Gray, a first grade teacher at Sims Elementary, just returned from her fifth mission trip to Kenya. Her passion for the people of Nakuru began in 2005 when she heard Jeff Beach, who heads the Beech Foundation, share the foundation's desire to begin an ongoing ministry to help the people of the community.
"I felt the call for my whole family to go," she said. "I didn't know what God had in mind."
Initially, since she taught in Rockdale County full time, Gray didn't even consider working in Kenya's schools. However, after a tour of a facility in Kenya, she fell in love with the children, teachers and school. That's when she and Mwangi struck up their friendship. Susan served as headmistress of the school, a position similar to a principal in the United States.
Immediately, the two educators began to discuss teaching strategies and plans to improve the education in Nakuru.
Within a year, Mwangi was able to spend a month with the Gray family here in Rockdale County. Each day, she spent time in the kindergarten, first grade and second grade classrooms at Sims. Susan was even on the cover of a local paper twice during her stay. It was a learning experience for both women as they discussed all sorts of cultural differences, such as modern conveniences, customs, teaching methods, family dynamics and clothing styles.
Since then, the team has grown. This summer, Gray joined 29 others as they traveled back to see their friends. Gray's schedule included team teaching children at two schools and leading teacher workshops with Chasity Lee of from CJ Hicks. Gray said that going to Nakuru makes her a better teacher.
"I'm so thankful that I can get all of the construction paper and crayons that I need for my students. I have air conditioning and textbooks for each child." Gray said, adding that she shares the lessons that she learned in Kenya with her students.
Even though the teachers brought 150 pounds of books, recorders and workshop materials, there was still more that they wished they could bring. Class sizes at the school in Nakuru were large. During the workshops, classes were combined and one teacher was in charge of covering 90 children at a time. Gray and Lee provided the teachers with a workshop manual of teaching methods and activities. The teachers and children were so grateful, they have invited the two back to teach at the university.
When asked why Gray continues to work with the community in Kenya, she said, "When you have something within you and you see people that you know you can help, you go. I don't have to be anything but Cindy. No matter how much you do, you always get more than you give."
For more information, visit www.beechfoundation.org