grateful that in this country of overwhelming need, insane injustice, extreme poverty……we helped one person smile. We helped one family live easier. I made one beautiful elderly woman with cataracts laugh?! I will never forget that sound of pure love from a family that at first was scared of my presence, and by the time we left that was replaced with a sense of hope and a reminder that people care. That is after all, why we are doing what we are doing. We give these crazy animals to needy people. What they give us is so much more……the opportunity to remember the difference a single act can make to change a life, usually our own!

In Africa there is an intense struggle between brave people who are trying to achieve change and powerful groups (the police/government) who oppose them. It’s a dangerous contest between moral extremes. We can throw our hands up and be bystanders, which is often the feeling. OR we can just try our “level-best,” to focus on the few lives we can actually change. I have found that sometimes narrowing the target and broadening the instrument is where we can actually see change and measure growth. It isn’t the “peoples,” fault that they are stuck in poor policy, landlocked between neighboring countries in crisis, and resource-scarce. They live in the slow lane, where change seems impossible. But I fiercely believe that through education a single person can change the trajectory of another person’s life. “Education is not preparation for life: education IS life itself.” John Dewey

The last few photos are of our kids at Ronesa doing a powerful drama called,”No More Forced marriage.” These KIDS re-enacted what most of them have witnessed too many times in the Maasai community…children being given (forced) to older men in marriage. Traditionally, it’s the number of cows, goats, wives and children that a man has that defines his worth. While Maasai are beautifully immersed in their culture and tradition, this is one (including FGM) that the educated Maasai are trying hard to change. It was quite a moment for me to sit there, right next to the chief himself no less, and watch with many polygamist parents in the audience the CHILDREN teaching the parents what is right and what is just WRONG! I nervously caught the chief waving his finger several times……..but was relieved when he finally leaned toward me and whispered, “Mzungu (white person)…..this is VERY good what they are saying! We want this to change about our people and this is why Ronesa is a blessing to this community.” He himself has 2 wives, but I have a new respect for this traditional chief who I have since learned is the one chief who goes and rescues girls from these incidents and safely brings them to the SafeHouse (rescue center for girls) so they can continue their education and/or escape FGM. I have a new hero and his name is Chief Daniel! Asante Sana Rafiki (Thank you friend)

I will end with a photo of those very girls that have been rescued and/or bravely ran away from their families due to forced marriage and/or FGM. They are ALL of our heroes and while my heart breaks for the innocence that has been lost (and in some cases spared) ……they SO inspire all of us to continue working to help the innocent, teach and equip them with sustainable resources, and educate and empower the young to bring about positive change. This photo is the first thing you see when you step foot into the safe house and I couldn’t say it any better than that! Each child, but especially these girls, are fearfully and wonderfully made!

Ashe Oleng (Thank you in Maasai) for learning about and caring for our sister school and community in Maasailand, Kenya!

Until next time…….



Ronesa goes to Kiisi (7/10/14)

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Jambo Everyone,

Well, I am back in Nairobi at George’s home in Dongoretti Slums, waiting to return to Ronesa tomorrow. It’s nice having light/plumbing/water, but I’m anxious to return to “my home.” Obviously it is a testament to the value of people that make a place your home. I just spent an amazing 3 days in a town just a few hours outside of Lake Victoria. I went there to vista Brian @ Arrive in Kenya. Check out his website to learn more about what he is doing! He is a good friend of my nephew, Michael Wafer, and was his college roommate at CU Boulder. I heard about the work he was doing with Street Kids there and I just had to see it for myself. To say he is doing something incredible is a gross understatement. This is a 24 year old young man who is fluent in Swahili, lives here in Kiisi, and together with “Pastor and Madam,” they have created a home for the street boys of Kiisi. He has done all of this in just one year! “The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away.” D. Viscott. Brian has most definitely found his gift and he is using it to quite literally save lives.



