1000 Voices for Hope - Mahiga Hope High

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As we retire our wonderful 1000 Voices for Hope campaign, I feel that it's important to highlight the great successes that have achieved at Mahiga Hope High School. This is Turk Pipkin writing, project leader and the co-founder of The Nobelity Project. Ten years ago, when I first came to Kenya at the invitation of Nobel laureaute Wangari Maathai, I took a side trip to the remote community of Mahiga to plant trees with the kids at Mahiga Primary.

In the decade to come those first tiny seedlings have grown into 30- and 40-foot-tall trees, and the skinny kids in tattered clothes who helped me plant them have grown into educated high school graduates, many of whom are excelling at colleges and universities.

Mahiga Primary had no water and we partnered with the community to build a solar-powered, UV-purified rainwater system that still functions perfectly today. The power enabled us to build a computer lab and a library.

The area had no high school within practical walking distance, so we partnered again, working with the parents and staff to build a mondern high school, significant portions of which were funded through 1000 Voices for Hope. Willie Nelson was our first donor, an auspicous beginning. Hundreds of donors followed his lead on the Global Giving platform, and at events and schools far and wide. 

Our idea for a RainWater Court that would serve as a basketball court, meeting space and giant rainwater system won an international design competition, and Nike and Architecture for Humanity partnered with us to build it. The community wanted to dream big with us, and we envisioned a double-stream school. Eight classrooms, science labs, a library and computer lab, an efficient kitchen and a dining hall, football fields, gardens and more.

Construction at Mahiga Hope High School is now complete, including all of those infrastructure components and more. The first class of nine students has grown to an enrollment of 200 (650 on the full campus from ECD through grade 12).  In addition to the academic studies, Mahiga Hope has championship boys and girls athletics teams, and championsip music and dance troupes. 

Mahiga Hope has already graduated three classes of Seniors. Many of those have moved on to college and University, Many have already found gainful employment. There example inspired neighboring communities, and we have now partnered to build two additional high schools that are also turning out students with good educations and promising futures.

Our motto was "Education Shouldn't End after the 8th Grade!" Each of these graduate students is an example of what can be achieved across the globe when every student in every land receives a full high school education. There are large education gaps across the developing world, and at home in the U.S. where we live as well. Our mission is to bridge those gaps. And all of you have been the key to building those bridges at Mahiga.

Though the 1000 Voices campaign on Global Giving is concluding, we hope you'll continue to engage with Mahiga and our many other partner schools thru our website at www.nobelity.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Spread the word! Hope lives, and only those willing to work for a better world, can turn Hope in to Reality.

With love from all the students at Mahiga, and all of the Nobelity Project team!

Turk (and Christy) Pipkin

Mahiga Hope Girls Dance and Music Troupe
Mahiga Hope Girls Dance and Music Troupe
Magi Girls Basketball teammembers
Magi Girls Basketball teammembers
College Bound Scholars from Mahiga Hope High
College Bound Scholars from Mahiga Hope High


Championship Mahiga girls and boys basketball team
Championship Mahiga girls and boys basketball team

What an inspiring year at Mahiga Hope High School. The 2014 KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) scores are in for 25 girls and 20 boys who completed Form 4 / 12th grade. Average scores were up 6% for the year, a wonderful gain worth celebrating. The KCSE is a very difficult test - comparable to the SAT or ACT exams in the U.S., and these students have worked hard to score higher and make the grades necessary to go on to college, University, or to enter the job market.

In late June, we'll be presenting new laptops to the top-scoring boy and girl at Mahiga Form 4 (and also at Ol Moran Secondary, Simbara Secondary and Laburra Secondary). Those laptops awards have been a great incentive (as have the bikes for top scoring boys and girls in Form 1, 2 and 3). And the laptops will be important tools for upcoming University studies. 

When Wangari MaathaI first invited me to the Aberdares soon after she received the Nobel Peace Prize, my first school visit was to Mahiga Primary - mud floors, slat walls, wind and rain coming in. There was one high school a two-hour walk away and very few students in this area were enrolled in any secondary school. Working with the local communities, we helped to build Mahiga Hope High School, Simbara Secondary and Laburra Secondary. 

These three high schools - and the preschools and primary schools that feed students up this education ladder - have thousands of kids enrolled - all of them working hard to build a better future for themselves, their families, their communities and the nation.

Our work at Mahiga and elsewhere in the area continues with materials support for textbooks, with planning for future teacher housing, incentive programs, and college sponsorships. Thanks to everyone who's supported The Nobelity Project and Mahiga Hope High School! If you want real inspiration, make a donation on Global Giving and send us an email requesting a gift dvd of our award-winning feature doc, Building Hope. 

If you know teachers who'd like a special classroom edition dvd with online education materials, those are free of charge for every teacher who requests a copy. Just email us at info@nobelity.org.

Let's keep Building Hope!

Top scoring boys and girls in Forms 1, 2 and 3
Top scoring boys and girls in Forms 1, 2 and 3
New Bikes for Top-scoring Boys & Girls at Mahiga
New Bikes for Top-scoring Boys & Girls at Mahiga

As our work for Education for All continues in Kenya and around the world, The Nobelity Project is celebrating ten years as a non-profit, a decade of telling inspiring stories and working to take inspired actions.

