Monday, November 12, 2012

Marty Cej, BNN Anchor, Shares his Kenya Experience

Recently a group representing CrossFit was in Kenya.  Marty Cej, a Business News Network anchor from Toronto, Canada was with the group, filming, interviewing and observing life in rural Kenya.  This clip was shown on the BNN station this morning.  It is a great overview from the perspective of a newcomer to Kenya, with photos and experiences he had while there.

Click on this link to watch the video.  There is a brief ad at the beginning of the clip.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Daryle Shadows Mama Frida

Daryle Stafford is in Kenya with Bret.  Daryle and Veracity Insurance are sponsoring the building of two classrooms and a cistern.  The following is Daryle's experience of shadowing a villager.

This photo was taken in the family room of Mama Frida's home shortly after returning from the fields

Daryle shadowed Mama Frida (Free-dah) for a half day today.  He fetched water from over a mile away, carrying two buckets instead of the traditional single bucket.  He also worked like a horse in the garden, helping weed a substantial part of their fields.  He not only fetched firewood, but he climbed a cashew nut tree and cut down dead limbs with a machete, then carried the bundle of wood back on his head to Mama Frida's house.  What he really did today was learn the difficulty of being a woman in this part of the world.  Mama Frida loved him because he was so strong and really dug in and got some work done.  The sweat poured off of him all day in buckets.  His bald dome was never without puddles ready to roll off onto his soiled shirt.  His shorts were soaked through, but he continued on working side by side with Mama Frida and her family.

I would expect that some of the villagers might have a hard time telling Bret and Daryle apart.  With their bald heads, blue eyes and large American bodies, they look strikingly similar!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Classroom and Cistern Construction in Peku

This was Bret's first email with photos of this trip.  The photos show the initial construction of the classrooms and cistern in this village.  My previous post showed the project a little further along.  I think it is interesting to see how the Kenyan's do their work with the most rudimentary of tools and materials, as well as concepts.  

Classroom foundation under construction and cistern base dug

I just arrived in the village late yesterday, and as a first matter of business I drove up to Peku (Pay-Coo) today to see how the work was progressing.  

Floor and first round of block in classroom construction

The construction of the first of two Veracity classrooms have given a distinct outline of the project. The Aclaime water cistern is located at the side of the school, as visualized in a couple of the photos with the round foundation and wire extending upwards. Until now the children have been meeting under a tree and drinking swill from a nearby watering hole.

Cistern structure

Within two weeks this construction site will look like a school site, and within 3 1/2 weeks the children will be filling the classroom and enjoying the water from the cistern.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bret Returns to Kenya, October 2012

Bret has returned to Kenya for his 4th trip this year. Classrooms and a cistern are being built in the village of Peku, sponsored by Veracity Insurance.

Construction of classrooms and a cistern in Peku

Lost luggage is a simple fact of life when travelling to Kenya. It's never pleasant and always disappointing, but never surprising or an issue over which to lose much sleep. After 26 hours in the air and in connecting airports, we discovered that the bags we were to pick up on Nairobi and switch to the domestic flight were, indeed, missing in action. We usually don't lose our bags, the airlines misplace them, so we simply boarded our final flight to Mombasa knowing that we would be living out of our carry-ons for at least a day. Strangely enough, we discovered that our bags were actually delayed in Los Angeles, after the shortest of our flights from Salt Lake.

 "Heat" comes to Mombasa for basic training. After completing the grueling boot camp that it must endure, it earns its stripes and is promoted to "Hot," and that's where we have arrived. Sweltering, scorching, muggy heat. As I looked at Tim's face only seconds after deplaning onto the tarmac, beads of pour-opening sweat have gathered on his now glistening face. And with the wisdom of the ages he looked at me and said, "wow, you weren't kidding." Just two days prior I had advised him that wearing jeans in the village was not a good idea because it was going to be extremely hot. He shrugged the notion at first, but heeded my advice and packed lighter clothing. Now he knows why.

 Last week a Toyota Wish arrived at the Mombasa Port with Koins' name on it. We have spent the past decade riding motorbikes, hitching rides, and hiring cars that it finally came time to purchase our own reliable mode of transportation that would increase safety, comfort, and the changes in weather. The Wish came nicely equipped from Japan, but no accessory outweighs the air conditioning system that works gloriously. Japan send tens of thousands of their used vehicles to Kenya every year. New cars are driven by the Japanese for a couple of years, usually putting low miles on their vehicles, then traded in for another new one. With the auto industry being so strong there, used cars have little value, so they send them to countries like Kenya where a better price is fetched. And since few Kenyans can afford the price of a new car, plus the hefty taxes for imported vehicles, this provides a good option for everyone. Our vehicle is 5 years old with only 20,000 miles, and hopefully will provide us with years of comfort, safety, and air conditioning.

