Sparta man returns to campus for charities
While education and water are two things Americans may take for granted, many Kenyans have a different story to tell, and one man from Sparta is working to change that.
Vic Hamer, an SIU alumnus and retired employee of the Department of Human Services, first visited Kenya in January 2011. Since then, Hamer has been a part of many organizations that have aided Kenyans, including projects that aim to provide them with access to water, education and other necessary goods.
In his most recent efforts, Hamer has set up a drive for students to donate used shoes, handbags and cell phones as a part of a project called Gateway 2 Give. Collection boxes are located on the Student Center’s north end, and they will be available for donations through Friday. Hamer also plans to sell jewelry and other Kenyan-made goods from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Student Center as a part of the Eastland Project, which aims to help fund Kenyan children’s education and employment.
Hamer said Gateway 2 Give will collect donations, sell them to vendors in developing countries for less than the typical sale price and use that money to help fund water well drilling.
“It is a cause that allows people to conveniently give to a third-world country that does not have those items,” he said.
Any money raised from the jewelry sale will help fund and sponsor children who live on the street or in shelters to try to help them attend school and get jobs, Hamer said.
“A lot of these street children are involved with crime and drugs,” he said. “Kenya has some of the worst slums in the world.”
Hamer said water and education are two things Kenyans absolutely need. He said most orphans he met knew that education was necessary to succeed in their society.
“We have a lot of young adults in our society that want nothing to do with education, but in Kenya they want in school,” he said. “Some of these young people are in the trash looking for metal or things they can sell, just so they can have money for school fees.”
Since Kenya lacks an effective public education system, Hamer said most families couldn’t afford to pay for their child’s education. Some children, he said, are sent to boarding schools as early as the first grade and oftentimes see their families only three months out of the year.
“Staying home means you might not get fed every day,” he said. “Some of my friends said about their experience that they weren’t concerned with learning, but they were concerned with eating.”
Hamer said he was one of the first people on his mission trip that stayed in Kenya to become accepted among the villagers and adopt their culture.
“I saw poverty, but I saw happiness and giving, too,” he said. “It affected me that these people are so happy.”
Hamer said his visits to Kenya have made him realize how comfortable some Americans’ lives can be.
“Every person in Kenya I have met wants to come to the U.S. because they see us on TV, and that is what they desire,” he said. “We have struggles, they have struggles, and of course if you just live in the United States there is no way you could realize the other person’s struggles. If you stay in Kenya, you won’t realize our struggles.”
Hamer will sell jewelry made by Boneface Mwendwa, a man whom he met during his last visit to Kenya and lives in Nairobi. The jewelry is made from natural materials such as cow horns, coconut shells, banana leaves, beads and wood.
Hamer has also helped with the Ruth Well Project, for which he helped collect shoes to raise money to drill a water well named after 2012 graduate Ruth Manyara from Kijabe, Kenya. On top of collecting goods and selling jewelry, Hamer started his own organization, Give Me Water Lord, which also aims to raise money for drilling water wells.
Sarah Vanvooren, assistant director of the Student Center, said she has worked with Hamer as he brought his projects to campus, and she supports his plans. Vanvooren said she was happy Hamer contacted the Student Center about his cause.
“It is a very good cause,” Vanvooren said. “We like to give students opportunities to participate in events like this.”
Emma Kirby, a senior from Bloomington studying anthropology, said she has helped Hamer in his drive to collect goods ever since she met him through some mutual friends more than a year ago.
As a residential adviser at Neely Hall, Kirby said she has put up boxes in the hall for residents to donate shoes.
“They fill up pretty fast,” she said. “There are a lot of people who care.”
While he holds high expectations for this week’s shoe drive, Hamer said he hopes to hold a bigger one this spring.
“A student or a group of students can always see me if they want to be put in contact with someone they can help sponsor or fund through school in Kenya,” he said. “I have so many friends in Kenya who want a better education.”
Hamer said he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if any student wishes to contact him to raise money for the cause.