In early June we’ll be returning to Kenya to check up on many of the 20 school projects supported by The Nobelity Project and our donors (like you). We’ll cover a few thousand kilometers on dusty bumpy roads but when we finally drive through the new gates of Mahiga Hope High School, it’s going to feel like coming home.
Mahiga is where The Nobelity Project was begun – our roots are planted there beneath the shade of thousands of new trees – and Mahiga is where our minds and our hearts constantly wander back. This will be our first visit since our “pioneers” have graduated, so there will be many new faces. But in those faces we will see reflections of those that paved the way for them, just as in our faces they will see reflections of yours.
The school is on solid ground now, with good enrollment even while struggling to make ends meet. The education district is adding teachers as the population grows, but many parents have a hard time meeting the tuition requirements. While the school grows ever closer to full self-sufficiency, we continue to rely on our supporters and on the school’s staff to identify the critical needs – more textbooks, an additional teacher or two, and kids who make good grades while falling behind in tuition.
One of the projects we are anxious to see is a new greenhouse. We provided a small part of the funding for this commercial and educational project that we hope will provide some long-term health benefits and income for the school. The gardens at the school already provide hundreds of pounds of greens and other fresh vegetables each month for the school kitchen. And of course we are always happy to watch the kids dive into the library books that we have been able to send from the US and to purchase in the country.
But one of the moments I most love when we visit is when the children sing. We call this campaign 1000 Voices for Hope because over 1000 people joined together to support this community in extending an education for these children after the 8th grade. Your voice has been heard, and these students and their families continue to sing their thanks, their voices rising up to the rafters of the Rainwater Court and echoing the promise ahead for every child.
It's been a little over four years since I celebrated a new water system with the students and families of Mahiga Primary School. Four years since learning that the graduating 8th grade students at Mahiga Primary had no high school to attend. Four years since the community asked me and The Nobelity Project to help them realize a very big dream.
Four years later, the students of the first Senior class at Mahiga Hope High School have just completed their high school educations. I think that's worth celebrating; worth extending our thanks to everyone who's supported the effort, and worth congratulating all the students who have worked so hard.
And still the school moves forward. Already classes for the new year are beginning. As usual, enrollment has grown. The Kenyan Education District has provided two more teachers which is a big step. But there is much left to be done. A growing school has a growing need for textbooks, and the school could use a little help in purchasing those.
Also, our 1000 Books for Hope campaign - round II - was a great success. We now have 13,000 books - fiction and nonfiction for all ages - headed on an ocean container to Kenya for a dozen school libraries. Many of these books are going to Mahiga, which means we also need bookshelves to hold them.
This is a big year for Global education intiatives. The growing movement for universal primary education is making progress around the world, and the story of Mahiga Hope High School is adding to the momentum for Universal Secondary Education. We hope you can support our work at Mahiga, and elsewhere, through continuing donations, and by purchasing the dvd and the book that tells the story. Building Hope - the story of Mahiga Hope High School is now available. You can learn more at www.nobelity.org.
And thanks again for your support through Global Giving!
When we were building Mahiga Hope Library, our 1,000 Voices for Hope campaign expanded to include a book drive called 1000 Books for Hope with a goal of adding 1,000 quality donated books to the English and Kiswahili language books we were buying in Kenya. We asked people in the States to select one or more favorite books, add a personal note and their name inside the cover and send to The Nobelity Project for transfer to Kenya.
The program was a great success and I noticed that the students at Mahiga were soon choosing books to read in the new library by reading the personal notes, which became a direct connection between the American donor and the students in Kenya.
To mark the graduation of Mahiga Hope High's first graduating class, we have now launched a second round of 1000 Books for Hope. This time we're collecting 1,000 books for each of our five Kenyan school libraries, including Mahiga Hope High School.
The address for sending donated books is on our site at www.nobelity.org - as are a large number of drop-off sites if you have to live in Austin.
We have shipping partners in the U.S. and in Kenya, but the ocean-freight for 5 pallets of books is till costly. A donation through Global Giving in any amount will help pay those shipping costs. And a $250 donation will fund an entire shelf of library books.