 Tim and I arose early. I suggested a quick walk around the village so he could see the morning unfold for our people. We walked the dirt paths towards the Koins farm, being greeted by everyone who passed with a friendly smile and a hearty "good morning" in English or Swahili. Tim's head was spinning with questions and curiosities as a first-timer here in the village, attempting to digest what was being revealed with every step we took.

 Children were everywhere walking in the same general direction, some carrying sticks and others had only small containers of dirty water. I explained certain classes were assigned the firewood for today's meal while other classes from within the nearby primary school had to bring water for boiling the corn and beans. It's simple, effective, and the only way they can provide meals for the kids every day since open fires are the only methods available for cooking. Mud huts are intermittent between stone houses with tin roofs. Signs of increased prosperity within some of the families here. To have a tin roof is like having a brand new SUV parked in your driveway.

 As we entered the farm we encountered our watchman who had been surveying a new arrival in the goat pen. He didn't recognize me at first since he had never seen me with facial hair. There has been a quick response to my current look, and the overwhelming majority are nixing my chin growth.

 Tim was able to walk the gardens and see the work that goes into our agricultural projects. Our forest of fruit trees rivals any small grove in California. The vegetables are reacting to the recent "short rains" of October and November, and our families were just beginning to show up as Tim and I continued our tour. As rugged as this area is, the lush and fruitful Koins farm is an emerald island in the middle of a desperate area.

 An unscheduled trip to Mombasa to retrieve our bags is bitter-sweet. We get our bags, but we have to travel to the city I despise most. We take advantage and run some errands that were scheduled for a few days from now.

 As we returned to the village area we passed by Peku (Pay-Coo) where our classroom and water cistern are being constructed. Where children of Peku are currently sitting under a tree for classroom instruction, within three short weeks they will be in a fantastic classroom, seated on comfortable desks, learning in an environment that truly encourages performance.

 From there we jumped over to Bofu where we dropped baby blankets to the dispensary, then met with school officials for some Koins business. The dispensary is small and humble, not dissimilar to what we have in our central village. They heard about our blankets for babies program and wanted us to extend the same to them. Instead of women having babies at home, as they have for centuries, we encourage them to come to the dispensaries so any mishaps to mother or child can be averted. At first it was difficult to convince them to come to us, but as soon as the baby blankets were introduced for delivering mothers, our percentages skyrocketed. A mother was just departing as we arrived, so we provided the first blanket to her. She had given birth just a few hours ago and was now walking back home with her baby daughter so she could continue her obligations at home. These women are absolute machines, and Tim is quickly coming to that realization, too.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Brent Zimmerman - Dedication of The Sheri Klein School in Kenya

My name is Brent Zimmerman. I traveled to East Africa as part of the Koins for Kenya expedition in July of this year. It was a life-changing experience for me. I would like to tell you about my trip to hopefully give you an idea how special it was.

My story begins in August of 2009 when my sister passed away in childbirth. The event was traumatic to the entire family, of course, but especially to my mother. She found it particularly difficult to recover from the grief of that event. She felt that building a school in memory of my sister would help her and the rest of the family to heal. In December of 2011, she contacted Koins for Kenya and made plans to fund the building of two classrooms in the village of Miyani. My parents were the primary donors, with additional donations coming from our extended family. The groundbreaking for the school was in May of 2012.

The original plan was for my parents to attend the dedication ceremony, but they were unable to make the trip. So, my brother and I were chosen to travel to Kenya and represent the family. The two weeks we spent in Kenya were amazing. We met so many people and they all treated us so well that we started to feel like celebrities. The highlight of the trip came on the day before we departed. That was when we attended the dedication ceremony of the two new classrooms in Miyani. This is my journal entry for that day:

July 20, 2012

Today was the dedication ceremony for the Sheri Klein School. It was easily the most amazing moment of my life. Picture the joy of getting married or of seeing your child born and then add over 1,000 cheering fans. I'll try to write a description, but it won't begin to do it justice.

