As I write this, it is just over five weeks since a devastating fire ripped through the girls’ dormitory at the Kitenga School for Girls. If you’re hearing this news for the first time after your summer holiday – it’s true. A fire broke out at night, everyone escaped unharmed, but the damage was extensive – everything flammable was destroyed.

Two weeks after the fire, all the students returned to school and moved into new temporary classrooms. It’s pretty cozy, but all I hear is that “the students are so glad to be back” and, “the girls are happy”.  During those 2 weeks while the girls were away, everyone worked so hard to prepare the school for re-opening. The Sisters had a lot to worry about, but one thing they didn’t have to worry about were the funds necessary to complete all the work. Thanks to the amazing GEC community,  $25,200 was raised so that all work could be completed as quickly as possible, and all items lost to the fire could be replaced. THANK YOU.

Investigations continue: we still don’t know what caused the fire; how much of the dorm is salvageable; or how much it will cost to re-build. But this is what we do know: that the very fabric of Kitenga is woven of resilient thread. After 24 hours of shock and tears, action plans were developed and sleeves were rolled up. The local officials said ‘Re-open!’ and brought bags of maize to replace those burned in storage. Local families brought blankets and wraps as the girls and Sisters had only their night-clothes. GEC said “We are with you—what do you need?” The girls said, “do we have to go home? Can’t we stay and help?”.

Resiliency and commitment showed itself again and again: GEC’s network of support stepped forward in such a big way. Local officials stepped forward. The girls were eager to return and the Sisters’ sheer determination re-opened the school in a mere two weeks.  Together, we were able to rise strong in the face of this horrible event.

“What helps you persevere is your resilience and commitment.” 

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

This resiliency and commitment of so many will help us get through this unanticipated challenge: re-building the dorm. Yet, it is also an unanticipated window of opportunity for the school. With almost two years of housing 70 girls, we had learned about some flaws in the dorm’s design and layout – lessons learned that we applied when designing the second dorm. We now have an opportunity to rectify the original dorm’s short-comings. Once it is re-built, it will be even more girl-friendly, more efficient and have expanded ‘green’ capabilities such as extensive rain-water harvesting.

I truly suspect that when all is said and done, Kitenga will rise stronger and be an even better rendition of itself. Thank you for being a part of it!

All my best,

Anne

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