Thursday, November 13, 2014

School Report from the Shekhwara Village School: A Good Harvest

The Shekhwara Village School (formerly known and founded as the Kirwin James International School)  is doing great!

As the Fall season is upon us here in the United States, it is always a healthy mental exercise to be reminded of how much we have to be thankful for. And, it is also important to recall how our good deeds have helped others. I call that having a "Good Harvest" as in the adage "you reap what you sow."

Even small things done with love can make a huge impact in another person's life: a few words of support to a friend, a smile of encouragement to a young student, a small online donation to a cause you feel is worthy, or  a forgiveness of a small debt. Each small deed, each good act that helps another, adds up to a Good Harvest.

Below are a few examples of our donor's Good Harvest this Fall with their support of KIRF's "Shekhwara India Project." The Shekhwara India Project helps support the educational and health care programs that are free for local families in need at the Shekhwara Village School in rural Bihar near Bodhgaya. The school was founded in 2009 as the Kirwin James International School.

We are grateful to each donor of KIRF's ongoing "Shekhwara India Project."

The Shekhwara India Project is currently helping provide a high quality academic education for nearly a 100  rural kids who live in villages without electricity or indoor plumbing near Bodhgaya, India. Without donor support of the Shekhwara Village School these kids would not have access to a superior  Indian-standards based academic education. And, they especially would not be getting it (as well as their textbooks, educational supplies, sports equipment and school uniforms) for free. 

Please read on for a brief report from the school's on-site administrator in India:

"Our School is running very well.
The big festival season is over now.
About 90 to 95 students are coming everyday.
They are coming to the school regularly and studying very hard and carefully. They are all local rural village students who understand the importance of education.
Many have gone to the local government school as well as our KIRF school. Some younger students said that our school education is better.
Each of our four teachers work very hard and enjoy teaching our students carefully and heartily.

Snacks - Students get snacks everyday in lunch time. Some of them experience food insecurity regularly so the food is received with gratitude.

Sweaters - Winter session is started here. We distributed the donated sweaters to 95 students. They are very happy to get their new sweaters.
They give thanks to all of the donors who are continuing their generous support of our school.
We all are very grateful to all of you."

And, he wrote in an earlier report:

"Our sewing center is running very well. About 25 to 30 girls come every day.
Some new girls are also coming after the Fall admission in their sewing class.
Some older girls have since been married and they are no longer coming. Their lives are with their husband's families. But they are still sewing at their in-laws and are earning money according to their families' reports.
Thanking You,

In addition, the local wells funded by KIRF, a crucial source of water for many of the local families in nearby villages, are being maintained regularly and are in working order per our last "well report". 

The school's KIRF Sewing Centre vocational training program for young and married women is going strong with the new sewing machines purchased this year and supplies and excellent sewing instructor. 

Local families are still able to get health assessments and basic care on the weekend's at the school's on-site Kirwin International Health Clinic.

From all of us here and in rural Bihar, India...

Thank you and Namaste!

Angela R. Kirwin
Kirwin International Relief Foundation

Scroll down to see more recent photos taken at the Shekhwara Village School:

**We received the above school report from the administrator of the Shekhwara Village School on November 13, 2014. It was edited for brevity by KIRF's Co-Founder, Angela R. Kirwin.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

KIRF awarded Red Cross Hero and Good Samariton awards for local community-led volunteer disaster relief

Mark and Angela Kirwin receiving the Red Cross Hero and
Good Samaritan awards on behalf of KIRF and its
disaster relief volunteers.
On April 30, 2014 we were honored to receive the Good Samaritan Heroes award from the American Red Cross for our years of volunteer disaster relief and support of educational programs for children in need. 

We also received Good Samaritan awards from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors; U.S. Congresswoman, Julia Brownley; California State Senator, Hannah-Beth Jackson; and, California State Assembly members Jeff Gorell and Das Willams. 

Mark and I received these awards on behalf of the volunteers and donors of the non-profit charity that we founded, the Kirwin International Relief Foundation (KIRF). We founded this 100% volunteer, donor-supported, and disaster survivor needs-directed charity after our lives were spared in the Andaman Sea tsunami disaster of 2004. After helping other survivors get aid during the tsunami disaster we realized being in a natural disaster is an awful experience but also that anyone can make difference if they wanted to. We realized that even a small thing like helping someone get connected with a family member overseas, or connecting them with a local leader who can get them food and water, or a roof over their heads, or building materials so they can re-build their fish farm, or a school scholarship for a little boy or girl orphaned by the disaster... can literally change a life and, sometimes, save a life.

