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Operation My People

Theodora Ayot has been a beloved history professor at North Park University for more than a decade. “My People” is Professor Ayot’s term of endearment—and occasional exasperation—for anyone in her classroom or otherwise in her watchful affections.

Theodora was the first woman from her home, Rusinga Island, to complete any higher education, from high school all the way to PhD. Rusinga Island is on Lake Victoria, the world’s second-largest freshwater lake, located in Western Kenya. Professor Ayot has inspired many of her students to take an interest in the community in which she was raised.

Operation My People is the ever-evolving group of friends and students who will connect with, learn from, and share with the people of Rusinga Island. Peter Morris C’2002 S’2008, Luke Bruckner C’2005, Heidi Hjelm C’2003, Matt Peterson C’2000, and Gayle Hammer C’2003 are determined to help bring these initiatives to life.

Kamasengre Mixed Secondary School Sponsorship Program

Free secondary public education is not an option on Rusinga. There are many schools on Rusinga at varying costs, and many students leave for boarding school in other areas. The local secondary school is Kamasengre Mixed. Presently it costs $200 per year per student. To put this in perspective, many workers make less than $3 per day. Thus, most students are sent home several times throughout the year due to lack of fees, and this greatly affects their commitment and performance. In addition, lack of fees is a vicious cycle which affects the teachers’ and school’s functioning.

Volunteers can help improve the school and the community by offering a measure of stability by funding students. The North Park team’s plan is to cover 3/4 of the fee for as many students as possible, which will help pay teachers and complete projects that are in the school’s development plan. Their hope is that by offering this stability, the school’s rating will improve and it will become eligible for more public funding.

Feminine Hygiene Projects

Many women lack sufficient undergarments and feminine hygiene products, and adolescent girls stay home from school to avoid embarrassment. Thanks to the donations of many, the volunteers distributed underwear and sanitary pads to various groups and clubs. These were a big hit, but volunteers quickly saw that the donations would all too quickly disappear.

As a potential new source of income, donations to OMP of flannel material, thread, snaps, and sewing needles were delivered to the Kamasengre West Women’s Group so the women can make their own version of washable, reusable pads, as a sustainable option to sell to community members. Several of the women are trained seamstresses and have sewing machines, and they plan to make this a group project, with each member having her own part in the process from construction to distribution.

Athletics

Champro Sports of Wheeling, IL, provided the North Park group with two bags of soccer balls, basketballs, and American footballs. Kamasengre Mixed Secondary School shared soccer balls with the other schools in the community, as they were so grateful to receive this abundant donation. The North Park team had the opportunity to watch some football practice and matches at the school. Peter sent along some goalie gloves, as he easily sympathized with bare hands blocking some high-speed shots. Still, most players are not equipped with boots (cleats), shin guards, or socks.

Medical Supplies

Heidi delivered medical supplies donated by her hospital to the Dr. Williams Dispensary Clinic. She worked side by side with the staff at the clinic to administer treatment and consultations to patients. Hammer said, “North Park taught me that we have a responsibility to the greater community, something greater than ourselves. Participating in Operation My People is a wonderful way to extend North Park’s mission into the world. I hope to return and volunteer every year.”