We took a van to the ceremony, which was in the village of Miyani. When we were a few hundred yards from the village we saw the students waiting for us. They saw us coming and all ran out to greet us. There were over 1,000 of them singing and dancing. Russ and I got out and walked through the sea of children all in uniform. They swarmed around us clapping, shaking our hands, and giving us high-fives. They sang songs in the traditional call-and-response style. From our location in the center of the crowd, the volume was almost deafening.

 We walked with them the rest of the way to the village where we were met by the ladies of the village singing and dancing another song. They escorted us to the entrance of the school yard where the girl scouts marched us to the new classrooms. The building had been painted blue and white and looked very sturdy compared to the older dirt-floored buildings surrounding it. There was a brief ribbon-cutting, followed by photos in one of the classrooms. They then took us into the center of the schoolyard where there was a program featuring more singing, brief speeches and poetry. They then had the village elder dress us in traditional clothes, give us village names and make us honorary members of the clan. They then had Russ and me speak with the help of an interpreter. Russ was in charge of thanking all the appropriate people, including donors, construction workers, the Koins Foundation, etc. I was in charge of telling a bit about Sheri and the reason the school was dedicated to her memory.

 Nearly all the members of our Koins expedition commented to us on how nice the ceremony was. I feel truly blessed that I was able to attend the dedication and represent the family. I have set a goal for myself to raise enough money to build additional classrooms for the school and for my parents to attend the dedication. The trip was something that I will never forget. I'm grateful to the Koins for Kenya organization for helping our family build the school in memory or my sister. I'm a firm believer in their mission and I plan to work with them in the future.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bethanie Newby, Koins expeditioner

Here is another blog entry from a July 2012 expeditioner, Bethanie Newby.  She traveled to Kenya along with her son, Caleb.  She worked with the SRA nutritionist and our cooks, experimenting with local foods and Koins garden produce to create new recipes that could be used by villagers to utilize the new types of food that are being grown on the Koins farm.

July, 2012

I'll always remember the stop we made at Windridge School on our way back from teaching in Gona. We noticed a commotion in the schoolyard, and pulled in to discover the entire PTA and a schoolyard full of kids dancing and singing along with drums and rattles. Standing up against a small and shabby mud hut was our friend Cindy Workman, draped in several kanga cloths as the guest of honor. I peered into the hut behind her, which was simple since the thatched roof was nearly gone, and I saw the entire second grade classroom sitting on the floor with their teacher on a small stool almost in their laps. The elder woman of the village stood near Cindy and spoke through an interpreter. She was clutching a thick and grimy envelope that turned out to contain 50,000 shillings. That amount was close to the 10% downpayment required by the villagers before Koins will build a new classroom. They had worked hard for the money, hiring themselves out on other shambas (farms), selling goats and chickens, and going without meals in order to raise enough funds to add on to the school. Their determination and willing sacrifice for the future of their children was inspiring. No wonder their children work so hard to do well in school. Back at the KCC we had talked about each of us having "a moment" here in Kenya that fills our hearts and feeds our souls. This was one of my "moments."

Cindy Workman speaking to villagers through an interpreter

Cindy holds up the villager's contribution towards a new classroom

Cindy stands in front of the current classroom
Bethanie taught classes at several of the classes, and painted new classrooms.  She also shadowed a Kenyan village woman for a day and worked several times at the dispensary. 

Bethanie teaching

Bethanie painting a new classroom
Bethanie is also a cancer survivor.  This Saturday, there will be a 5K run in Cedar Hills, Utah, put on by Lifting Hearts in Utah, a cancer survivors group she has helped organize.  For more information on this run, go to

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Economic Empowerment | Half the Sky | Independent Lens | PBS

I just watched a program on PBS called Half the Sky.  It was comprised of several segments concerning a variety of women's issues in third world countries around the world.  I read the book this summer, and found the video version of these stories to be compelling.

One in particular held my attention, it had to do with empowering women in Kenya through microfinance loans and education.  While this was filmed in the slums of Nairobi, the story is the same throughout Kenya, throughout much of Africa.  Women are generally the ones who care for and provide for their families.  Lack of work and education create a hopelessness in the men that often leads to drinking and narcotic use, which further disengages them from their families.  The women, however, work hard to provide whatever they can for the sake of their children's futures.

You can read the article about by clicking on the link below.

Economic Empowerment | Half the Sky | Independent Lens | PBS

If you would like to view the first episode of Half the Sky, you can watch it at

The second half of this series will air tomorrow night, October 3, at 9:00 p.m. MT on PBS.

