Nobelity Project

For the first time in history, humankind has the knowledge and ability to overcome challenges related to health, nutrition, water, education and other issues that stand in the way of a more peaceful and sustainable world. We believe that each of us truly can make a difference. We have the will, and we are the way.
Dec 29, 2014

Thank you Wangari Maathai

with a few of the Samburu boys at Daaba Primary
with a few of the Samburu boys at Daaba Primary

A little over a decade ago, as I was working to complete a feature documentary called Nobelity, I knew that I needed an environmentalist (and ideall a teacher) to add to the 8 other Nobel laureates I'd spoken to for the movie. I had just about given up on finding an environmentalist who'd been awarded the Nobel when Wangari Maathai and her organization the  Green Belt Movement, were honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. A few later, I was interviewing Wangari on camera in Paris and being invited to come to Kenya to plant trees.

While I was in Kenya with The Green Belt Movement, I also wanted to plant trees at a school and soon found myself making my first ever visit to a rural Kenyan Primary school - mud floors, slat walls open to the elements and very few textbooks. What started with Wangari has taken me far, because soon I had agreed to build a water system at the school. 

Year by year, one seedling turned into one water system, one library and computer lab then a high school. My film and writing about those projects helped carry us from one feature doc to another, then a third. Little by little, that first tree has grown, and now The Nobelity Project has built 100 classrooms, water systems, libraries, computer labs, science labs and more. Ever one of these projects has been built on a tight budget, with important local community support and participation, and every one of them has met a critical need. 

There is no education without clean water so that is often our starting place. This year we are fortunate to have launched a new wine called The Turk - in partnership with Hope Family Wines of California. Proceeds from The Turk are turning wine into water, and that effort will allow us to focus on other critical infrastructure in the year to come. 

In 2015, we hope to fund and build four new Pre-Schools with our innovative new design combining stone and metal panels. The hybrid approach keeps overall costs low and provides a clean, dry, warm and well-lighted space for 4- and 5-year olds to attend school. We are also planning primary classrooms at an extremely remote and dry location where classes are currently being held in an outdoor classroom with walls made of thorns (that's right, thorns, which keep dangerous animals out but not the hot sun and strong winds). We'll also be purchasing much-needed textbooks (so that students are sharing 4 kids to a book at the same time), building toilets (which are just as critical as clean water), and we'll be rewarding top scoring boy and girl students at many schools with a real treasure - a bicycle that will get them to school faster for more study time.

In short, we're going to do what we've been doing, and we're going to it with the full knowledge that all of these projects have worked wonders at other schools in the past, and are very likely to do so in our new locations.

I'm headed to Kenya in a few days to open new facilities that we've completed in the past few months at Songoloi Primary, Konyit Primary, Ol Moran Secondary, Mahiga Primary, Laburra Primary and Secondary, Amboni Preschool, Simbara Secondary, Bondeni Primary, Daaba Primary, The River Liiki School for Special Needs Children, Enkongu Narok Primary and Sompet Primary. How's that for a list? It'll take me three weeks and 3,000 road kilometers to get to them all, but at every stop I'll be representing our wonderful Global Giving donors and other supporters who've made it possible.

Ten years of great work - and it all started with a tree. Thank you Wangari. We miss you, and work hard to honor your great legacy. There's nothing better than a teacher.

New water and classes at Songoloi, nearly done!
New water and classes at Songoloi, nearly done!
True need - the thorn classroom at Alamach
True need - the thorn classroom at Alamach
Nov 25, 2014

Our Third Graduating Class Sits for KCSE Exams

Letter from top-scoring recipient of a bicycle!
Letter from top-scoring recipient of a bicycle!

Things are going great at Mahiga Hope High School. Since Kenya is on an annual trimester schedule, the 2014 Senior class has already sat for the KCSE Exam - the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (a tough test akin to taking the SAT in the States). There is quite a lag in grading time, so we won't know for a while which students have scored high enough to qualify for a four-year University enrollment, but we're optimistic - as is Principal Jane Wainaina - that the school will have the most students yet who qualify for 2-year and 4-year college and university courses.