Check out all the details and the wonderful footage of Mahiga 3rd graders reading "Where The Wild Things Are" in our great 1000 Books for Hope video.
And thanks for all your great support, and for making this wonderful journey of education possible for the students of Mahiga, Kenya.
I've just returned from a month in Kenya and site visits to all 17 of our partner projects and there is a lot of great news and progress, with Mahiga Hope High School leading the way. Christy and I had a group of dedicated Mahiga supporters traveling with us and we were all inspired by the incredible changes that have taken place in this remote community where a once-teetering primary school is now part of a community hub that's driving great change for all.
Enrollment in Mahiga Hope High School and Mahiga Primary continue to grow with over 600 students in 14 grades from pre-school to Grade 12 (Kenyan Form Four). Our group was welcomed with dance and music performances that have already earned the high schoolers special honors in national competitions. As it was designed to do, the RainWater Court provided a great performance venue (as it does for basketball practice and competitions), and is continuing to provide 30,000 liters of purified rainwater with every 2" rain. (And yes, it rained again while I was there - another notch in my Kikuyu "Rainmaker" name, Keamu).
The school vegetable gardens are a miracle of their own, and are producing 45 pounds of greens per day, fresh Kale and other veggies that go directly into the giant school lunch pots! If you garden at home, you know what an accomplishment that is. The high schoolers also have large competition plots of amazing, huge carrots which will soon be harvested, and plans are underway to double the size of the garden by expanding to more area on the primary school side.
We were happy to unpack several new AMD/Lenovo computers for the computer lab, and I loved sitting with the high schoolers and watching the short films they've been shooting on Flip cameras and editing in Adobe Premiere.
A couple of weeks later, I was back at the school with National Public Radio's great reporter John Burnett. John toured our work at Kabiruini Girls Secondary and Simbara Secondary, and had a fantastic reaction to all the great progress and students at Mahiga. You can listen to his All Things Considered report on Kenyan Education at:
The kids and staff at Mahiga send their love and thanks to everyone who's been a part of this ongoing work. With the school growing rapidly, we still need to buy desks, chairs, textbooks and other critical supplies so please help us spread the word. It's all good news from Mahiga, and that's also good news for our campaign for Universal Secondary Education.
And if you haven't seen the trailer for our award-winning feature doc on Mahiga, check out Building Hope at:
Hearts and minds,
Turk Pipkin, The Nobelity Project
Sometimes you just have to say "Thanks". Especially when so many great things have happened because of the love and support of so many wonderful people.
April is a break month from the trimester system in Kenya, and a good time to reflect on the changes in Mahiga in the seven years since Wangari Mathai invited me to plant trees in Kenya, and those first 200 seedlings I helped plant at Mahiga Primary. The very first tree I planted has grown from a sprig to a mature tree towering high over my head, one of 7,000 trees the kids of Mahiga have planted on the school site.
The 1st graders that I did dumb magic tricks for are now making good grades in 8th grade and will soon take the KCPE to qualify for High School. Seven years ago, there was no high school - now these kids are excited at the prospects of moving up to the two-story classroom building and getting a proper 4-year high school education.
At Mahiga Hope High, the first senior class is working hard on academics to pass the tough graduation tests, and are continuing to excel in athletics and other activities.
The school can still use your support through The 1000 Voice for Hope Campaign. The big vegetable gardens are complete but the school needs an orchard. The library is a beauty, but more books in Kiswahili would help with studies. Textbooks are always needed, and as the high school grows past 200 students (plus 400 in primary), we need many more desks and chairs.
In the meantime, thanks to Willie Nelson, Lyly Lovett, The Dixie Chicks and every other donor to this campaign. And thanks to GlobalGiving as well. What a great endeavor in support of our brothers and sisters all over the world.
Turk and Christy Pipkin
The Nobelity Project
- And a very special thanks to our dear friend Wangari Mathai who passed away a few months ago. We are now the sponsors of the Kieni Youth Million Tree Program, well on track to planting a million trees in Wangari's honor in the Aberdare Mountains, with all the trees planted by students from our partner Kenya Schools. Much love.
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