By working with locally respected community leaders in a disaster zone,  assessing needs with them, and delivering aid with their help, we have proven repeatedly the value of the bottom-up, community-led disaster relief approach for Stage II disaster relief (also known as "disaster recovery"). The long process of disaster recovery occurs after the aid organizations and first responders are gone and it is up to the neighbors, local business owners, farmers, educators, health workers, spiritual leaders, and local secular leaders--the local people--  to work together to re-build.  KIRF volunteers work with these local leaders for a sustainable relief that strengthens communities.

We received these awards but they honor the efforts of every volunteer and supporter of KIRF's global network of local leaders and altruistic volunteers who help relieve suffering and help others have a better future.  

One of my favorite quotes is this:

“We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place--or not to bother."

It's by Jane Goodall, DBE and I take it as an inspiration and a challenge.

Thank you, Salamat, Gracias, M├Ęsi, Karpkhun Kah, Asante sana, Arohanui, and Namaste,  

Angela R. Kirwin, MA
Co-Founder of KIRF

Friday, January 17, 2014

Field Report: Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Disaster Relief in the Philippines

A girl with her census of families who lost their
homes and people missing after Typhoon Haiyan
Photo: Mark Kirwin
Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013.  We watched its approach via the internet, fearing for the people of the Philippines as the super storm created 150 mile an hour plus winds and pushed huge waves towards the islands.  Unfortunately, although people were told to evacuate, many did not because they did not understand the severity of damage that this violent typhoon would bring.  They did not know that the storm surge would send tsunami-sized waves crashing through the coastal communities destroying everything in their path.  Many died and many more lost their homes and livelihoods as a result.

On December 11, 2013, KIRF’s founder and President, Mark Kirwin, landed in Iloilo, on the island of Panay in the Philippines with fellow volunteer, Dr. Thomas Fiutak, to make an assessment of the typhoon disaster and provide relief to its victims.  This island was directly in the path of Typhoon Haiyan and coastal communities on the windward side of the island suffered catastrophic damage. Mark is also a member of the Rotary Club of Ventura.  Ventura Rotary’s financial assistance made this trip possible.  In addition, KIRF received aid from the Filipino community in Minnesota.  We would not have been able to run such a effective relief trip without the invaluable assistance of Dr. Ted Robles, his wife Angel and other wonderful volunteers and alumni from the Central Philippine University (CPU) in Iloilo.

With transportation and interpretation kindly provided by CPU, KIRF was able to assess damage and assistance needs for two communities in the Province of Iloilo, North Panay Island. The first was the Barangay of San Diego in the municipality of Lemery.  A “barangay” is the native Filipino term for village, district or ward. Although, this barangay was more inland from the storm, it suffered severe damage to the community’s houses, especially the roofs.  The second area we assessed was the coastal community of Barangay Borongon, municipality of San Dionisio.  This coastal village suffered catastrophic loss of most of its homes and fishing boats.  Of the approximately 174 homes in the village, all were destroyed except for 30, which had significant damage.

Small boats that were not destroyed or lost at sea
were carried far inland by the typhoon's tidal surge,
which also ruined coastal rice crops.
Photo: Mark Kirwin
The village of Borongon also lost nearly of their fishing boats, which provided income for the community.  The villagers thought that the storm surge would be like a normal typhoon but after the first wave they realized that the tsunami-size waves were over 20 feet tall and were obliterating their village. They then fled to the top of a nearby hill to watch their village destroyed and their fishing boats crushed or carried away by the storm.

After assessing the two communities, we were advised that the most need we could provide was roofing materials for the houses.  KIRF then worked with CPU and purchased sheet metal roofing, nails, sealant, tarps and wire and tools to assist with rebuilding the roofs of 226 family dwellings destroyed by the super storm.  The city of Iloilo kindly donated a dump truck and driver to help KIRF deliver the aid to the villages with CPU. With the help of local volunteers we portioned out the building materials we purchased into individual packages for each home. With the volunteers’ help and the loan of the dump truck and driver we delivered and handed out the aid to the individual villagers on December 13, 2013.

The people of barangay Borongon say "Thank you!"
Photo: Courtesy of Dr.Ted  Robles
KIRF wishes to again thank CPU for all of its kindness and hospitality.  The Rotary Club of Ventura who’s partnership made it possible to provide as much relief as we did; and the Filipino’s in Minnesota who supported this trip financially and logistically; as well as all of the other KIRF donors who made this trip possible.

Thank you.