In our work in Kenya, we realized early on that empowering women is a key factor to making change happen.  Girls now fill our schools, we have girls being educated at the secondary and university level through scholarships.  We have taught sewing skills and provided a sewing workshop at the BTW workshop in Mnyenzeni.  We have several small microbusinesses that are run by women.  We have encouraged women to deliver their babies at the dispensary rather at home, which creates a safer environment for them.

I am passionate about the necessity to empower the women of Kenya, as I see them as the future of the country.  They have the same desire as mothers everywhere: to provide a better future for their children, with opportunities for them to seek and find success.  I have seen the improvement in the lives of those women who have embraced the opportunities we have given them.  The challenge we face is to continue to find and share opportunities with women, to give them the start, the key to lifting themselves out of poverty.

"Talent is universal, opportunity is not."  Nicholas Christof

Koins for Kenya is dedicated to providing opportunity to those whose opportunities are limited.  If you would like to help, we welcome your thoughts, ideas, and contributions.  All funding goes directly to the work we do in Kenya.  Join us in our work to change the lives of those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves with limited options to improve their lives.  In the process you will find your own life changed.  Contact us at

Asante sana


Monday, October 1, 2012

Skonnard's Video of July 2012 Expedition

4 members of the Skonnard family and 3 members of the Guest family participated in the July expeditions.  With the help of their Hidden Springs neighborhood in Fruit Heights, Utah, they raised funds to build the classrooms at Bofu, which were dedicated during our expedition.  The Skonnards put together this great video with photos and video of the July trip.  It is a great overview of many of the activities the expeditions participate in while in Kenya.

Asante, Skonnards, Guests and the Hidden Springs community.  It is clear the joy those efforts brought to the villagers of Bofu.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tracy's Cooking Adventures in Kenya

This is a journal entry from another July expeditioner.  Tracy volunteered her time and energy in the Koins kitchen, helping Emily with the food for our large group.  Tracy created some delicious new dishes for our expeditioners.  Expedition food has come a long way in the past few years.  With limited food options, and stores far away in Mombasa, being creative is key to providing a well rounded, tasty meal 3 times a day.  I personally am indebted to Tracy, as my kitchen skills are limited at best, and in Kenya are essentially non-existent.  The joy she found in working alongside the Kenyan kitchen staff, and presenting her food creations to the expeditioners was obvious to all.  With her help we enjoyed scrambled eggs, a delicious cornbread, birthday cake, and a variety of cookies, which were all new dishes for Kenya.

Tracy and Mama Emily in the KCC kitchen

Tracy and Monica work on dinner preparation

Tuesday July 17th, 2012
Written by Tracy Jackson

Today I woke up at 5:30am and made pancakes and eggs for everyone. Myself, Emily, and Ester are the three ladies that have been cooking here at the KCC, (Koins Community Center) and I LOVE it! I got to teach them how to make scrambled eggs for the first time.They had never seen how eggs can form if just heated. Random Africans surrounded the pan as I stirred. They all kept slowly saying over and over, "scrambled eggs!" Haha! They always have so much energy and we are even laughing that early in there. It just makes me want to do it even more the next day.

After a very loved American breakfast we all left to go milk the goats.When we got there they asked that we help water the shambas. (garden) About 15 of us went to the water to go scoop it up with our buckets. It was so muddy we had to let the one African woman scoop it for us while we carried the buckets out to the shambas. Each bucket waters about 2 1/2 plants and there was about 1/2 an acre of them. We finished about half the work, and realized we were out of time and couldn't milk the goats. :( It took us about 45 minutes to do that much)

Tracy and Heidi painting one of the Miyani classrooms

After we came back we went to the Albino school. It was nice to see they had a safe place to stay. They live at the school, and can do the other things they need to do there too. Unfortunately they can't go outside much. It's not safe. There is not a fence around and we were told there are some bad Africans out there who would love to swipe an albino child and sell them, or sell their body parts for trinkets. sad to talk about, but I am so happy that they are in a safe place. We gave them some hats, sun lotions and sunglasses. They were so happy.

Tracy painting a Bofu classroom

After we returned, I went back to the kitchen to get working on our next meal where we made potato balls. They are made from peeled, boiled then grated potatoes, formed into a pattie in your hand, then filled with chicken. We then rolled them into balls, and fried them. I like to learn how to make all these different foods.
Tracy running in the race to Bofu
Tracy teaching a kindergarten class

We also got a chance to to the Sean Michel's School today. It is a school for the children with disabilities. We painted nails, played ball painted faces, shot silly string,and had a great time meeting all the great kids.

