Couple make a difference half a world away
Davis Enterprise, August 17, 2011)
Venyei Angshing and his wife Kate, a UC Davis graduate, have established a school in Venyei's village in India and continue to support it financially. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo
Ever since he was born, Venyei Angshing had been chosen to do great things for his home village of Yongam in Nagaland, India. It was prophesied by a local church leader that Angshing would be “different” and one day give back to his village.
As a young child, Venyei did not know he would later establish Lamling Vista Elementary School in Nagaland with his future wife, Kate; he only witnessed the lack of educational resources in his village and the impact it had on his family.
The third of 10 children, Venyei was sent away to boarding school at Phom Lempong English School in Longleng, India, at the age of 5 because there were not enough schools of higher education close to where he lived. Venyei often felt “like a stranger in (his) own home” as he only saw his family for a couple days during the holidays.
“Sometimes when I see a kid walking with their parents I get jealous,” he said. “I never had those kinds of moments of just having a good talk with my mom or hanging out with my dad.”
Venyei continued at Phom Lempong English School for high school and then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in theology at Discipleship College in Dimapur, India. He also earned a master of divinity at Gospel for Asia Serampore University in Kerala, India.
As an undergraduate, Venyei dreamed of starting a school in his village that would provide current education for elementary students and, most importantly, keep the young children with their families — an experience he always wished for.
UC Davis graduate Kate first met Venyei in the town of Longleng, a couple of hours from Yongam, while she worked as a volunteer for Medical Ministries International during the summer before her senior year of college. For two weeks, Kate, a biomedical engineering major, helped run a hospital that served more than 4,000 patients during her stay.Venyei served as a translator for the volunteers.
“We would sort of sneak out and really just talk because we’re both so interested in each other’s culture,” Kate said. “Like, what movies did the other watch? Or what music did they listen to? Those simple things we wanted to learn and share with each other.”
After many nights of teaching and learning American games like gin rummy and listening to the locals play traditional music on guitars, Kate and Venyei fell in love and later married.
It was when Venyei came to the United States with Kate that the two realized how possible the dream of building a school back in Nagaland could be with the resources the U.S. offered.
“We spend five dollars here on a Starbucks (coffee) and that could go so far in India because one dollar is 45 rupees,” Kate said. “That realization was huge for us.”
The couple, who live in Sacramento, set out to use the foundation of a school run by a Baptist church in the village for their dream. The Baptist school had been unable to continue running after three years because parents could not pay the teachers’ salaries.
Kate and Venyei hoped to transform this school into one that they could provide for, and in February of 2009 this dream came true when Lamling Vista Elementary School opened with 180 students. In the language of Venyei’s people, the school name means “bridging the gap” and also was the name Venyei’s parents gave to Kate.
Kate and Venyei Angshing of Sacramento show photos depicting the growth and development of Lamling Vista Elementary School in Nagaland, India. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo
For $350 a month, Kate and Venyei were able to support seven teachers’ salaries and five grades — kindergarten through fourth — the first year Lamling Vista was open. The second year, a fifth-grade class was added.
The couple received financial support to keep up with the school’s costs through donations from friends and family members as well as help from Davis resident Koen van Rompay, founder of Sahaya International.
“(Van Rompay) really took us under his wing and taught us all about how to fundraise,” Kate said.
He extended Sahaya International’s nonprofit status to Lamling Vista so that anyone who would like to donate to the school can receive a tax deduction. Those who would like learn more about Lamling Vista or are interested in donating to the school through Sahaya International can visit www.sahaya.org/lamlingvista.html.
Venyei’s father Angnyei Angshing also served as a beneficial contact in Yongam while the couple lived in the United Stats.
“Even though Venyei and I do a lot of work and this was our dream, without his dad, we could not do anything,” Kate said. “Anytime we need something, from supplies to money, he travels to the nearest city, which is about eight hours away. He’s a huge component of what we do.”
As the couple began to accumulate funds and support from family, friends and co-workers — Kate works for Genentech in Vacaville and Venyei is studying at UC Berkeley for a doctor of ministry degree — they decided to rebuild Lamling Vista from its current bamboo building to a new structure that would last years through the rainy seasons.
“I realized how much responsibility (Kate and I) have now with the school. It would be terrible if the school had to close down, because the people are so excited and expecting it to be there,” Venyei said.
With the combined help of Angnyei and donations of $11,000, construction on the new school began cin October 2010 and was completed in April. The new location is made of timber from Angnyei’s timber fields, and has concrete floors, larger classrooms, a library, a break room, a teacher’s office and an open field for the children to play in.
Angnyei also hand-built all of the desks and chairs for the students.
In May, 132 students returned to the new Lamling Vista Elementary School, and a sixth grade was added at the request of the parents in Yongam, creating a new monthly total of $580 needed to support the school.
“Those (sixth-graders) wanted to stay in their village and go to school, and we understand that,” Venyei said, “because those young students would have to walk two or three hours to get to another school, and they can’t do that.”
Kate and Venyei hope to one day have 10 grades available at Lamling Vista so that students do not have to leave home until they are in high school and are better prepared for traveling and living away from their families.
Among the hundreds of students Lamling Vista has helped keep in their home village is Venyei’s youngest brother, Longchai. The 11-year-old was able to return to Yongam from boarding school for his fourth- and fifth-grade years.
“I’m really happy for (my brother),” Venyei said. “He’s one of the brightest students at the school, and I’m so happy to see the school actually helping these kids.”
The couple continues to raise funds through Sahaya International and fundraisers such as “sponsor a project” and “sponsor a teacher,” where for about $70 a month someone can support a teacher at Lamling Vista.
Woodland residents Judith and Gerald Shearman currently sponsor a science teacher at Lamling Vista for $77 a month. Projects under way at the school are construction of a bathroom for the students and a fence around the foundation.
Kate and Venyei Angshing almost blend into the crowd of schoolchildren at Lamling Vista Elementary School in Nagaland, India. Thanks to donations from friends, family and co-workers, the Sacramento couple are able to financially support the school, which offers instruction in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Students are serious about learning at Lamling Vista Elementary School, happy that they don't have to leave their families and go to school in cities far away from their village of Nagaland.