Eighth grade social studies students and members of the High School Civics Club at Brennan Middle/High School were given a unique look at life in a small African village when Peter Wunsch, president of the Western Suffolk BOCES Board of Education, visited April 28 to talk about his experiences with a humanitarian effort aimed at caring for and educating orphaned children.
Mr. Wunsch serves as treasurer of Hope Children’s Fund, a nonprofit that works directly with the village of Meru in Kenya and provides orphaned children, or those whose families cannot support them, with the necessities of life and the opportunity to pursue an education. Mr. Wunsch, who has traveled to Kenya three times and along with his family mentors a student there, shared photos and stories from his most recent visit.
The Board president described for the students how the Kenyan youngsters live—in very rustic dorms, sleeping in double and triple bunk beds, with minimal utilities—and explained that they attend school six days a week, from 8 am to 5 pm, with a half-day Saturday in uniforms created by their peers. He talked about the underdeveloped village’s dirt roads and paths and crude buildings with very limited electricity, and shared photos of a boy playing with his only toy, a wooden wheel and stick.
Mr. Wunsch stressed that, even though the Kenyan youngsters had very little, especially when compared to their counterparts in the United States, the orphans were very grateful for all they’ve been given.
“These children are so grateful for everything and understand that when it’s their turn, they will give back too,” he said. “All of them are taught that after they graduate and are working in their careers, they will donate one to two percent of their income back to the orphanage.”
They know, as does Mr. Wunsch, that the act of giving is itself a gift.
“It costs me two weeks of my life and it’s worth it because it’s saving people’s lives—some of these children were literally living in the streets,” said Mr. Wunsch. “The connection with these kids is amazing—it’s like having 79 of your own children.”
Following his presentation, Mr. Wunsch fielded questions from the Brennan students, including ones focused on the children’s ages, the languages they spoke, wildlife in the area, religion and culture and lifestyle.