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Simiyu House in Kenya was built by volunteers through Indiana University at Bloomington. (Eric Smith)
Simiyu House in Kenya was built by volunteers through Indiana University at Bloomington. (Eric Smith)
 By Veronica CarterContact
February 6, 2017

KOUTS, Ind. – A student teaching project through Indiana University has turned into a quest to keep children in school in Africa.

Eric Smith is a Portage High School graduate, attended IU Bloomington and now is a middle school English teacher in Kouts, but spends most of his free time working on a nonprofit group he started to support orphan children in Kenya.

He traveled to the country through the university's Cultural Immersion program and helped to build a school called Simiyu House. He says there are volunteers in Africa with the goal of getting children back in the classroom.

"They identified 30 orphans within one square mile of our compound and so we got right to work, and we were able to put six kids re-enrolled in the school and meet their basic needs,” Smith relates. “And now, at the beginning of 2017, we're prepared to put maybe even 14 kids back into school."

A benefit dinner will be held Thursday for Simiyu House at the Expo Center in Porter County.

Smith says African children must pass a national test in order to be accepted into college, but many village children don't attend school because they can't afford books or basic necessities. He says many don't have running water or enough to eat.

"Even though they're some of the poorest people I've met, they're also some of the happiest people I've met, especially children,” he says. “They're also the most hospitable and generous people."

Smith adds even though he's an optimist, he doesn't think there will ever be enough help for all of the needy children in Africa, but he maintains there's light at the end of the tunnel if the focus is on one village, or even one child at a time.




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