A Pot of Thanks

By Caren McCormack, President & Co-founder, The Kilgoris Project

At first the gift appeared to be a tub of lard. (I’ve been given stranger things.) The group urged me to open the container. Dark honey with pieces of honey comb floated inside. One of the Oloilale community leaders smiled; he had scooped this from his hives that morning. The group—three leaders and one teacher—had walked two hours to our Nentekeny campus to say thank you for their new school. 

“We are happy for your help, and our kids are happy to receive porridge,” the beekeeper said. 

honey.jpg

Over the last three years, I had sat in the same room with a similar group of Oloilale leaders three times. At each meeting they asked for a school. At each meeting I responded that we could all pray about the need. It’s hard not to be able to say “Yes” to each request. But it is wonderful to sit together when we have finally been able to bring a school to a new site.

Thanks from our communities always humbles me. First, I often get credit for the work of many. I hope I am always quick to point out that I’m not alone and pass the kudos along to those who deserve them.  Second, I see the results of our work on real lives—how a little money makes a big impact. 

This year, it will cost us about $5k to feed the 105 students of Oloilale Preschool two meals per day and about $4k to pay their teachers. This modest investment will create healthier kids who will be ready for primary school in a few years. 

Our work is like that beekeeper tending his hives with a little direction here and a little feeding there. In the end, he gets a pot of gold. So does the community and TKP. 

Future Farm Business to Fund TKP Schools

With the help of The PaperSeed Foundation and matching donors, TKP expands businesses to support education and health care programs in Kilgoris for decades to come. 

Forty acres of eucalyptus trees swaying in the Kenyan breeze. Hundreds of seedlings in a tree nursery. A local economy growing and supporting the education of rural Kenyan students. 

It’s happening, through The Kilgoris Project and our partner, The PaperSeed Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit dedicated to strengthening educational opportunities for children and young people in resource-lacking communities around the world. They first partnered with TKP in 2014 to support the completion of our Nentekeny Preschool campus , where 140 children currently attend school.

David Lemiso, TKP’s excecutive director in Kenya gives TKP senior staff a tour of the new farm land.

David Lemiso, TKP’s excecutive director in Kenya gives TKP senior staff a tour of the new farm land.

This spring, PaperSeed awarded a second grant to TKP, for $25,000, which was matched with another $30,000 from a generous group of donors. In August, TKP used the funds to purchase the land that will hold our future farm—growing our farm operations from seven to 40 acres. The land is just the first step in creating a growing and profitable business in Kenya that will begin to cover TKP’s Kenyan education and health care expenses over the next five to ten years. 

“The tree farm is a new kind of project for PaperSeed, and we are enthusiastic about the promise of long-term sustainability that it offers not only for The Kilgoris Project, but the community and the families it serves,” said Aliyya Mattos, executive director, The PaperSeed Foundation. “Education and economic means can transform regions, and empower people in remarkable ways—we’re looking forward to seeing that continue in Kilgoris.”

Transformation through Trees

Eucalyptus trees are a major commodity in Kilgoris. They are used for building materials and telephone poles because of how quickly they grow (eight years from seedling to harvest) and their strength. TKP’s business plan, developed with guidance from the Kenyan Forestry Research Institute and the Kenya Forestry Service, calls for planting three and a half acres of land per year for eight years on a rotating basis to produce a reliable annual harvest that will be sold to support TKP’s growing schools and health care initiatives.

“It’s important that we build a tree farm and maintain the land in a way that is environmentally responsible and that benefits the entire community,” explains Tia McNelly, director of opportunity, The Kilgoris Project. “As part of our investment we will hire local laborers and protect a fresh water spring on the farm land.  This will help keep the water source clean and allow both village residents and animals to access it safely.”

As more students attend TKP schools, income from the farm will continue to fuel TKP’s growth and help expand our vision of helping students forge transformative lives for themselves, their families and their communities.  

Congratulations Intimigom Primary Graduates!

This fall, 22 Intimigom Primary School graduates paraded into the crowd under the beaming Kenyan sun. Proud parents reflected on their children’s journeys, teachers cheered, and our honored students grinned from ear to ear.

graduation.jpg

Many of the eighth grade graduates have been at Intimigom since preschool. TKP teachers and staff have poured into them for years and years—investing in their hearts and minds. On graduation day, the students celebrated all they had accomplished—many are the first to graduate primary school in their family. They are setting a precedent for younger brothers and sisters and sharing all they have learned with their families. 

The 22 graduates, their families and their teachers send heartfelt thanks to TKP supporters around the world. Without the long-term investment of TKP’s dedicated community, this day would not have been possible. Happy Graduation!

