Last summer I was fortunate to go to Kenya with my wife who is a farmer’s daughter from Kapkoi, Uasin Gishu County, in the Rift valley. While walking on the dusty roads near the family farm we came upon four young girls on their way to the nearby Kapkoi Primary School. They were going to pick up their books because they didn’t have enough money to pay the fees to take their end of term exam which would let them move on to the next semester. When I heard this and how little money was involved, I simply paid the fees for them.
The thought occurred to me that these probably aren’t the only kids at this school in need of help so I paid a visit to Kapkoi Primary School with my wife, who attended this school as a young child. Kenyan children are always ready for a laugh, so when I arrived at the school I began chasing them and spontaneous fun erupted as it always does in these situations in rural Kenya. I introduced myself as Dr. Mandazi, which roughly translates to Dr. Doughnut, to the sound of uproarious laughter.
Then things got more serious as we were introduced to different groups of children and we could see the gravity of the situation. We started with the underprivileged , then orphans and finally the students with disabilities. It was this last group that we spent most time with. On one hand you could say that their situation looked bleak, but at the same time their joyful spirit shone through. They loved my Dr. Mandazi joke and they roared with laughter!
My heart went out to them. I vowed to do something to help them and set up a modest donation through the teachers to be shared amongst this class of the most physically, emotionally and financially challenged children in the school.
Giving money is not without risk as far as where the money will end up. However, in this case, we were lucky to work with a group of teachers and a headmistress from a neighboring school who had herself already donated to the school. We received a complete accounting of how these initial funds were used as well as letters of thanks and a video expressing appreciation. We have since enlisted the help of other local overseers. I am asking the school to open an account where any donations can be sent so that they will be the only ones handling any donations that might arise.
While in Kenya my passion for wildlife also came to the fore. Although Kenya has many spectacular national parks, I also witnessed much deforestation. I therefore planted native trees on my wife’s family farm with the idea of one day providing habitat for birds and other wildlife. Then it occurred to me to combine my two passions of helping children and wildlife by having the children help plant the native trees on neighboring farms, while enlisting the aid of local farmers. By getting the children involved in tree-planting they are learning valuable lessons about biology, conservation, responsibility and community cooperation rather than just receiving, thus avoiding the social problems of dependency that can arise from simple handouts.
That is where things now stand and I am seeking advice and any other help that one might be moved to give. That help would not include donations just yet until I establish a mechanism for donating and a system for accounting for possible future donations.
What to name this budding program? Dr.Mandazi’s Kapkoi, Kids, Community and Conservation Program, what else? For more information please contact: John Cancalosi, (A.K.A. Dr. Mandazi), firstname.lastname@example.org