Frequently Asked Questions
How and when did Bridge Ministries start?
Bridge Ministries started in in January of 2006, when we sent a group of 4 men from Nevada just to see for themselves the work the Lord was doing there and to pray if this might be something we could help with. No one would ever be the same after that first visit. We had first heard about Mathare Valley from Andrew Onguka, a brother in Christ who visited our small town in Nevada over a holiday weekend, while he was in the States for college. His heart for the orphan was obvious and ours was stirred to action that year.
Where do you work? Why do you work only in a few specific areas?
We are asked this series of questions often. At this time, we work internationally in Nairobi, Kenya and outlying areas around there. We work locally in our own area of Northern Nevada, with the churches and the local needs we are made aware of. Though we understand Kenya is not the only country where God’s people are in desperate need, we work in Nairobi, Kenya for a few reasons: 1) It is where God has called us; 2) It is where we have found partners on-site with the same faith, philosophy, and financial accountability, with whom we can joyfully serve; and 3) It is where there are great needs that have been specifically revealed to us. How can we ignore them?! It’s an honor to feel “bridged” to this specific place.
What past projects have you been involved with?
We began with our “Bridge Christmas Project” with a two-pronged goal – to expose the local believers in Nevada to very real needs in Kenya, and to meet those needs as generously and as practically as possible.
Our first project was to provide new shoes for the children at the school for Christmas. Over 700 children were measured and received shiny new shoes to walk home from school that special day. We have done blankets and towels for the children, buckets of food that provided up to 3 months of food for the families of the school children, and have sent hundreds of these children to Summer Camps and provided new school uniforms as Christmas Projects.
We began an entrepreneur program for the parents of the children, which we named “Biashara”. Small loans were given to begin a small business and a mentoring program was in place to help them succeed. We were all so humbled to see how hard they worked and grateful these parents were for the help and many made enough income to move away from the violence of Mathare Valley.
Bridge Ministries also began to sponsor children to attend school. There is no such thing as free education in Kenya, so children of the poor are left without an education. Most people living in Mathare make only $1.00 per day, and school fees would be impossible to pay. We provided school equipment, desks, chalk boards, and even classrooms.
In 2008, Bridge began to pay the teachers’ salaries at the school and also expanded the Medical Coverage that we had for the students to include the Staff at the school and their spouses. This provided medical service in life threatening situations and it was touching to hear the thank you’s from those whose lives were impacted by the medical care they received. In America we have access to so much, but for the poor, life is a daily prayer for survival.
What is your current main project?
In the many trips Bridge has made to Kenya, we have been faced with the sad fact that the children who do receive an education are not able to go beyond the 8th grade due to the costs for High School Boarding Schools. So, many bright students have the grades but are unable to continue their education. The numbers of these students is staggering. In 2011, Bridge Ministries and OneLife Africa began the exciting adventure of sponsoring 25 high school students. In January of 2012, our number raised to 73 High School Students. In January of 2013, we enrolled new applicants yet again, and stand at over 100 students in the program.
These OneLife Students all come from dire situations, some from single-parent families, and some who are full orphans with no family support. The application process is a lengthily and difficult thing, but it is our blessing to offer a good education, Christian mentoring and support to help these students succeed in life and to make a difference in lives they will touch because of this program.
One Life Africa is our newest adventure in Kenya. Since our first meeting with Andrew over Thanksgiving dinner, Our Lord has prepared our paths for this very time. Andrew and his wife, Stephanie have given their lives and hearts to Kenya and now make Nairobi their full time home and dedicate all their time to serving the poor in Jesus’ Name as Bridge Ministries stands with them in the many projects we are doing together.
What new projects do you dream of executing in Kenya?
Our dreams continue to grow. One day we hope to have a school of our own. We are planning for a Trade school where students can come to learn a skill and provide for their own future. It’s our hope to send American businessmen and women to Kenya to spend a few months at the school to teach their trades. What a great Retirement project for those who have something to share and time to do it!
How much does it costs to sponsor a student?
A student scholarship finances an entire year of education, supplies, school uniforms, emergency medical care, all food and housing, a camp experience, and a Christmas banquet. The tuition for each student depends on which school they go to. Similar to college here in the USA, each student applies and can be accepted to many different high schools in Kenya. We are encouraging our students to choose the best educational route, and if the price difference is, say, $100 to $200 for a mediocre program versus an excellent program, we are willing to invest in our students the extra amount, particularly in cases where their safety and overall well-being can be impacted by their school choice. For this reason, our student scholarships can range anywhere from $800 to $1000 for a full year of support. Any extra funds “left over” from one student’s scholarship amount can be used to help their fellow students’ tuition fees.
How are the students selected for the Bridge Ministries' scholarships?
There are three main criteria used in the selection process:
- Financial need
- Educational performance
- Christian faith
A bit more information on the educational caliber of our students might be helpful. In Kenya, every student is given their Kenya Council Primary Examinations (KCPE). This is a standardized exam that tests the students all over the country in five major areas: Kiswahili, English, Math, Science, and Social Studies (which includes Religious Education, Art, Crafts, Music, Geography, and History). Every one of these areas is worth 100 points/marks so students are ranked based on 500 possible points/marks. Last year, 700,000 students sat for the exams and the students considered for our scholarships are in the top 5,000 in the nation. If we make reference to a KCPE score, this is what we are referring to, and the student’s score is out of a possible 500 (with last year’s top score being 434).
With upwards of 350 students applying, and only 25-30 freshman scholarships awarded each year, this criteria has proven to be helpful. The area that is still very very difficult are turning away the many well-deserving students who are not ultimately chosen for the OneLife Africa scholarships. We are praying for ways to meet their educational needs as well, such as a vocational trade school.
How are the students doing?
GREAT! Moving to a new place, living in a residential dorms, and adapting to boarding schools are not simple transitions to make. Perhaps what makes our students most unique is their willingness to face difficult situations with courage. In fact, they’ve been doing this all of their lives! Each of them have different circumstances, talents, and future aspirations; we anticipate how those will be used to serve God and lead others. Because our students’ security is of primary concern to us, we do not give student updates online at this time.
Can I send gifts to my student? Letters?
At this time, our students are in boarding schools all over the country of Kenya. The logistics and cost to deliver individual gifts is daunting. Instead, your donation has an allotted amount directed towards small gifts that we purchase and supply to all the students at their Christmas banquet, when they are all together in Nairobi. In the past, these gifts have included personal items. In addition, when any Bridge Ministries representative travels to Kenya, we make sure there is no wasted space in their luggage! Tokens of love are sent whenever we can squeeze them in.
Communication between donors and students is an annual event that takes place in late October. A Bridge Representative will contact donors with the opportunity to write a letter to their assigned student. These are then forwarded through Bridge Ministries to all students, to ensure that all students receive mail for Christmas. In this way, no student is overlooked. For security purposes, all correspondence has to come through Bridge Ministries in both directions.