Making Education Possible
By Lauren Phillips
Expansion International, a Treasure Valley Christian nonprofit, has a passion to help change lives for good. It began with friends from a local Boise church venturing to Africa in 2002. Today, Expansion continues their work in rural Kenya in a variety of ways to bring about positive change. One of those ways is by providing high school education.
Though the Kenyan government offers public education through 8th grade and is making strides to include high school, many young adults from rural villages are unable to continue as school fees increase at the secondary level. “When education is not an option, vulnerability due to poverty creates a desperate situation,” explains Jeanette Johnson, a former high school teacher and Expansion’s education director. Because of urban migration, 60 percent of Nairobi’s population live in slums where dreams quickly turn dark. Children who should be learning to contribute to the future of their nation find themselves vulnerable to sex trafficking, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, gang involvement, and hopelessness.
Believing that all children deserve an opportunity to flourish, Expansion developed a high school scholarship program where at-risk teens are provided the means to stay in school. Scholarships, largely funded by Treasure Valley residents, help make this happen.
When a poor family is unable to pay school fees, students are forced to leave. After falling behind, many are simply unable to catch up. Johnson recalls, “I was talking with one of our graduates. She told me that her friends thought she was rich because she never missed school. Another gentleman I met shared that when he was little he would hide from the headmaster so he wouldn’t be sent home. As a former teacher, this was definitely the first time I’d heard of someone hiding to stay in school!”
The need for education grew as Expansion began working in more communities, so, while in Kenya discussing how to increase funding to help more families, Eagle resident and medical program director, Marietta Thompson, had a dream and when she awoke, she had a plan. “We’ll ask ladies back home to donate their ‘pearls,’ their best things, and we’ll have a sale to raise money. Then, if we ask Kenyan churches to raise funds for their teens, we’ll offer a matching scholarship. That way, we’ll double the number of kids we can help!” The sale became known as 2 Mustard Seeds.
Expansion, in partnership with Eagle Nazarene Church, opened its doors for the first 2 Mustard Seeds sale2 in the fall of 2013. Women brought those pearls, volunteers from the church helped, and the sale was a huge success. This year, Expansion is looking forward to their 6th annual 2 Mustard Seeds sale in September.
“We could not do this without the generosity and help of the community of Eagle or Eagle Nazarene,” says Arlene Hardy, Expansion’s vice president. “The church provides the venue and an army of donors, consigners, and volunteers to make this something that area residents look forward to each year.”
“Since its beginning, thousands of people have shopped with us. Our doors are open to all to come and spend money for a great cause during this three-day event beginning September 13th. We have such beautiful things that people donate or consign – including clothing, accessories, and household furnishings. There’s a corner we call The Kenyan Store with authentic handmade baskets, jewelry, artwork, and other things,” says Hardy. “The proceeds from the sale make it possible to fund 61 matching scholarships; that’s an education for 122 teens!”
When those living in poverty face life-threatening challenges like minimal access to clean water, healthcare, or education, Expansion’s mission to transform communities propels them into action. They may send a medical team to conduct a mobile camp, help construct homes for refugees, dig wells or lay pipe, or host a consignment sale in Eagle, Idaho to educate someone less fortunate.
With over half of the population of Kenya under the age of 25, investing in a young person’s life can make all the difference in the world. Through Expansion’s scholarship program and the 2 Mustard Seeds sale, Kenyan teens are looking toward a much brighter future. When asked what she hopes for these young people, Johnson says, “When I was young, my father would tell us [11 kids] that we could be anything we wanted. We were encouraged to hope, dream, and achieve. I want these kids to have that same opportunity.”
More information at www.2mustardseeds.org.