Big congrats to previous grads now in higher ed, including George Abrahams who many remember from our film Building Hope. George is now studying journalism at USIU/United States International University and was one of the top rookie's on the University's championship level basketball team. Way to go George!

These are big steps from seven years ago when we began building the first high school in this great community. Congrats to all the students past and present, and to the school's hard-working staff and board of governors. In early January, Turk will be at Mahiga to check on renovations of the last three dilapidated Mahiga Primary classrooms, and to help kick off the new year and meet a new class of incoming 9th graders.

Every student in every country is entitled to and should receive a full 12-year-education, and we love how Mahiga has helped lead the way for other new secondary schools we're working with in this area of the Aberdare Mountains. Just an hour's walk away, we've been working with the parents and staff at the even newer Laburra Secondary to finish the last classrooms and a new science lab. Two weeks ago, the Laburra students were able to take the chemistry, physics and biology sections of the KCSE at their own school instead of having to walk to Mahiga as they had done once before on an emergency testing basis). Congrats to Laburra Secondary and to our partners and friends at Simbara Secondary (jst a little further up the mountain) where anothe graduating class has now completed their 12th grade.

Mahiga and her neighboring schools are progressing in good ways, and the Kenyan government is making big progress in their march towards their ultimate goal of offering free Secondary education to all. Kenya now has 900,000 more students in Secondary than they did when we started building our first partner high school at Mahiga. That is an incredible accomplishment. 

But Mahiga and other rural schools still have a deep need for funding of additional textbooks, and for the specialty teachers that often make the biggest difference in high school.  Global Giving donor support for text books and teachers in the fields of arts, music and athletics and for librarians and computer instructors helps make a big differnce in the lives of hundreds of kids. 

That makes me feel great. I hope it does the same for you!

(Check out the letter below from Miriam - one of the top Mahiga Scholars who was rewarded last year with a new bicycle!)

Miriam and other bike scholars at Mahiga
Miriam and other bike scholars at Mahiga
Turk and George Abrahams, basketballer at USIA
Turk and George Abrahams, basketballer at USIA
Sep 22, 2014

25 Partner Schools and Counting

New books at beautiful Mugaka Hill Preschool
New books at beautiful Mugaka Hill Preschool

Thanks to the great support from all directions, The Nobelity Project has been able to expand our Kenyan School partnerships to 25+ schools. A quick round-up of some 2014 construction projects include 7 new free-standing preschools at Konyit Primary, Kiguru Primary, Laburra Primary, Mugaka Primary, Bondeni Primary, and also at Amboni and remote Daaba Primary - the final two being under construction now.

In July, we also inspected newly finished classrooms and large classroom blocks at Konyit Primary, Kamiruri Primary, Laburra Secondary and more.

While the goal of these reports is generally to focus on one or two inspiring personal stories, it's also important to remember the scale of our school partnership work, which has extended to schools with over 10,000 students taking advantage of new classrooms, science labs, libraries and clean water systems funded through The Nobelity Project's Kenya Schools Fund.

Our most ambitious single project this year is the ground-up rebuilding of Konyit Primary, a massive infrastructure project that is well over 50% complete. When finished in early 2015, the new facilities at Konyit will include a 3-grade preschool, 8 modern primary classes, a new kitchen and purified rainwater collection system, and the remodeling of five older classrooms into a dining hall, office, computer lab and public library.

Thanks for your help in our work towards Eduction or All. We couldn't do it without you. And congratulations to one of our first Mahiga Hope High Graduates, George Abrahams, who is now a full-time student in the Journalism Department at United States International University in Nairobi, and a stand-out player on the University's great basketball team. Keep up the great work George!

New 4-classroom block at Konyit Primary
New 4-classroom block at Konyit Primary
New classroom & great Laburra Secondary students
New classroom & great Laburra Secondary students

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