Things I'll always remember about this trip:
*Pulling up to the KCC for the first time and seeing the African children surround the bus.
*Cooking in the kitchen and learning how to make all the new foods.
*Riding on a camel on the beach
*Almost convincing a handcraft wood salesman on the beach to buy my shells
*Listening to Benny sing
*Hundreds of children running towards our bus singing before the Zimmerman brother's dedication. 
*Carol Guest reading her magic book to the African teens.
*Listening to Buffalo's life story
*Feeding the monkeys mango
*Fighting a monkey for a basket of rolls
*Teaching Kindergarten
*Painting the schools
*Finding jellyfish
*The safari
*Stopping at the mud hut when Cindy was there
*Learning to hold water on my head
*Shutting the door to the kitchen and dancing/singing with the women in there.
*Seeing elephants close up
*Shopping with crazy good prices
*Taking Sheryl to church
*Giving her my Book of Mormon
*Singing "Jerimiah Was a Bullfrog" for a class in the secondary school that didn't have a teacher.
*Shadowing Agnes.

Feeding a monkey at the hotel in Mombasa

Playing with the children at the Windridge school

Riding a camel on the beach in Mombasa

I love being here in Africa! The people here are amazing and I hope to come back soon.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

University Students in Kenya

Nancy and Purity Mrabu, a Koins sponsored university student

The young man sat on the porch of the Koins Community Center, hoping for a meeting with me.  I was unaware of his situation regarding education.

Chirongo had finished secondary school at Mnyenzeni Secondary, and had successfully applied for admittance to Chuka University, in Kenya.  He needed approximately $ 950.00 to be admitted for his first term of school.  In the fall of 2009 he went to the university, only to find out that the $900.00 he had in hand from Koins was $ 50.00 short, and he was not admitted to school.  He had no means to get the needed $ 50.00.  His family could not help.  He was heartbroken.

It was eight months later that I made my trip to visit the village and my scholarship students.  I had not been told of his educational challenge.  As we sat together, tears filling his eyes as he told me his story, he meekly pulled Kenyan shillings out of his pocket.  He had, for eight months, held every single shilling in a safe place, hoping that when I returned to Kenya, he could explain his dilemma and get some aid.

Holding that amount of money for that long was a feat of excellence.  The money represented his new life, his chance to improve his circumstances, his way to a future; and he was not about to squander it on anything EXCEPT an educational opportunity.

Chirongo, a Koins sponsored university student in Kenya

Today, Chirongo is in his last year of a computer science degree at Chuka University.  He smiles, he laughs, he is outgoing and engaging.  His life is changing because of the tuition that Koins has covered.  His life will be drastically different from the one he might have had without the education he has received.

Koins for Kenya also has students majoring in law, education, environmental studies, accounting and engineering.  They will make a lasting difference in life inside Kenya.

Koins is currently sponsoring 15 university students who have qualified to attend university.  These kids are the best of the best – the top of their class.  They have endeavored to improve their lives and the lives of their village.  We believe this is the essence of educational help in Mnyenzeni.
This is where the Scholarship Program can use your help.  We are constantly looking for sponsors, both for our secondary students and especially our university students.  Your contributions can change their world.  You can make an eternal difference in the advancement of the village, the people, and the families of Mnyenzeni.

If you want to invest in Mnyenzeni in a lasting and enduring way, please sponsor a student.  You can develop a relationship with him or her.  You will see report cards and receive letters.  You can watch as your student grows, matures, and becomes a leader in the community.

The chance to sponsor a student is the chance of a lifetime.  Secondary students’ tuition is currently $350.00 per year if the student is in the village. We have about 12 students who have scored so highly on Level 8 testing that they are in national schools around Kenya. Their tuition ranges from $ 600.00 to $1,450.00 per year, but their education is truly a “prep school” education, and we expect all of them to easily move on to university.

University tuitions range from $ 1,200.00 to $ 3,000.00 per year, depending on the school and college of study.   

At this time, we have several students who have qualified for a university education, but do not have sponsors.  Their hard work and scholastic excellence is hanging by a thread.  If we do not find sponsors for them, we will not be able to support them in this dream for a better future.  It is not necessary to pay the entire scholarship all at once, and you can even sponsor a portion of a scholarship if you are not able to fund a full scholarship.

Looking for an area to make a difference?  Want to help change a life?  Do you want to build a monument to improvement in families and communities?  Here it is.  

