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.

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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. ”

Meet Anton Wafula, TKP’s Tree Farmer

Anton Wafula’s passion, commitment and skills shine through in all he does. As TKP’s tree farmer, he plays a critical role in laying the groundwork for a program that will help ensure the long-term sustainability of TKP’s Kenyan operations.

The farm, named Kumea Mizizi (Kiswahili for “planting deep roots”), is seven and a half acres and planted with E. grandis (eucalyptus trees). The trees are planted on a rotating basis so that a portion can be harvested each year, with the first harvest planned in 2021. The trees will be sold, creating a sustainable in-country revenue stream to offset the operational expenses of TKP’s schools and health programs.

Speaking with Anton, it’s easy to feel the excitement about the future of the farm. He spends his days monitoring the trees for signs of disease, maintaining the fence around the property, weeding the seedlings, and keeping up with the seedling nursery.  He eagerly shares his devotion to the farm and details about its operations with visitors. Anton also supervises a maize crop that is used as part of the meal program at TKP schools and works with the team in the U.S. and Kenya to ensure the business plan for the farm is on-track.

“I’m proud of my job with TKP and of the farm,” says Anton with a shy grin. “When our farm grows and we sell the trees...the income will help the schools and the children in Kilgoris who need to go to school.”

Anton never attended school or learned to read and write. But, with the secure income from his job with TKP, Anton and his wife, Irene, send their children to school, something they are very proud of. He also takes care of a nephew and sends money to his parents and Irene’s parents every month. Like many families in Kilgoris, they face challenges, including difficulty getting clean water. The family works together to tend their kitchen garden, keep chickens, and care for one another. 

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With growing ambitions for the tree farm, including investments from other non-profits, we have big plans for the growing crop of trees. Anton and his family are true partners in TKP’s growth. They give selflessly and are focused on maintaining and developing the farm for the future of our seven schools in rural Kenya.

Early Intervention Leads to Heart Treatment for TKP Student

Solomon Kishoyian is a typical five-year-old boy in rural Kenya. He loves his family, helps with chores, and enjoys running and playing. Kishoyian attends The Kilgoris Project’s Nentekeny Preschool—along with 140 other children in this remote community. 

At Nentekeny, Kishoyian’s life took a dramatic turn earlier this year when he went for his annual well-child check-up with Francis Koskei, TKP’s student health officer.  With the stethoscope connecting Francis to Kishoyian’s chest, Francis heard the familiar sound of a heart murmur. 

“Heart murmurs are not uncommon, but can range in severity,” explained Vera Thompson, RN, director of student health. “Children born with heart abnormalities often have a murmur, or it can be caused by damage to the heart valves by rheumatic fever, which is a result of untreated strep throat.”

“After hearing the murmur that day, I went to Kishoyian’s house to talk with his parents and we agreed that he needed to be seen at a hospital forfurther evaluation,” said Francis.

A Disappointing Hospital Visit

The family’s first trip to Kilgoris District Hospital left them disappointed and searching for answers.  The doctors informed Kishoyian’s family that surgery would need to be performed in Nairobi, costing 1 million shillings ($10,000 USD)—out of the realm of possibility for families in Kilgoris, where the average annual salary is $652.  Disappointed, the family left the hospital knowing Kishoyian was unlikely to receive life-saving surgery that would fix the heart valve and prevent future heart failure. Francis decided this would not be the end of the story for Kishoyian and his family. He suggested a visit to a Tenwek Hospital, a larger, well-respected, Christian hospital in Bomet–about 100 kilometers and a two-hour car ride from Kilgoris.

“When I heard about the cost of the surgery, I decided to accompany the family to Tenwek Hospital for a meeting with doctors and a social worker,” said Francis. “Working together, we were able to arrange for the family to purchase a health insurance card that would lower their costs. Additionally, we learned about a team of cardiac physicians who visit the hospital a couple of times a year and donate their services.” 

Good News At Last

After the successful visit to Tenwek, Kishoyian’s family was able to schedule the surgery to correct his heart murmur for September 2016. Since the visiting physicians donate their services, the family will pay hospital fees only—still about $2,500 USD.  Stanley, Kishoyian’s father, is working with his community and church to mobilize the funds for his son’s surgery and for transportation costs.

“Without Francis on-staff and our integrated wellness checks, Kishoyian’s murmur would have gone undetected for years, and would have likely lead to death at a young age,” explained Vera. “Every year we are able to provide life-saving interventions to a handful of students—all because of our donors and their commitment to the health and education of the whole student.”

TKP is able to provide a rich, school-based wellness program for students. In cases like Kishoyian’s, Francis is able to assist with identifying health problems and connecting families to local health care resources and charitable medical groups. Immunization distribution, nutrition and sanitation programs, and anti-violence and puberty education all round out the educational experience of TKP students.

Kishoyian and his family still face challenges—but with a necessary surgery on the horizon, we look forward to seeing him and his family in TKP schools for years to come.