Last November, my family and friends donated funds for Hillary Kosen, president of Kosen Safaris in East Wenatchee, to install three solar powered lights in rural homes without electricity before we arrive in Kenya for our safari. The idea is expanding and dramatically improving lives.
The solar panels cost $450 from Light 4 Village of Wenatchee. They reduce the costs and health hazards of kerosene stoves.
Kosen contacted Mrs. Grace Namunyak, a teacher in the Nkoilale Public school in his home town of Narok. She identified three homes with impoverished, capable students who would study at night.
The Wenatchee Rotary Board matched our donations and subsequent donations allowed eight panels, which Kosen has installed.
This aid story grew more.
Namunyak teaches a grade level 5 class in the bulging 800-student school.
Public school enrollment has almost doubled since 2003 when Kenya committed to free primary education, but funding has lagged. She has 43 students.
The aid project grew when Mrs. Sue Heitzman at Lee Elementary in East Wenatchee, volunteered her second grade students to donate school supplies, which we’ll deliver on February 21 (see article in The Empire Press, January 30, 2014).
The aid project grew again when Rotarians from the Lake Chelan and Leavenworth clubs organized by Les Cooper, a Lake Chelan Rotarian, indicated they’d be in the area and wanted to join us.
Last Friday Cooper emailed me that the aid project grew.
“I asked the Lake Chelan Rotary board to allow me to spend up to $1000 to help support the Nkoilale Primary school. They approved this proposal.”
Cooper, his wife, Carol, and Kosen will purchase supplies in Nairobi for the whole school.
Then the aid project took a wonderful turn when Michelle Shermer of Wenatchee met Kosen days before he left. Kosen told her about our plans and Shermer asked if she could personally support it, including paying school fees.
Kosen contacted Namunyak, who said a family receiving a solar panel had a talented 12-year-old girl named Seiyio who desperately needed a sponsor.
School fees for girls are $150 per year plus an additional $150 one-time fee for a mattress, uniform and miscellany. Shermer gave Kosen $400 and he delivered it.
Shermer shared her story and friends asked her if other students needed help.
Shermer linked up with Namunyak on Facebook. She had been praying for a sponsor for Seiyio, whose father had arranged a marriage for the 12-year-old because the family couldn’t afford the fees. Shermer has pictures of a joyous Seiyio safely boarded at the school.
Namunyak knew three other girls in need, but how could they send the money?
Last Sunday in church Shermer heard Karen and me tell a children’s story related to our Africa trip. Shermer’s friends handed us $1450 along with personal letters to each of the girls.
Shermer is amazed. “We’re just a group of moms who want to hope that at least some other children across the world will have a chance at a decent life like our own children,” she emailed me.
The story grew more.
When I told this story at church, three members withdrew $900 from their ATMs for three more continuing commitments. One of the scholarships comes through the Wenatchee chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, whose 17,000 members have girls’ education in Africa as their international priority.
This is an exciting development, but distrust and corruption are horrendous in Kenya.
Parents of students in Kenyan public schools have sued the government for continuing to charge fees.
“Even though it is against the law, schools are charging fees,” said Musau Ndunda, head of the Kenyan National Association of Parents according to a January 24, 2014 article in London’s The Guardian. The article has a picture of students in a Nkoilale classroom.
The United Kingdom and the Dutch had donated funds to Kenya after the free primary education mandate, but they stopped in 2009 when an audit determined that corruption had siphoned off millions in aid.
Our local sponsors are aware of the problems, but the person-to-person deliveries and visits have worked, and we’re committed to establishing accountability and transparency for the significant improvements we are seeing.