Go to the donations page and click on the Scholarship Fund line in the Donation Destination drop box, and help us help these kids in ways you can never imagine.  

If you have questions, contact me at

Asante sana, 

Nancy Littlefield
Scholarship Coordinator, Koins for Kenya

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Jessie's Kenyan Experience

Jessie was one of the adults in the July expedition group.  Her work experience involves Occupational Therapy, so working with the kids at the Sean Michels School for Special Needs Children was a natural fit.  She found herself stepping outside the comfortable during her two weeks in Kenya, and that experience changed her:

Jessie with students at the SMS

My trip to Africa with Koins was nothing less than amazing.  Throughout my life I have not been much of a spiritual person. This trip showed me there is more that is out there that I have yet to recognize. I was able to witness and experience a kind of divine intervention that I previously would have never acknowledged.  One such experience happened one day when I was working in the clinic. Naomi came, got me out of the patient screening room, and told me my help was needed in another area. I had no idea what I was going to be doing until we walked into the room where they were doing wound care.  Once I became aware of what I would be helping with, I became quite alarmed. I have always been a very squeamish person and have been known to faint at the site of blood. My initial reaction quickly changed as a sense of calmness prevailed over me. I stayed and assisted with treating, cleaning, and bandaging of wounds for over an hour that day. I did have a few incidents where I felt a little woozy and doubted my ability to continue with the process of cleaning out wounds but the feeling very quickly passed and I was able to continue. This is just one example of an incredible ability to defy the boundaries of my comfort zone while in Africa.  

Painting the new classroom at Miyani

Jessie playing with SMS Students

Greeting students at Miyani Primary school

Jessie and one of the sweet SMS girls

Jessie shadowing Betty

Pounding corn with a baby on your back, all in a days work in Kenya

Life as I knew it before Kenya (B.K.) has changed. I am still just on the cusp of trying to accept, process and understand it all. This trip was everything I had hoped for, needed, and much, much more than I could have ever expected. I met some remarkable people who have become lifelong friends.  I am so excited about the future and am eager to see what it has to bring. Thank you Bret, Ingrid, Jami, Sue, Cindy, Leah and all the locals at Koins for opening  up, making possible and sharing this experience with all of us who are so privileged to have taken part in this expedition. I know every single person who was on this trip has been touched deeply by the experiences we had and shared while in Kenya.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Christopher - Bofu Celebration Day

This journal entry is from Christopher, one of our youth expeditioners.  The youth expedition was an entirely new concept this year, with the youth living in mud huts, in a village, away from the comparative luxury of the KCC (Koins Community Center).  They used latrines, which will be used by the Vikolani primary school once the expedition is done.  They slept in hammocks in their huts, took bucket baths in bath huts made of palm leaves, and essentially, lived about as authentically as a group of Americans can in rural Kenya.  It is interesting to observe their perspective on their experience.

Wednesday July 11, 2012
Written by Christopher Osborn

What a day!! We woke up at 5:45 and found that we were already late... We made the trek to the KCC, where we prepared for the race to Bofu. This race is a pretty big deal.  People come from all of the villages to get a chance to run a 7.2 mile race, across the arid Kenyan hills, for a monetary prize of great value. When we arrived at the KCC around 7:00, there were already over 50 Kenyans waiting. And the race starts at 8. 

We ate breakfast at the luxurious KCC, which is a 5-star hotel compared to our dirt floor huts. Most of the youth ate scones, while several of us, the ones who were going to run, stuffed them in our packs for after the race. We tied our shoes, filled our bottles, and pinned our numbers on. Since Kenyans run at leopard speed, all white people were allowed to start the run with the women, who began the race 20 minutes before the men. We took a photo with all of the runners and lined up. I heard someone yell something and we started running. 

The road to Bofu
I found myself left far behind by the women, who sprinted from the start...and didn't stop! I ran down the road, which is just a wider dirt path. I ran up and down hills, looking out over the valley as I went. This place is simply beautiful! It is dry and dusty, but the streams are lined by massive palm trees. This view is what kept me going when I wanted to give up and walk. Looking out at this amazing 360 degree view, and stepping back a bit and thinking, "I am in Kenya, in Kenya, running the longest run I've ever ran, against Kenyans, who are not only twice as fast as me, but are barefoot! I can keep going."

