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'Marafiki' helps raise funds for education and health care resources to be delivered to rural Kenya

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Photos, from above: Students in rural Kenya stay after class to study in a primitive classroom created by Marifiki, a faith-based nonprofit organization. A foundation is set for expansion of the classroom in Kenya.

By Mollisande Williams

Newberg Graphic intern

A nonprofit organization based in Newberg is providing services to others in rural parts of Kenya. Marafiki, meaning 'friends' in Swahili, aims to bring hope to those who need it the most.

Retha McCutchen, retired general secretary of Friends United Meeting (a global Quaker-based fellowship), wanted to continue supporting mission work by beginning a nonprofit. Through her passion, Marafiki was established in 2006.

Today, she serves as the vice-president of Marafiki where she continues to support and lead projects for the faith-based organization. All of the board members have previously been or are active in mission and service work.

Their mission is to "equip, transform and promote sustainability for the people we are serving," according to their website. Marafiki has supported mission efforts in Ramallah and the United States, but many of their projects focus on the small village of Muliro in western Kenya. The village is near the town of Kitale, not too far from the border with Uganda.

Eloise Hockett, current president of Marafiki, said she demonstrates her love for serving others by taking mission trips to Kenya. There, she helps with education and health care needs.SUBMITTED PHOTO - A foundation is set for expansion of the classroom in Kenya.

A professor at George Fox University, Hockett said she is especially passionate about making positive changes in education for women.

"Right now, our overarching theme is education within our partner communities," Hockett said. "Out of that theme comes professional development for teachers, health assessments and health education in schools and the surrounding communities, educational support for girls, sanitary supplies for girls and support for women's economic development."

It's also what got Karen Lang (Lang is an ad representative for this newspaper) involved as a member of Marafiki. Hockett shared with her the story of young girls not being able to continue school because of starting their menstrual cycle.

"It really hit us that these girls are not getting an education," Lang said.

The organization often gathers items to create school supply packs for girls and boys. For girls, this includes feminine hygiene products that would otherwise keep them out of school for a week every month.

Hockett says Newberg locals are involved but that "majority of the volunteers are actually our Kenyan partners who assist Marafiki in carrying out our specific projects in our partner communities in Kenya."

Hockett collaborates with these volunteers when she makes her way to Kenya and delivers donated materials the organization gathers.

Marifiki communicates with these partners in Kenya to determine their needs. In the past, children were in need of t-shirts. Hockett, Lang and other volunteers attended every garage sale they could find in search of t-shirts, then asked if they could have the remaining shirts they do not sell.

Marafiki ended up sending more than 300 t-shirts to the children in Kenya.

At one point, they also needed buttons for tailoring women's blouses. Because of that demand, the organization held a button drive which resulted in them sending 25 pounds of buttons over.

As of now, their primary project is to raise money for Raspberry Pi computers for children.

These small computers are an inexpensive way to make necessary resources available to students in developing countries. They need 20 computers per lab and are hoping to create a lab to a number of schools.

Marafiki holds fundraising events where 100 percent of the money received goes directly toward the needs of the students. Specifically in December, it hosts an annual artisan bazaar at Chapters Books & Coffee where locals can showcase and sell their handcrafted items.

Past projects have focused on water filtration, educational trips and cross-cultural ministry programs. However, Lang says it depends on what is needed.

"We really are intentional with helping them on what they need," she said.

While Marafiki greatly affects those in Kenya, it also has impacted the lives of the members themselves.

"I have learned how to serve others better through the example of Christ's humility and honoring the humanity of the person in the process," Hockett added.

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