For much of July, a team from Nobelity Project is visiting schools across a wide swatch of Kenya to inaugurate our recently completed classroom construction and water projects, to plan future work and to meet with staff, students and teachers at 18 of our current school partners. Founders Turk and Christy Pipkin - along with Board President Eric Webber, our architect Greg Elsner and other supporters - are finding the best results of our many years of work in Kenya.
A decade ago when we started partnering with rural Kenyan schools, the first goal was to build clean water systems and reduce water-borne illnesses that often caused 50% absenteeism. Today, with all 31 schools where we've worked having clean water, we see attendance approaching 100%.
With more kids in primary, a lack of secondary schools still prevented many kids from attendance beyond the 8th grade, and we were inspired to begin building high schools to bridge the gaps. Today Mahiga Hope High School, Simbara Secondary and Laburra Secondary are full high schools with high enrollment. High school graduation was the goal, but now we have many high school graduates - many of them on partial sponsorships from The Nobelity Project - who are excelling in Colleges and Universities.
Despite our successes at 30+ Kenyan schools, there are many challenges left. On our first visit yesterday to Mweiga Primary, we found 630 kids jammed into dark classrooms, many of them mud-floored that were built in 1955. We'd need a big partner to address the full infrastructure problem here, but a great first step would be to remedy the preschool jam where 90 kids are jammed into a tiny wooden buiding.
Greg Elsner and I have created an innovative stone and metal two-grade preschool that is colorful, well-lit ,insulated against the elements and cost-effective to design (around $15,000 USD). We've already built a dozen new preschools using this design - or in areas with extreme weather, a full stone design. Kids in these preschools are excited about learning and they are learning fast. With each new ribbon we cut, I'm more convinced that these early learners will one day be the leaders of a prosperous and peaceful Kenya.
Check out these report photos of our latest preschool openings and perhaps you'll be inspired to help us build more.
This is not always easy work but it is work that we believe in with all our hearts. With every smile, with every bright eye, with every song, I am reminded of simple truths that can carry us all forward. Education is the key. Education is the way. Education is the future we seek. Education is love.
Thanks for being part of this journey. As our friend and Kenyan staffer Joseph Mutongu told me long ago, "I don't have land. I don't have money. The only thing I can give to my kids is an education."
Last week's tragedy in Kenya is another reminder that the good news rarely shines through the fog. As we send love to all our friends in Kenya and elsewhere who share our belief in Education for All, we are also reminding our many friends and supporters that the best response to senseless violence is to reach across borders and across communities and join hands with our brothers and sisters in any land, of every religion. Together we remember that the things that unite us are much larger than those that divide us.
Together we are stronger; together we are able to work for a future where every child in every land receives the basic rights to which they are entitled. The Right to Clean Water. The Right to Adequate Nutrition. The Right to Health Care. The Right to Education.
One of our main goals in Kenya this year is to add to the half dozen preschools we built in 2015. As of today, our partner schools and contractors have broken ground on six new preschools since February. If fundraising stays strong, we hope to build a 7th preschool this year, and to build new water systems and other projects at more of the thirty schools where we are working.
Throughout 2015 we are celebrating Ten Years of The Nobelity Project. Check out our new Ten Year film at:
And here's a look at some of the new preschools. I promise it will bring a smile to your face - and possibly a tear to your eye. Love these kids. Love this work. And love to all our friends wherever you are.
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.
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!
This year The Nobelity Project is launching a preschool construction initiative based on a new affordable and replicable 2-classroom preschool design from Turk Pipkin and architect Greg Elsner. In addition to our funding from Global Giving donors, we had four preschool sponsors at our annual gala in February, and three of those are already under construction.
Even in the most remote locatons where we work, our Kenyan partnerschools are committed to early eduction. I'm always impressed when I see four- and five-year-old Kenya kids reciting the English alphabet and working on their numbers. With the education system's resources focused on Primary, the ECD classrooms are often in sub-standard condition - mud-floors, dark and cold drafts coming through the slat walls. At Labura Primary in January, I found the pre-school kids in a crumbling classroom that had actually been condemned.
By combining concrete foundations and walls made of both cut-stone and framing with metal siding, we've been able to create modern, long-lasting classroom diseign that's affordable and will give these kids a great start at a real education. They're also colorful designs that look like a fun place to go to school.
Constructon is underway at Kiguru Primary, Bondeni Primary and at Laburra! We're also building a 3-classrom/3-grade preschool at Konyit Primary, and hope to fund construction of many more in the year to come. We'd love to have your support!
* We're also happy to have recently completed construction or have prrimary and secondary school construction underway at Labura Secondary, Kamiruri Primary, Amboni Primary and an important new water project for the girls dorm at Enkongu Narok Primary in Amboselli. Thanks to everyone who's supported this work at Global Giving and elsewherre. We couldn't do this work without you.
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