You thought obscure Lone Peak High School was just the home of the number one basketball team in the nation-but it is also home to some world-class humanitarian students.
This is an invitation to come with us to Kenya-or at least join other Meridian readers in helping to bring a well in a village without water. With your help we can do it! Find out more about the trip or donate below.
Warning: If you come to Kenya you will fall hopelessly in love with the African children you serve. You will never be the same.
The pictures below in this photo essay are the happiest we know. They were taken last summer in M’bele, an impoverished village in Kenya where most of the school children live on only one meal a day and still had big smiles for their visitors from America.
We went last summer to build classrooms and 100 desks in this village because our daughter, Michaela, who was then a junior in high school had a dream to build a school in Africa. Though she was a new student at Lone Peak High School (having just moved from Virginia), she reached way deep inside of her and found courage to start a club at school-which they called the Africa Club.
She and her new friends worked hard selling books door to door in the snow, planned a benefit concert (which Meridian readers supported) and much more to raise the money to build classrooms and 100 desks in this arid, little village.
It was an experience you could only call magnificent. It is easy for us to see pictures of the poor and objectify them as if they were not individual personalities with hopes and dreams and hearts that suffer. To so many of us, they are the poor-uncomfortable to think about and therefore easy to dismiss-an anonymous, undifferentiated group.
They must, after all, get used to being malnourished, uneducated, forgotten. Surely they don’t mind having their potential squelched, their children die.
Of course, this isn’t true.
In M’bele, for us every person had a name. We played with them on the dirt playground that had neither equipment, nor even balls. (They taped plastic bags and rags into spheres to kick around.) We laughed with them and sang with them.
They, who had nothing, were generous to us. They would take their only necklace ofF and press it into our hands. Winnie, a slight wisp of a girl who loved Michaela, was exuberant one day because her family had managed somehow to grow a very tiny watermelon. Such a treat, such a delicacy she could only imagine.
Yet, when Michaela was saying goodbyes, Winnie handed her a bag containing that precious watermelon.
What was clear in M’bele is that the classrooms were important, but that they had a greater need that was critical. They have no water. Every glass of water, every scrap of laundry is done by water that is carried more than a mile on the women’s heads.
Gardens are impossible. That’s why the watermelon was astonishing. No water, no gardens. No fresh vegetables or fruit. With 95% unemployment in this village, each day the mothers must arise and scramble to figure out how to feed their children that day. It is usually only one meal that they call ugali-maize flour cooked with water.
In an informal survey we did at school one afternoon, fully 1/3 of the children had not eaten that day.
Drilling a Well
With the help of Meridian readers, we have decided to drill a well on the school grounds in M’bele so that the people can have irrigated gardens. The school has the land. We have already contracted an experienced hydrologist to see if this is possible. It is! This well will be on the school grounds so that every one can access the water and the children can have nutritious food to eat from the school garden and a papaya grove we will plant.
The people are committed to working hard and solving their problems, but they need a big boost to unlock their promise. They need water and a steady diet.
So, here’s the invitation. We have decided to open this year’s expedition up to our Meridian readers to come to Kenya to bring water and gardens to the village. We have the humanitarian trip half filled so there are only 18 spots open (which will go quickly.) We, Maurine and Scot Proctor, will be on this trip and we’d love to roll up our sleeves and work hard together.
The trip will be July 10 – 24 in conjunction with CHOICE Humanitarian. We will spend a week in the village and add a three-day safari on the back end for the adventurous. (And we’re not lion!) You’ll see African wildlife like you’ve only imagined. You’ll spend a couple of nights in Mombasa, staying at a beautiful hotel, where monkeys swing in the trees, that sits on a white sand beach on the Indian Ocean. You’ll visit a center where hundreds of African carvers work magic with wood. In the village, you’ll come to love the children, tour the people’s homes and work hard to bring them water so they can plant gardens.
Depending on your flight, you might even stop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia or London for a day. Remember: We can only open up 18 places for this life-changing expedition. We ask that only those 15 and above apply.
The Financial Setting
If you can’t come, would you consider becoming what we’ll call a “Well-wisher.” Water projects are more expensive than school rooms. Last year our little group of 14 (with a lot of help from parents and generous donations from Meridian) raised about $14,000. This year, in order to do this bore hole and put in the gardens and fencing, we need to raise $32,000. We already have $16,500 committed so we must come up with an additional $15,500. You can be one of the Meridian readers who puts this well and gardens in with a donation. Of course these donations are 100% tax deductible.
Send your donations to bring water to these beautiful people through a well-which they have not had. You can do more than wish them well (which does not feed the hungry). You can donate to this project by clicking here.
Checks made out to CHOICE Humanitarian may be sent directly to:
Attn: Wade Alexander
7879 South 1530 West, Suite 200
West Jordan, Utah 84088
Please make sure when you donate that you note that it is for the “Meridian Kenya Water Project.”
Warning: Not only will you love the Africans, your heart will forever be changed for knowing them.
You will be wrung out seeing how they live. You will learn new definitions of charity seeing how they give. You will dance and dance with them. You may say hakuna matata to them in your attempts to speak Swahili.
Come with us for these last few moments of your reading and experience with photographs that will give you a taste of this never-to-be-forgotten expedition to M’bele, Kenya.
Last year’s expedition was mostly teenagers from Lone Peak High School. They loved every minute in the village and wept when they left.
This wood carver, with focused concentration on the next stroke, looks like a carving himself in the afternoon sun.
The villagers rushed out to greet us as we arrived, dancing, singing and hugging us in greeting. This was true exuberance.
In an opening ceremony, the villagers formally welcomed us to their village. Each age group in the school sang and danced in African rhythm for us.
Margaret was traded by her parents for a dowry when she was nine years old to be the polygamous bride of a Masai tribesman. Fortunately, she was able to escape and through the help of a humanitarian group like ours receive an education. She told her poignant story to us, recalling how her parents took her from home in the dark so she wouldn’t be able to find her way home again.
These are the two classrooms we worked on last year. They are finished now and filled with the desks we made.
In the village, all the women expedition members wore African skirt wraps called chitangas that were bright and colorful.
Kent Wood, one of the founders of Xango, helps the school boys of M’bele with their math. The desks and walls are rough and mottled.
The girls and women were put to work the first day carrying sand in buckets on our heads to level out the schoolroom floors. How else do you carry something if you don’t have a wheelbarrow?
How many children can one expedition member hold? Never have these American students experienced such unmitigated love and affection.
Sometimes we taught in their classrooms. Here a group is teaching, “Once there was a snowman,” which was quite a hit. An important part of the trip is cultural interchange-and certainly the Africans didn’t know anything about snowmen-just as we had never eaten ugali.
Some of the children pictured here hope to be pilots, teachers and broadcast journalists. Hope always springs in the young human heart, and squelched potential is difficult to bear.
Scot, loved this little girl named Halima. The Muslim and Christian children in this school get along as great friends.
We found it was easy to gather a crowd of kids for any kind of entertainment. We taught them all of our tricks from camp songs to games. They taught us even more.
This is our daughter, Mariah. The kids found her hair fascinating to touch.
The M’bele Primary School crest announced that they aim to excel. They can with a little boost from us.