Jennifer Wiley is known locally for her work with the Basic Law Enforcement Training program at Sampson Community College. What many don’t realize is the work she does during her academic breaks from the school.
Since 2013, Wiley has used her breaks during Easter, July and December to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to Kenya as part of a ministry work through an organization in Nairobi.
“Working with them has provided me opportunities to work in the schools in the Kibera community as well as the Maasai community,” Wiley explained. “I have had the chance to work in the classrooms with the teachers as well as the school administration office with various activities and have truly appreciated the experiences.”
Local legislatures have been talking about reducing class size across North Carolina, but Wiley says the schools in Kenya often have a ratio of 50 to 60 kids to one teacher. Kibera is one of the largest slums in Africa, and many of the homes are mud and stick structures or metal sheeting.
Often, Wiley explained, schools are built of the same materials used to build the houses and there are three to four kids sitting at one desk. Students are also faced with the obstacle of fetching water each day, having to carry large water canisters from the local dam back home or the local residents can pay for a service that brings water into the community.
“I have been visiting the same schools for all these years and I am so proud of my students,” Wiley said. “One of my most favorite points of my time in Kenya is visiting the kids in their homes to meet their families. I get to see the walk they take everyday to and from school, often 45 minutes or more, through the tough terrain of narrow and mud and dirt walkways. There is no running water in the homes and very few have electricity.”
Those obstacles haven’t stopped Wiley from returning each year to work with the kids in the villages and communities.
“I love going each year and getting to see my students and their families, and seeing how much they have grown and learned since I was last there,” Wiley said. “It truly is a life-changing experience.”
It isn’t only the kids of Kenya that have made an impact on Wiley’s life. Part of her time visiting is spent with a lady she has come to know as Mamma Regina, who she met during one of her trips in 2014. Mamma Regina, as everyone calls her, hosts a weekend Bible club for the kids in the community and there are often 70 or more kids that show up.
Mamma Regina not only provides Bible lessons for the local kids, but spends the mornings before each class cooking rice and beans. Often, Wiley shared, this is the only meal for that day or even they weekend for many of the kids.
“Mamma Regina is a great lady,” Wiley said. “I always enjoy the time I get to spend with her and I look forward to going back each time to see her again.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.