MU graduate students help raise awareness of African poverty

Thursday, March 6, 2008 | 7:19 p.m. CST; updated 3:35 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

COLUMBIA — Overwhelmed, surprised and lucky are only a few words an MU graduate student used to describe his visit to one of Kenya’s largest slums last March.

Chad Parmenter, who is studying poetry, was able to visit and also teach a class at St. Lazarus School, located in Kibera. Many children at the school have been affected by disease, crime and abuse. They live in a slum that is made up of rows and rows of tin roof scrap houses, with people literally living in the streets.


A potluck to raise awareness and money for the St. Lazarus School in Kenya will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Newman Center’s multipurpose room. Attendees are encouraged to bring a dish or donation.
To find out more about St. Lazarus School, go to

Parmenter, who attends mass at the Newman Center, said the trip inspired him to do what he could to help.

He, with the help of fellow graduate students Daniel Fresner of South Africa and Lily Marumba of Kenya, organized a potluck dinner at the Newman Center in order to raise awareness about the poverty issues that are facing St. Lazarus and to raise money for the school.

The decision to hold a potluck was intentional; while in Kenya, Parmenter said he was able to see love expressed the most through the sharing of meals.

St. Lazarus School is part of a grassroots effort that aims to combat the overwhelming poverty in Kenya. Amidst political upheaval, the students live in destitute circumstances. However, Parmenter said he observed that through staff’s love, protection and attention, the children seem joyful and safe in their situation.

The dinner is a chance for the community and students to share their stories and experiences with poverty. They are hoping for support in any way it can be provided; financially, contributing food for the potluck or connecting with the children of the school by writing letters. The evening will end with a performance by the Bocomo Drumheads, a local African drumming group.

For Fresner, coming to Columbia from Africa has underscored the disparities of the two places.

“I never noticed how big poverty in Africa really was until I came to Columbia,” Fresner said. “You really do get a different perspective of it all when you are no longer living there and you can look at it all as an outsider.”

Those interested in supporting the school can bring a donation or send one directly to the school. Any dishes are welcome at the dinner, though African cuisine is encouraged.

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