Friday, April 7, 2017

Humanitarian work in Mombasa schools: How to Help People to Help Themselves

LeRon and I loved our visit to some schools in Mombasa that our church is assisting with the help of Elder & Sister Jensen.  We took photos of these beautiful children and their teachers and the photos follow my rather lengthier-than-usual post.  Please bear with the following before you look at the pictures because it's very important to understand the church's philosophy on helping others.

Our Church believes strongly in the principle of self-reliance.  We are taught to be self-reliant and then to reach out and help others as we are able.  But how to help in the right way is sometimes hard to figure out.  Elder Wirthlin, one of the 12 Apostles of our church when he was alive, said that

"when we do for others what they can and ought to do for themselves, 
we harm them more than we help them."  

On the other hand, our prophet, President Monson, has often quoted the following poem:

I have wept in the night 
At my shortness of sight
That to others' needs made me blind,
But I never have yet
Had a twinge of regret
For being a little too kind.

These two principles come together very neatly in the teachings and policies of our church.  LDS Charities began operating in 1985 when the famine in Ethiopia became severe.  Since then, LDS Charities has been helping people and countries around the world, regardless of race or religion, in remarkable ways.  For more information, see .

Church members and others (but not governments) donate to the church's Humanitarian Fund.  All donations are used for humanitarian purposes with absolutely nothing going to administration.  LDS senior missionaries (who are volunteers and pay their own way) assess needs and then partner with those in need to develop and carry out a plan.  Those receiving help commit to fund a certain percentage of the project and they also do much or most of the work.  That way, they are not getting something for nothing.  They have ownership in the project.

Church humanitarian efforts are never linked to proselyting.  LDS Charities is strictly to help relieve suffering, not to proselyte converts.  LDS Charities missionaries never give out Books of Mormon, nor even wear name tags with the church's name on it.  They never want to give the impression that there are strings attached to the humanitarian aid because there are not.  It is simply to relieve suffering, period.  LDS Charities here in Kenya works with both hospitals and schools.

Now to the pictures.  The children were so happy and anxious to have their pictures taken that I took too many and have had a hard time culling them down.  So this post will be the longest ever.  The children are beautiful and their teachers committed to helping them in the best way possible. 

Here's Sister Jensen with the principal of one of the schools.  Sister Jensen's name tag, as I explained above, says "LDS Charities".  It does not say "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" as do the tags that LeRon and I wear.  We are not Charities missionaries, we are regular proselyting missionaries.  The school classrooms are in the background. 

Elder Torrie loves to talk with people and they love to talk with him.

The children were excited that I would take their pictures.

Each class welcomed us with smiles and laughter.

The desks are built with whatever is available.  Nice to see them doing the best that they can.

Classrooms are made with tin and the open roof allows a breeze to blow through.  Days are very hot here.  No indoor plumbing.  Latrines in tin surroundings.

Elder Torrie and Elder Jensen

Note the times available for parents to meet with teachers.  As my sister Myrna pointed out in her comment, it makes for a very long day for the teachers.  But because parents work, it's probably the best time to meet with teachers.  Also notice the "polite notice".  We see these signs everywhere.  So interesting.  The people here really are very polite.

Not everyone wanted their picture taken and that's okay.

The teachers are trained with post-secondary education and do their best with limited supplies.

I asked who wanted to go to Canada with me and almost all did!
I couldn't neglect the other side of the classroom when I asked who wanted to go to Canada.  I told them that they have a lovely country right here in Kenya.

Supplies are minimal but students are happy to have them.

This classroom was jam-packed with tiny children, I think about age 3.  It's better for them to be here in school than at home with no parents to care for them.  Some are orphans and those with parents are still alone because most parents both work.

Cute little Muslim girl.  Their faces are beautiful, don't you think?

And their eyes are beautiful too.

This is a class of Muslim students.  The principal told me I could take pictures but I was concerned to be taking pictures of a Muslim teacher.  She said it would be okay if she shrouded herself, which she did.  When she taught, her head was uncovered.  Interesting to read her lesson on the blackboard:  "Allah created all humans."  Yes, Allah, or God, did indeed create all humans and he is our father and we are all brothers and sisters.

Every day, the Christian students have a religious class for them and the Muslim students have a religious class also.  Nice to see religion in the school.

Ouch.  Beauty pinches as my mom always said.  Takes a long time to braid hair too.  Several little girls have told me how much it hurts.  I don't think I would have stood it as a very young girl.

This teacher was teaching the students about the different tribes in Kenya.  Notice her teaching stick.

She would point the stick at the student she wanted to answer the questions.  The students were eager to participate.

This school has a project to raise chickens and they are also going to grow a small garden.  Right now everything is sopping because they had a bit of rain, which is very needed in Kenya right now.  The long rains should be starting soon.  Makes for a lot of mud but is critical for food supply and drinking water.


  1. Time for parents to meet with teachers 6:30 AM - 6:45 AM!! And again 4:45 - 5:00 PM!! Those teachers have a very long work day, compared to our North American teachers! (I know that teachers take work home; but that is a long time to be at school. 10.5 hours. What dedication!)

  2. Wow, yeah. Looks like quite the teaching environment. I know in China, the kids are at school from about 7am to 10pm, which means that teachers also work that long as well.

  3. And Americans wonder why their kids are so poorly educated... "early out once a week," "school from 9 to 2:30," "out in the middle of May..." We don't put the time into it!!

  4. I love their beautiful smiling faces! So neat to see them so eager to learn. When they are on break, is there any type of playground? Where do they go?

    In response to Yo, I haven't heard many Americans complain that their children are poorly educated; I have heard there is a lot of time wasted in schools. Plus my kids are from 7:50 to 2:30, no early outs, and start the middle of august and go till the end of May. I don't think that's too little school, there's lots to learn outside of school. I think it's ridiculous to do that much school and still assign homework. But I obviously have strong opinions about school. :) I think it's sad that in those other countries they have to be in school for so long, that there isn't a better option for them and that (at least in China) there is so much pressure on the kids.