Christopher running to Bofu

As with every day, every twenty or so steps someone would yell "Jambo!" and I would reply with "Jambo!". I especially love it when the children yell jambo. Some of the adults would go on to say something in Swahili or Duruma and I would just smile back, because I can't understand one word they say. Every so often, I would pass one of the checkpoints where the others were waiting to hand out water. Unfortunately, the water isn't safe for us to drink, so I would run past just saying hello and receiving some encouragement.

Water station along the race route

I knew that the men were fast, but it surprised me when the men would pass me at double my speet, and that's not all, while we were going up a hill.

When we reached Bofu, a small group of children started running with me after greeting me with "Jambo!". They ran with me until just before the finish line, which was a row of yelling Kenyans. I nearly collapsed when I stopped running and Jami was there asking if I needed any water. I realized that I had completely forgotten about the liter water bottle I was carrying!

I found Chase, who had somehow finished 3rd, (of the women...) and we sat down, ate our scones, and took a break. All of the runners were given a T-shirt, a wristband, and a packet of swedish fish! Boy oh boy! I have never enjoyed swedish fish so much before! And then another photo was taken, this time with all of the runners in their T-shirts.

All the runners in their race t-shirts

A small parade arrived. It was made up of several women dancing and a few men in cultural clothing with leather straps on their legs that had cans with rocks in them. They would stomp and dance, creating a strong beat. We paraded/danced over to the new two-room classroom. The building was dedicated and many more pictures were taken, the entire time the dancers outside still dancing. We walked over to a row of holes and every visitor got to plant and water a sapling. There was a large ceremony and it seemed that all of Bofu was there. The Skonnard family and the Guest family were thanked in an elaborate ceremony and given Doruma names. There were several activities and dances and songs for entertainment and at the end several people spoke. We walked over to the vans and had the opportunity to ride back to Vikolani.

Dancers at Bofu celebration

We had cabbage and ugali for lunch and most of the guys fell asleep in their hammocks. Benny, Caleb and I sat down in the hut and wrote in our journals for a while, trying to catch up because we have been so busy there hasn't been much time to write. We took turns in the showers because we didn't exactly smell like fresh linen after the race. There wasn't any warm water at the time, so my shower consisted of a cold bucket of water and an extra shirt for a towel. But did that feel great! I fixed our door handle because Ted was asleep. It is normally Ted's job because he designed the rope with  knots tied on the ends fed through a hole. Normally, when it breaks, someone yells, "TED!! You're door broke again!" and he comes and fixes it.

We broke out the guitars and ukelele and started playing and singing when a boy named Edwin came to our camp to teach us how to make slingshots. He started by showing us how to make marbles from the dirt. He made a pile of dirt and poured some water into the center and mixed it into a clay. After he would roll small balls and set them out to dry. We made our slingshots with his help and tried to shoot them. Benny and Gary can both hit a pole at over 10 yards!

The youth practicing with their new slingshots

We headed back inside and continued writing in our journals. All of the sudden Garey runs into the room and yells, "Chris!! I have some stuff for you!" We share our handwritten dictionaries. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Benny in Kenya, July 7, 2012

We have returned from another successful and very busy expedition trip to Kenya.  This year, we had a youth group, as well as a regular expedition group.  The two groups overlapped, but since the youth built mud huts in the village of Vikolani where they lived for the duration of their stay in Kenya, we had enough room for all.

The next few posts will be from the youth group.  Jami, who dreamed up the Youth Leadership Expedition, planned and carried out all the details of it, had several of the kids type up a journal entry on her iPad, which will be what I post.

Saturday, July 7, 2012
Written by Benjamin Cardullo

After going to bed at 2 in the morning arriving from the flight, we woke up to the smell of chapatis in the morning  (chapatis being pretty much tortillas).  After breakfast we had heard of one of the turkeys being injured during mating, so they decided to kill it.  We got to see them chop off its head.  Post-mortem, the turkey continued to writhe and flap its wings. 

When we were ready to go to the village we will be living in, Vikolani, a bunch of kids from the local school greeted us and sang and danced for us.  They then continued to lead us to the village never letting up with their song or dance.  They had about three songs, repeatedly sung, which were highly entertaining.  When we got to Vikolani, they put on an official little show for us, which included a group of boys on the drums and some kids with an organized song and dance.  It was a wonderful representation of the Kenyan culture and it was nice to get to know the villagers better.  We were also introduced to the school leaders who were all working on building our mud huts, which truly showed how happy they were to have us there.  

