November 2, 2012
Being in Kenya, and exposed to many different organizations, I have seen that CFA is certainly unique in its style of ministry. One of those ways is our graduation ceremony. Yesterday I was able to attend a graduation at our church partner in Kawangware. Like all the graduations I have attended, it was full of life and excitement and was encouraged by the joy and smiles of the clients who were so proud to have come this far.
Having a graduation built into our program is very intentional, and very different from most ministries. The structure of the event differs with each graduation, but there are always some basic components. We always have a time of worship and share the Word. (Just last month at Kia-ndutu’s graduation, there were 12 clients who accepted Christ at the graduation!) The graduation also consists of skits, poems, or testimonies from clients. Towards the end, there are words of encouragement from church members and CFA staff and the day usually ends with a feast!
But it is not a normal thing for a ministry and program to have a graduation event. Some would ask if it is necessary to spend all the time and money on this event that lasts a few hours. From my experience, I would like to explain why graduations are crucial to what we do.
- It gives clients a definitive ending. They know when the end of their nine-month program will be. They can plan for it and look forward to it. Hence, they do not see it as the end of something good, but a launching into a new empowered life.
- It brings the church and community together. Usually the pastor of the church, other church members, committee members, previous clients, and other community representatives will attend to celebrate and encourage. This means so much to the clients, many of whom have lost touch with their families, church, and community.
- It gives the clients a sense of unity going forward. They stand together on that day, and can identify with each other. They all remember very well where they were when they started. It is extremely encouraging for them to be together and fellowship to join together before going out.
- It creates a moment they can remember forever. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for some of our clients. Some have never been to a graduation event. Most have not graduated high school and some dropped out of school before that. It may even be one of the biggest events that some have ever been to, with between 80-100 people in attendance. It even gives them a chance to express themselves and be creative. Some prepare poems, or dedications. Others prepare skits or reenactments of the nine months.
- They receive a bible and a certificate. The Bible is often the first Bible they have every owned. The certificate is a huge reminder of their success. It proves they have learned many valuable life-skills that they can even show future employers.
Since CARE for AIDS has started, we have graduated over 2,000 clients! Here are some pictures of those graduation moments.