I asked Brian to take me into Kiisi to see first hand the good, bad, and the ugly. I am used to the poverty here in Kenya, but what I witnessed with the Street Boys has forever left a stamp on my heart. We took Picky-Pickys (fun motorbikes) into Kiisi and walked into the heart of the town…..and there they were! As soon as they saw Brian they came running! They knew they would be fed, but more importantly they knew they would receive something even more valuable…a taste of love. The boys carry plastic bottles in both hands: one hand is sniffing glue, the other jet fuel, all in an attempt to stave off the feeling of hunger and hopelessness. Brian quickly rallied the woman around to feed the boys and even had to fight on their behalf to be sure they got their fair share of rice and beans! We fed all the boys for what would be the equivalent of 10 cents each! It is too graphic to put into words what these boys have to do in order to eat, but suffice it to say, they have lived a thousand hellish lives. NO human being should ever have to dream such a nightmare, let alone live it like these boys do! I had to keep my emotions in check as I’ve learned to do here, but the tears came later that night as I was privilege to lay my head down on my soft, fluffy pillow that night.

Brian then took me to the hospital to visit one of the street boys named Douglas. He is 7 years old! On top of the what he has endured already in his young life, he recently fell asleep on the side of the road and rolled over into oncoming traffic. He was run over and fractured his pelvis in two different places. While he is, “lucky,” to be alive, he has a long road ahead. With no surgery to fix the breaks, it is uncertain how he will heal, let alone ever walk again. We brought a Beanie Baby lion, a fanta, and a loaf of bread to take to Douglas. The scene at the hospital was right out of the movies. It was overwhelming, crowded, and full of people just hoping to be seen. We were given immediate access (one of many privileges of being a Mzungu-white faced person) into the long-term ward. Before we even got to Douglas we saw a hand frantically waving in fear that we would walk right by him. There he was, laying on his side with the bed propped up on bricks, completely naked, completely alone. He smiled as he held tightly to the stuffed animal I gave him, and spoke to it as if it were his long lost friend. There I witnessed a child who has endured more than anyone I’ve ever know…and he is 7. He told Brian that he never wanted to leave the hospital. I can certainly understand his sentiment given what life is like for him on the streets. The hope is that if he recovers that he can join Brian’s Home for the Street Boys.

O.k. on to less heavy things….TIA (this is Africa!) The following are pictures of me teaching in the school that the rescued kids go to. It was a lot of fun and I’m thankful for my years of teaching here in Africa which has taught me to improvise! These kids happily attend school from 6a.m. til 5p.m. Can you imagine our kids in America doing that?! It’s all relative I know, but these kids don’t underestimate the value of education. I also tried my hand at preparing a few meals. The girls at the home are teaching me how to make “chips.” They laughed a lot at my expense I am sure, but they do appreciate our efforts to help, although it never measures up to what they can do. I was able to give them several bracelets that my students back home at Shaffer made for the kids in Kenya. They love them and wear them proudly!!




Besides Brian, there are several other young men here from CU Boulder that are friends of my nephew. It is amazing what they have done already to help better the lives of the street boys. Here they are building steps and a walk-way leading to the Boys Home.
They have also built a really cool fire pit in which we have a blast making S’Mores with the kids. I only had a few days to get to know them, but I was in awe of how they are choosing to live their lives. All anyone has to do is watch these guys, and you’ll have a sense of peace that our future is in VERY good hands! They demonstrate love in small and big ways. The kids here love them like they do Brian….absolutely priceless! I’m also very impressed with my nephew for choosing such Awesome Friends!

I will close for now as I don’t want to test the strength of the internet here. Thank you so much for reading about what is happening on the other side of the world. I know most of us will never experience Africa. But all of us should care about our Global Community! When we give of our resources we learn and grow our capacity to love. When we dare to allow ourselves to be a little uncomfortable, we learn what we are made of and just perhaps give ourselves a purpose we might not have known before.

“Not all of us an do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”-Mother Teresa

Until next time……



We Have Water!!!! (7/4/14)

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Jambo Everyone!

