Kenya: June 2021
I returned to Kenya a few weeks ago, almost 15 months since my last visit as COVID-19 lockdowns were being implemented worldwide. Those were long months for everyone in the States, but perhaps seemed longer in Kenya where the nation completely shut down the schools, implemented curfews and travel restrictions which was really tough on students and the economy.
There were economic challenges for The Nobelity Project as well. We were unable to hold our annual Feed the Peace Awards in 2021, but a core group of supporters stepped up to join our Giving Circle pledge, helping fill some of the shortfall.
Not wanting to halt progress completely, we discussed options with our Kenyan team and decided to accelerate construction at partner schools. With campuses empty, it was one of the ways we could continue supporting educational needs in these rural areas.
Mwangaza Primary is the best example of this decision. This school has a large enrollment, but is built on a small piece of land in Mweiga town. In partnership with the community, we had already built five new classrooms, a library and a computer lab. But the school still needed additional classrooms to keep up with the growing number of students. The only way to fit everyone was to go vertical: build nine more classrooms on three floors.
Though we’ve built over 200 preschool, primary and secondary classrooms in rural Kenya, this would be our biggest single project to date. Our plan was to build one story per year for three years, with parents contributing to each year’s budget. We had one floor finished before the pandemic shut down schools, and with no kids on campus we were able to accelerate construction and complete the project safely and years ahead of schedule.
Arriving back at Mwangaza last month to celebrate the opening, we were greeted by hundreds of cheering students, staff and parents. Our friend and area Minister of Parliament, the Honorable Kanini Kega was there as well. The next hour was one of songs, dance and great joy. Mwangaza is now the top-scoring public school in the very large Kieni West education district! A tremendous accomplishment for parents, teachers and students.
And the school tour continued! Thanks to hundreds of you who helped purchase 15,000 masks and a lot of thermal gun thermometers, the schools can meet COVID requirements to reopen.
Though the masks often hid the smiles we love so much, the feelings of pride and joy shone right through.
At remote Kiambogo Primary, 9000' high in the Aberdare Mountains, an even larger community crowd turned out. Parent and student choirs sang, bands played and then a DJ dance party capped it all off. Kiambogo is a big school but far off the path so visits are rare - and welcomed.
We opened a new preschool the last visit; this time we cut the ribbon on four new classrooms: two built by The Nobelity Project, and two more were through a partnership with Kanini Kega and the area’s CDF (Community Development Fund). This is a big step for the school and a perfect private/public partnership. The community was thankful, presenting us with two roosters, three turkeys and one sheep as gratitude. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d given us a partridge in a pear tree!
Laburra Secondary completed construction on their final two classrooms, bringing that school to EIGHT classes, PLUS a library, computer lab, kitchen and dining hall. There were only two old wooden classrooms and a handful of students when we first visited this campus nearly 5 years ago, and is now a high scoring school of 400.
Nyamgubichi Primary has a new preschool now thanks to Karen and Grant Richards, whose Kenya travel package from our auction made possible. This is the final critical component at this campus.
Mwiyogo Primary has a new preschool, providing a bright, warm and dry learning environment for their 3-5 year olds.
Muthuini Primary is the site of the beautiful Muthuini Watertank Library. Here we opened beautiful school gardens and a fantastic amphitheater/outdoor classroom sponsored by the McCollum Family. The changes at Muthuini are inspiring. It’s always a joy to see the kids run to the library and read, read, read.
We also said hello to Mahiga Primary and Mahiga Hope High, the site of our very first school project over ten years ago. Both campuses and RainWater Court are in fine form with enrollment and grades going up, up, up!
A conservancy tour with our friends and partners at Ol Pejeta included a visit with Najin and Fatu, the last two Northern White Rhinos on Earth and the focus of Ol Pejeta’s incredible effort to save this beautiful species.
Mirera Library, in partnership with Ol Pejeta Conservancy
In partnership with Ol Pejeta last year, we built a new preschool and library at nearby Mirera Primary. So this year they proposed work at Yard Primary as another potential site for transformative change. Yard desperately needs new infrastructure so we approved construction of a new preschool. The parents got straight to digging the foundation for the new building. We plan to expand support of Yard in the future to serve more children in the area. Special thanks to the Richards for joining this effort.
All of the classrooms are split and crowded at Yard; we plan to replace these two tin shacks which are currently serving as classrooms for these students.
The last leg of the trip took us to the Maasai Mara to see our friends and education partners at the Angama Mara Lodge and at Fairmont Mara Safari Club. It is thanks to these hosts that we are able to underwrite the school work we do together in that region. Mara Safari hadn’t even reopened, but welcomed our group for one special night so we could celebrate the new library at Ol Meoshi Primary. This visit was one of the most memorable I’ve ever made, as the kids’ Maasai Choir is beyond incredible.
Before cutting the ribbon, we were told that Ol Meoshi was the first of 57 schools in the district to have a library. The appreciation from kids and parents was equal to that stunning fact.
It was good to get back to Kenya and see your work continuing to have a big impact:
● Each year, there are 15,000 students enrolled in the rural schools where we partner
● Each year, more young ones are starting school at age 4 or 5
● Each year, more of those students graduate from high school - even better, 70 of those graduates have earned college scholarships through The Nobelity Project’s Jumpstart College Grant Program
If you want to make a difference in these kid’s lives we are always seeking sponsors for new preschools, tuition for college kids, or increasing library books in the 30+ school libraries we’ve built with these communities. And we are always happy to hear from you! Drop us a note, give us a call.
Let’s find a way to do something great together.
Peace and Love,