Proudly wearing “Intimigom red” graduation robes and adorned with celebratory tinsel, the graduates celebrated with their families, peers and teachers. Caren McCormack, TKP’s co-founder and president, and Suzie McNelly, TKP’s director of education participated in the ceremony on behalf of the larger TKP family of donors and supporters. All graduation photos courtesy of Matt Gillooley. 

Proudly wearing “Intimigom red” graduation robes and adorned with celebratory tinsel, the graduates celebrated with their families, peers and teachers. Caren McCormack, TKP’s co-founder and president, and Suzie McNelly, TKP’s director of education participated in the ceremony on behalf of the larger TKP family of donors and supporters. All graduation photos courtesy of Matt Gillooley. 

Making Connections: Water, Nutrition and Education

TKP schools are brimming with students eager to learn, play and explore. But for many students, access to clean water, toilets and nutritious meals is an even bigger draw for attending school. With more than 1,000 students (and their families) counting on TKP schools for basic needs, we focus on the whole child, catering to health and educational needs on every campus.

Our schools strive to meet UNICEF and World Health Organization standards for water, sanitation and hygiene (known as WASH). Teachers, staff and students are trained on this set of guiding principles, which includes: proper hand washing with soap and use of choos (pit latrines).  Neither our schools, nor local homes in Kilgoris have running water, so adherence to WASH standards plays a critical role in the health of our students. WASH standards help reduce the amount of diarrheal disease and waterborne illnesses at schools, which in turn equals better school attendance and performance. 

Students at Intimigom Primary School line up before lunch to use the hand washing stations on campus. 

Students at Intimigom Primary School line up before lunch to use the hand washing stations on campus. 

While the students learn health and sanitation principles at school, Francis Koskei, TKP’s student health officer holds parent training sessions so that the entire community can benefit from his knowledge.  We recently sat down with a group of parents and asked them to share the impact of health and sanitation teaching.

“We learned about the importance of having a toilet in our home. Francis also taught us about how hand washing kills germs and the importance of keeping our cooking areas safe and clean.” – Parent at Nentekeny Preschool

“We no longer drink water that has not been boiled and we practice SODIS* for clean water at home.” - Parent at Oltikampu Preschool

*SODIS is a water disinfection technique that uses the sun’s UV rays to disinfect water in plastic bottles and can easily be done at homes in Kilgoris.

“With the children teaching us what they learn at school, we have seen better disease and sickness control in our community.” – Parent at Oltikampu Primary School

While some of these quotes might seem surprising to our readers, they show the critical impact of TKP’s partnership with the Kilgoris community. Francis’s health teaching is unique to the school setting in rural Kenya and continues to lay the foundation for community dialogue. Hearing from these parents gives a small glimpse into the ripple effect your generosity is having on the community. 

More Access to Education and Clean Water at Oltikampu

TKP’s most remote campus, Oltikampu, sits in an isolated mountain bowl. The 245 children who attend preschool and primary school here have no other early education options, yet the community has flourished in partnership with TKP donors. Because of its rural location and minimal access to roads and resources, Oltikampu is particularly susceptible to the negative effects of droughts, even with rainwater collection tanks on campus. Lack of clean water at this campus quickly escalates to intestinal illnesses and more absenteeism among students—serious problems that put a damper on individual children and the community as a whole.

photo by Jason Bradley

photo by Jason Bradley

In 2015, a group of donors in northern California recognized the severity of the problem and began strategically fundraising among friends and colleagues to drill a well for much needed access to clean water. The donor group came together when TKP board member, Ger Horan, introduced his friends, Scott and Tina Gattey, to the critical water need at Oltikampu. With a shared passion, the Gattey’s and Ger and his wife Sherri, began securing funding for a well by tapping into their networks to raise more than $40,000. Thanks to their efforts, drilling began in May 2016. “I’ve been interested in access to clean water in Africa for many years,” said Scott Gattey. “As a family, we felt led to fund a well in rural Africa, and were looking for an organization that we not only trusted, but where we could see the impact first-hand. With Oltikampu and The Kilgoris Project, we were able to find the ideal combination of a cause we believe in and an organization we know and trust.”

This year, the total investment in Oltikampu has exceeded $115,000. In addition to the well, many donors (both longtime supporters and new friends) have funded capital improvements at the campus, including eight new classrooms, a kitchen and choos (bathrooms). The impact of investment goes beyond the school campus. Healthy, educated children with daily access to clean water have a ripple effect on the community.

photo by Jason Bradley

photo by Jason Bradley

“Clean water will be transformational for this community,” said David Ole Sopia, an Oltikampu parent and school board leader. “At Oltikampu, a true partnership exists between the community, parents and the TKP team. We work together to meet the spiritual, educational and nutritional needs of our students; and our community is privileged to celebrate the new well and continued investment in our children. ”