Mahiga Hope High and Mahiga Primary have been at the heart of our efforts since the beginning. And though we are a relatively small non-profit - with a U.S. staff of just two full time employees - we've managed to have relatively large impact through numerous partner projects around the world. With limited staffs and budgets, it's impossible for most nonprofits to work from scratch and have a large-scale impact. But by working with great community partners and by working to bridge existing gaps in education, there is a good chance of having an out-sized impact.

In Mahiga, the community partnership started with Mahiga Primary and extended soon after to establishing and building Mahiga Hope HIgh School. Both are public schools with local Boards of Governors, and operated under the auspices and with support funding from the region's Kieni West Education District. The work we've done and any other funding that have flowed from The Nobelity Project to Mahiga have come at the request of the schools, the headmasters and the Boards of Governors. By continually showing good results from the support, the school incentivizes our organization and our donors to want to do more.

Indentifying these critical "gaps" has been a learning experience that has served us well at many other education projects. Here's a starting principle: There is no education without clean water! Ten years ago, the first "gap" at Mahiga was clean water. The primary school kids were often sick from drinking contaminated water they had to bring to school, and we were asked to help the school build a purified water system. We considered a well and a pipeline, but decided to build a solar-power rainwater collection system, which continues to serve the school (and which has been expanded again and again as the campus has grown). Mahiga now has rainwater collection on six buildings with 100,000 liters of storage.

The primary school also had limited access to books and technology, so we also partnered on a library and computer lab, both of which opened kids minds to many new possibilities

A more literal gap soon became apparent. With no high school in the area, Mahiga kids either walked six miles each way to secondary or they didn't attend secondary at all. We closed the long gap between Secondaries by building Mahiga Hope High School. As the school population grew faster than the number of teachers, we've closed the gap by temporarily supporting additional staff at the school.

Dozens of students now graduate from Mahiga Hope High School each year - and from our other partner high schools in Kenya. Many complete high school with excellent grades, but lack funding for college or university. We're bridging those gaps by providing high education support to top scholars. Here's a link to a lovely thank you video from some of those Mahiga Grads who are sponsored in their higher education pursuits. These kids and others like them are the ultimate proof that briding the gaps really does work.


And ten years into telling inspiring stories and taking what we hope are inspired actions to bridge gaps, here's a short video look at what we've done - and what we still hope to do in the years to come. It's an inpiring piece built around an inpisiring song, "Love Cannot Be Broken" by Austin songwriter Bob Livingston.


Thanks to everyone who's been a part of the work. Together, we are truly closing the gaps and helping in our own ways to create a world where Education for All is a reality.

Mahiga Hope Championship Hoops Girls
Mahiga Hope Championship Hoops Girls
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
James and Anistasia in the Chemistry Lab
James and Anistasia in the Chemistry Lab

The Nobelity Project team had a long tour through our Kenya school projects in June and July. Executive Director Christy Pipkin and her co-founder Turk Pipkin were joined by board members Joey Martin and Dan King. We had great visits at every school, but as usual, Mahiga Hope High School - where all of our Kenyan education work began - was a highlight.

Mahiga Secondary is adjacent to Mahiga Primary and Preschool, so we of course took the full tour - from the preschool and playground to a camping demonstration by the schools' boy and girl scouts (international youth scounting was born in this area), then on to the ten primary classrooms and library. After years of working at Mahiga, we've finally approved the renovations of the last three primary classrooms that were still in a somewhat sub-standard condition. These were old stone classrooms - much better than the wooden classrooms which we've all replaced, but these three were in need of new doors, windows and plaster, and all of that work is now under way.

On the secondary side, we visited the sewing and chemisty classes, a few classrooms, then moved to the RainWater Court for a schoolwide assembly and performances by the school's award-winning dance and music troops. Last year's top scoring boy and girl also received the new laptops which will be a big help as they move on to college. Christy and I received a lot of thank you's for all the amazing work that's been accomplished here - for the great new facilities, and for playing a part in creating an ambitious and prideful school that is changing the lives of hundreds of great kids. Sometimes the thank you's are directed personally to us, or to The Nobelity Project in general, but we never forget that the thanks from these students, this faculty and the community are for everyone who's played a part in our being friends and partners with Mahiga Hope High School - a place where hope lives in every student.

So thanks to one and all. Onward and upward. Education for All.

Turk Pipkin, The Nobelity Project, www.nobelity.org 

- If you'd like a dvd of our award-winning film Building Hope - the Story of Mahiga Hope High School - send us a note on FB or through our website. We'll be happy to get one to you.

Mahiga Hope High Courtyard and students
Mahiga Hope High Courtyard and students
Caroline,Boniface, laptops & bags, off to college!
Caroline,Boniface, laptops & bags, off to college!

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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Project Leader

Turk Pipkin

Austin, TX United States

Where is this project located?

Map of 1000 Voices for Hope - Mahiga Hope High