In Peace,

Kirwin International Relief Foundation

This map published by Relief Web shows the devastating path of super Typhoon Haiyan as it crashed through the north east tip of the island of Panay, Philippines:

The path of super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) crossed right over the
north east tip of the island of Panay wrecking buildings and flooding
barangays and local crop land with its tsunami-sized tidal surges.
Graphic: ReliefWeb

Here are a few more photographs from KIRF's disaster relief on the island of Panay, Philippines:
Before Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) there was a house
here. Near Lemery on the island of Panay, Philippines.
Photo: Mark Kirwin

Another destroyed home on the island of Panay,
Philippines. Photo: Mark Kirwin

Truck and driver donated by the City of Iloilo for KIRF's
disaster relief in nearby coastal barangays. Photo: Mark Kirwin
Young boys play by a boat that was damaged by
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) on Panay Island.
Photo: Mark Kirwin

A little girl with a big smile who survived
Typhoon Haiyan on the north east coast of Panay Island.
Photo: Mark Kirwin

Children of barangay Borongon looking at us who are
looking at them. Photo: Mark Kirwin

Families who got temporary roofs from KIRF in barangay San Diego.
We wish we could of helped more families rebuild.
Photo: Mark Kirwin
Happy baby, happy mama in barangay Borongon.
Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Ted Robles

Many people returned to their family homes to help with the
disaster relief such as this young lady helping out in barangay
Borongon. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Ted Robles

The Kirwin International Relief Foundation (KIRF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in the state of California. Tax deductible donations can be made on our website (, via phone, or mailed to our office:

Kirwin International Relief Foundation
c/o Kirwin Becker Law Group
4480 Market St., Suite 804
Ventura, CA 93003 USA

Telephone: (805) 650-1088

Monday, January 13, 2014

Happy New Year from the KIRF's Sewing Centre in Rural Bihar

Recent graduates of the Sewing Center's
vocational training program
Our vocational training program for women, the KIRF Sewing Centre located at the Shekhwara Village School is located in rural Bihar in India. The Sewing Centre's longtime teacher serves as both a mentor, confidant and sewing instructor for students: local young teenage girls and women who walk over to the school from their rural homes near Bodhgaya in Bihar, India. The Sewing Centre's afternoon classes are held on campus at the Shekhwara Village School. Sewing skills are especially valued in this area where many families struggle to get enough food to eat much less "extra" cash for things such as clothing, mobile phones, transportation, housing materials and medical care. There is no electricity or indoor plumbing in these rural villages. Distances are traveled by foot by most.

The KIRF Sewing Centre was founded and first funded by the Kirwin International Relief Foundation in 2009 with a modest investment that paid for several non-electric sewing machines, textiles and supplies and a stipend for a local professional seamstress to instruct the young women. We have been told that this program is extremely popular with local families because it teaches the young women how to earn valuable cash by sewing in this cash-poor rural economy of mostly rice farms with small family plots for growing food. In a culture where "good marriages" require that a girl's parents to either pay their in-laws a generous dowry or provide them with a bride who can earn an income, the vocational training is a great asset for the local young women. It gives them an opportunity to have a better marriage and better life by being able to help provide more food and resources for their families.

Here are some highlights about the KIRF Sewing Centre from last week's report from the school's administrator:

  • About 15 to 20 students are attending these sewing and tailoring classes every day
  • The girls who are attending the sewing center's classes are uneducated and say that they need to earn money to take care of their families
  • The sewing center's program has attracted new students from nearby villages recently but it does not have enough resources to purchase sewing supplies and textiles for everyone who wants to attend
  • Some senior girls who have completed their one year sewing certificate are continuing to come to help teach the new students at the Sewing Center
  • Due to a shortage of supplies, some sewing students have brought their own cloth to use to learn how to sew in class
  • KIRF India continues to maintain the sewing machines, provide some supplies and pay the instructor
  • The sewing teacher is well-liked and reliable and she comes to work each day to teach her students
  • Some of the senior girls who have completed their one year sewing certificate are now earning an income for their families by sewing

The sewing center is providing a popular and valuable service that is really changing lives right now. This program is made possible by donations made to the "Shekhwara India Project" of the Kirwin International Relief Foundation (KIRF).

If you would like to help some young women who are living in poverty to provide for their families so they have a better future, please consider making a donation to our "Shekhwara India Project" at the website of the Kirwin International Relief Foundation:

It feels good to help a young woman without an education and living in poverty become a valued wage earner and provide for her children so that they can have a better future. Below are some photos taken of the students at the KIRF Sewing Center last week (Jan 10, 2014).