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Feb8FriElizabeth Ngare will forever remember the day when The Salvation Army took her to school. February 8, 2019 by Ken Ramstead
(Above) All Smiles Elizabeth Ngare was helped by The Salvation Army as a student. Now, as a principal, she is giving back
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- Faith & Friends
When Salvation Army pastor Major Donna Barthau first arrived at Kolanya Girl’s Secondary School in 1984, located in a rural area of Kenya near the Uganda border, she was assigned the Grade 9 class as home teacher.
While she loved all the young girls in her charge, Elizabeth Ngare was the bright light of Major Donna’s class.
Cup of Tea
“Elizabeth was smart, articulate, musical and athletic, and also had noticeable leadership qualities,” says Major Donna. “If anything needed to be done or organized, I could count on her to get a group together to look after it.”
The two formed an instant friendship. “We lived on the same compound, ate the same local food each day, and sang songs together in Swahili and English,” Major Donna says. “She taught me to join in their tribal dances, and I taught her and her friends to do square dancing!”
As Major Donna got to know Elizabeth better, she found out about her backstory.
Elizabeth’s parents were tea vendors in Kenya. One day, they wandered into an open-air meeting conducted by The Salvation Army.
One lone drum beating. One small group singing at the market. A one-minute sermon and an invitation. The young couple followed the marchers to a local Salvation Army church and eventually converted to Christianity, leaving their jobs at the local tea plantation and becoming Salvation Army pastors in 1972.
Elizabeth herself was able to attend Kolanya thanks to a sponsorship from their Salvation Army church.
“Relying on Christ for everything became my family’s ‘cup of tea,’ so to speak, and that always stood us in good stead,” Elizabeth smiles.
In her final year at Kolanya, Elizabeth was selected to be the head girl, or prefect, and was one of the first in her class to pass the government exams that gave her a chance to go on to high school and then university, where she trained as a teacher.
When Major Donna, now sponsorship co-ordinator for The Salvation Army’s Brighter Futures children’s sponsorship program, recently visited her former student at the Likoni School for the Blind in Mombasa, Kenya, she asked her how she came to be the principal and headmistress at a special-needs school.
“I felt compelled in my heart to say thank you to God for giving me a chance at education through the sponsorship program,” Elizabeth replied. “So I saved my money, left a teaching post in my village and paid to go to Mount Kenya University to study braille and teach visually impaired students.”
“I appreciate how many have benefitted from The Salvation Army’s sponsorship program.” ELIZABETH NGAREElizabeth continues to use the gifts and abilities nurtured at Kolanya. She seeks out donors locally, in government and abroad, passionately presenting the school’s needs and potential. With support from The Salvation Army’s Canada and Bermuda Territory, she has expanded Likoni to include a high school component, new classrooms, a dorm, science lab, talking computers and physical-therapy equipment for the students.
One of her many accomplishments is in her role as the school choir director. She has taken her students to district, provincial and national competitions. Not only have they placed first several times but they have had the honour of singing for the president of Kenya.
In addition to this, some of the choir members have had a chance to go abroad to sing with Elizabeth, who has also won some national awards for her contribution to the lives of her students through singing.
“Imagine,” says Major Donna, “students who were destined to a life of shelters and poverty, a shame on their family because of their disability, have gone places and experienced things that no one in their whole village has had the privilege of doing.”
“It’s a testimony,” Elizabeth says of her work. “A new high school was born in my hands. I believe, with God’s help, we will grow Likoni into a world leader for the visually impaired.
“In all this, I appreciate how many have benefitted from The Salvation Army’s sponsorship program. Just to give an example, my family now has six teachers, a policeman, an engineer and two IT experts—all sponsored. I thank God daily for the sponsorship we received, and I try to give back for them, for The Salvation Army and for God.”