Update: Life-Saving Heart Surgery for TKP Student

The connection started with a simple “hello” between exhausted travelers on a midnight flight from Nairobi.  It ended with big smiles, exchanging contact information, and the joy in knowing a five-year-old boy in rural Kenya received the medical treatment he needed.

In early 2016, Solomon Kishoyian, a five-year-old preschooler at The Kilgoris Project’s Nentekeny Preschool was diagnosed with a heart murmur caused by a hole in his heart. TKP’s Student Health Officer referred Solomon and his family to a well-respected regional hospital for further evaluation and treatment. (Read more about the first part of this story on TKP’s website.) Soon, the family began raising money (approximately $2,500 USD) and planning for the life-saving surgery.

Over the next year the surgery was delayed or rescheduled several times because of financial constraints and hospital and doctor scheduling. Thankfully, Solomon’s condition was serious, but not life-threating at the time, so the family had the time they needed to raise funds and find a hospital that could perform the surgery. During this uncertain time, the family was referred to M.P. Shah Hospital in Nairobi and the non-profit organization, MEAK (Medical and Educational Aid to Kenya.) They were able to schedule the surgery with visiting surgeons from MEAK who donate their time and talents, so that families in Kenya can receive the treatments they need at no cost.

Solomon and his family traveled to Nairobi in January 2017, and a group of doctors from MEAK successfully corrected the hole in his heart valve. His strong body and resilient heart rested and recovered for a few days in Nairobi, while the doctors from MEAK continued their two-week trip and round-the-clock procedures for families in need.

Solomon’s story, TKP and MEAK intersected again, this time on a late-night flight from Nairobi to London. Vera Thompson, TKP’s Director of Student Health and Christine Hartter, TKP’s Director of Communications were headed back to the U.S. from Kilgoris and Dr. James Wong, a Pediatric Cardiologist from MEAK was headed home to London. A quick hello and exchange soon revealed that Dr. Wong had been part of the team who operated on a young boy named Solomon from rural Kenya. A few details later, the group connected the fact that the patient named Solomon was the student from TKP’s Nentekeny Preschool!

The surgery team from MEAK with Solomon prior to surgery to correct his heart valve. Dr. James Wong is 3rd from the right.

The surgery team from MEAK with Solomon prior to surgery to correct his heart valve. Dr. James Wong is 3rd from the right.

Alexandra Savis from MEAK with Solomon and his family in Nairobi.

Alexandra Savis from MEAK with Solomon and his family in Nairobi.

“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the events leading up to Solomon’s successful surgery in Nairobi,” said Vera. “From our Student Health Officer diagnosing the problem, to his family getting him the care he needed in Nairobi, to MEAK’s role. We couldn’t have asked for better care for one of our kids.”

Solomon’s parents report that he has made a full recovery and is doing well. He has great energy and still loves school and playing with his friends. To learn more about MEAK and the life-changing work they do in Kenya, visit www.meak.org

 

Amos Leperes, TKP's Student Health Officer and Solomon in March 2017.

Amos Leperes, TKP's Student Health Officer and Solomon in March 2017.

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.