First, I want to wish you all a Happy 4th of July! I seem to have missed the last 5 years of this American Holiday, but I am happy knowing the fun and festivities you will all have. When I try to explain to my friends here what we do on the 4th of July, it gets lost in translation. In fact, I gave up trying when some asked me, “Why do you want to blow up your skies….are there not enough stars there in America for you?!”

I have been in Kenya now for 1 week and as usual, I am hit hard with culture shock the first few days. I caught a head cold traveling and found myself without medicine and out in the bush with no relief for days. So, this silly Mzungu (our name here which means White-faced person)…relied on what they do best here….improvise. It’s amazing what hot water, lemon and “something” that comes from the Acacia trees can do for a congested head. Truly, within a few days it had come and gone! At home I would normally hang on to a old for 1-2 weeks. In the Western World, people know what is going to happen when they turn on a water tap or flick the light switch. In Africa, a land of FEW safe assumptions, chronic uncertainty has truly produced a nation of quick-witted, patient, and creative problem-solvers. Despite the “uncomfortable,” situations we find ourselves in, it is always comforting knowing that there is a way. It is almost always different than ours, but sometimes it’s even better! Lesson learned!

Every day is an adventure here in Maasailand. The greetings are exciting as they still continue to be amazed that we return from year to year. I still get the common response when I question why they are surprised to see me every year. They always say, “We see Mzungus, but never do they come back twice!” For those who have had the privilege of experiencing the Maasai, it is easy to understand why we come back year after year. The conditions are harsh, but the people quickly make you forget our modern comforts and even embrace the life of living simply. It doesn’t take long to appreciate water, electricity, and yes, even a toilet…..the greatest invention ever!!

You can see from the photos that our kids at Ronesa are happy and thriving. There are now 108 kids, 3 more since just two days ago. We found the 3 kids who recently lost their mother, so they will stay at Namayiana Orphanage, which is right next to Ronesa Academy. It is run by my good friend Gloria, who is a teacher in Colorado also. The kids are adjusting well as Maasai know how to take care of their own! As soon as I got here, we ordered a Lorrie to come with fresh water. Thank you to my sister, Laura Wafer, who provided the money for this! The photo you see is the water being delivered to our school. This is a huge treat, but will only last one month and then it’s back to fetching water from afar. My DREAM is to be able to drill a borehole on the property so that both the orphanage, Mama Sheila’s (where we stay) and our school will have enough water to sustain both life and the ability to grow their crops without spoiling. Water IS life and it is never more evident than what we experience here in Maasailand on a daily basis.

The week has been filled with dances from the Safehouse girls (those rescued from forced marriages), exchanging Pen Pal letter with students from Shaffer, and even watching a few World Cup “football,” games in nearby huts! Priceless Memories! I even caught a glimpse of the US v Belgium game while waiting at the bank to exchange money. The teller caught me eyeing the small tv behind him and he whispered to me, “Hey American……you lose 2 to 1!!” Really?! I couldn’t believe he spoiled it for me, but we had a good laugh about it! I usually end my days taking a walk out to my favorite spot, Seu Seu. It is there that I overlook the Great Rift Valley and try hard to count the giraffes gracefully walking through the Acacia. Yesterday I counted 13 (it’s TRUE Erik Phillips!). It is a slice of heaven for sure…beauty beyond imagination.

On Sunday I will take a short flight from Olosho-Oibor to visit a college friend of my nephews in a place called Kiisi. This young man has started a non-profit (Arrive in Kenya) for the street boys (and now girls) of Kiisi. These are some of the most destitute children on the face of the earth. They are homeless, hopeless, and fill their days trying to sniff enough substance to deaden the hunger and heartache they live with. I look forward to participating in the amazing work he is doing to help these beautiful children….and if nothing more, grow my heart bigger for the multitude of kids around the world who live just this way. It’s going to be difficult, but I believe in the power of one. As so many of us have seen at our Beloved Ronesa, it doesn’t take much to make a difference in the life of one child……one at a time! As the saying goes, “To the world, you might just be one person…but to that one person YOU might be the world!”

Love, hugs, and blessings to you. I will send another post within the next week.

Kwayheri (Goodbye for now)



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