Benny helping mud the huts
Jacob tossing the mud

After the show and introductions we helped finish the construction of our mud huts, which to be honest were better than most homes in Mombasa.  I got to go get water with the women, and we put wrapped scarves on our heads to keep from having hard plastic on their heads.  They could walk at a regular pace over treacherous irregular terrain with these buckets on their heads without even using their hands!  These weren't little buckets either, they were home depot sized, and the children were laughing at me as I approached the mud huts, my kanga cloth and shirt soaked through with water.  (by the way, this isn't Benny any more, in case if you are wondering why i am wearing a kanga cloth and carrying water on my head like a woman).  Mud huts, as you may have guessed, have mud walls with an inside of sticks.  We throw mud at the wall to close up holes.  Apparently, I am horrible at throwing mud at walls.  I didn't even know that is something you could be bad at.  

Carrying water back from the water hole

Back to Benny.  When we were done working for the day some of us headed straight back to the KCC camp at Myenzeni but some others, including myself, took the scenic route back.  We saw how Kenya functions agriculturally and we got to see the Koins farming lands and how they help the local community.  

Kenyan farm

Youth at the baobab tree at Windridge school

When we got back we had lunch and soon headed for a hike up to the Windridge school in Chikomani.  We got to see a bit more of the Kenyan culture and life style.  Upon return we all got to take long needed showers and the Brown group helped prepare our dinner of the previously deceased turkey, and some pilau, which is a rice dish.  After dinner we had our peaches and pits meeting, which is pretty much the high and low lights of our day.  The bottom line is that Kenya is amazing, and this was a wonderful first day of our trip.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Live from Kenya

We have an expedition in Kenya.  Actually, we have two, as we have the Youth Leadership group in Vikolani, and we have the regular expedition at the KCC.  Altogether, it is a large group of Americans immersed in Kenya.  

We have had a very busy couple of weeks.  I will be adding more entries outlining our activities, and lots of photos.  

The top photo is the new Hidden Springs school at Bofu.  The opening ceremony was held last week.  There was another race hosted by Monica, the Race to Bofu, which brought out about 20 Kenyan women this year, compared to the 2 that ran last year.  

We planted trees behind the new school building, part of the opening ceremony.

We had several dances performed for us at the opening ceremony, all part of the cultural experience of an expedition.

Much of the group leaves for Mombasa tomorrow.  The remainder leave Saturday.  We have almost finished our work here.  There will be many blog posts to come outlining our experiences.

Asante sana,


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Turkeys and Chickens in Kenya

Bret has regular visitors while staying at the KCC.  Sometimes they come to say "hi" or "welcome", sometimes they come bearing gifts, as is often the case of the families of our scholarship students.

A scholarship student and his family bring a duck as a gift to Bret

With the help of Self Reliant Agriculture, we are teaching villagers how to grow bigger, stronger and healthier chickens.  Chickens in our village area are common, but rarely do they have any size.  They are usually scrawny because they are exposed to sickness and disease without receiving the necessary antibiotics, while running wild foraging for their food. Our chickens receive the best of care from the time they exit the egg, never touching the Kenyan soil until they are over a month old.  Antibiotics are administered regularly to fight off the common avian illnesses that are so prevalent here, and our feed is the best available.  In return, our birds are healthy, with higher egg output.  The villagers are seeing the returns of keeping healthy animals, and are beginning to adopt the methods we are teaching.  The end result is to provide eggs and meat for the children on a regularly basis, and our strides are beginning to pay off.

Chicks in an enclosure get a healthy start
 Turkeys are VERY rare in Kenya, and fetch a price that is more than twice what they cost in America.  The Head Teacher at the South Summit School, Mama Mishi, had an outlet to sell turkeys, but had sold her birds in order to pay medical bills for her daughter that was born last year with Downs Syndrome.  With her contacts and willingness to care for the birds, we launched a private venture to raise these birds. 

Mama Mishi's daughter, Chizi (cheese-ee), entered the hen house to show us one of the nests that is full of eggs. There are four more nests just like this one, indicating that Thanksgiving platters in Mombasa will be filled with our birds.

 This Tom is a great model showing the overall health of our flock.  And there are more healthy birds strutting around our turkey enclosure.

The most exciting thing about our current work in Kenya is the innovative new projects, and the ability we have to incorporate fresh ideas into the work.  We are well established in the community, and our continued support of village schools and students, as well as multiple other projects has earned the trust of the villagers.  They are beginning to come to us with new ideas, and the partnerships we are creating will provide great opportunities for the future.