Msomi Academy for Girls Katherine Fogelberg

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5 days away

Wanted to get in at least one more blog before the team heads back across the pond. We have a jam-packed itinerary and are excited to learn more about Kenya as a country and Kisii, the town we look forward to serving for many years to come.

As we prepare for our long overseas journey, my anticipation is many-fold. As the only member of this team to have seen the land and the city to which we are connecting ourselves so profoundly, I can’t wait to see the faces of my teammates as they see Kisii and our potential school site for the first time! We have also managed to eke out an overnight in the legendary Maasai Mara, three of my team will experience their very first African safari. You can’t have all work and no fun, after all.

Along with those firsts, we will also get to visit the WEEP ladies of Kibera again, spend a couple of days with Patrick and his students at Oldonyonyokie, and head back to the elephant orphanage where we’ll get to pet the babies for a solid hour of bliss. Four of my team members have experienced many of these things last year, while our newest member will be seeing it all for the first time. And honestly, it is being able to introduce people to these experiences – as well as the opportunity to make small positive contribution to the world – that continues to make the tough times worthwhile. It’s definitely not all roses and tulips, but when those roses and tulips bloom the smiles are more than enough.

I’ll be doing my best to update the blog at least once or twice while in Kenya. And I’m still working on getting the photo galleries updated, so please check our website regularly. And don’t hesitate to get involved! Every penny counts and every time someone donates their time we are grateful. On that note, to whoever made the matching donation to our Shoes That Grow purchase, THANK YOU! We are now able to put great shoes on the feet of 75 children in Kenya, with 30 of those directly coming from our donor match (https://becauseinternational.org/). We can’t wait to provide these kids with a sturdy pair of shoes that will last them many years while providing comfort and protection.

Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you all again soon. Don’t hesitate to contact us ([email protected]) if you have any questions or would like to donate!

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A successful trip

We have returned from our second full team trip to Kenya and are simultaneously happy and sad to be back. It’s always nice to return to your luxuries, of course, but it also deftly highlights the needs of those we just left. Any decent human being returns after a trip like ours feeling extraordinarily fortunate to live the way we live, and we all have a deeper appreciation for and understanding of what those in other parts of the world live like on a daily basis.

Nonetheless, we did some good and learned a LOT. The photo here shows an early childhood classroom at Oldonyonyokie Primary School. Located in the Rift Valley, the uniforms may look familiar to those of you who saw the blog from this time last year. This time we had a chance to stay with them for 2 days, talk with their teachers and student leaders (whom they call prefects), and observe a variety of their teachers in action. What a wonderful experience! We also played with the kids and met the young ladies we bonded with last year, both of our groups pleased that each recognized and remembered the other.

We then traveled west and a little north to introduce the team to Kisii, the town where we hope to open our school. There we were invited into our friend Jared’s lovely apartment for some local tea (we were the first mzungus – foreigners – to ever be in his home), visited with Bernard who started the private Benya Academy, bought out the woodworking store, and proceeded to invest even more in the Kisii economy at the soapstone factory. The meeting with Bernard proved to be invaluable, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with him far into the future.

We ended our 6-day marathon work week with a drive to the famous Maasai Mara, where we stayed in gorgeous permanent tents by a river filled with hippo mamas and babies, saw a variety of African wildlife, and I finally completed my sightings of the Big Five by seeing a wild leopard. It was a wonderful way to unwind and process all that we had seen and done to that point, although upon our return to Nairobi we were delighted to visit the Kibera Resource Center and see all the ladies we met last year again. They were strong, healthy, beautiful, and productive, as they have all graduated and begun their businesses. Many thanks to Mallory, Nancy, Evelyn, Elizabeth, Jen, and the other ladies who always welcome us with open arms and loving smiles. Your mandazzi is the very best and we look forward to visiting again soon!

As the team reintegrates into our normal lives, we hope you will think about helping us out. Seeing children so happy to have bread and milk, hearing them ask for more toilets and enough books so each child can study and learn, to request good quality soccer balls and be thrilled to receive a ruler, pen, pencil, eraser, and sharpener is enough to remind us that we need so little to survive. The need is great and we are trying to make a small dent, so every bit helps. For those of you who have already supported us, THANK YOU and we hope you feel great about what you’ve done. For those who are thinking about it, visit our gallery to see what a difference every dollar or minute donated makes.

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Girls Run Red!

It’s been far too long, I know…with the new year arriving rapidly, I’m planning to be more diligent about providing updates.  Sometimes it’s slow, but that’s no excuse.  However, we have a lot to report this time around!

Up first, we are partnering with period.org’s Dallas chapter to direct our first official fundraising event!  We have planned a 5K run/walk in Fort Worth’s Trinity Park on Sunday, April 7th at 7:30am. Bring your dogs, your strollers, and your running shoes as you meander through the park and get some exercise while supporting two non-profits doing great work in the world. You can register here:  

https://www.roadid.com/a/event-calendar/events/3421-girls-run-red/registration

We are capped at 300 participants this year, so register soon and use the new year to motivate you to run your first – or 100th – 5K for two great causes!

Now that we have that out of the way, I’m happy to report that we have officially seated our first three board members, are headed to Kenya for our second trip this year to deliver those shoes that grow and get familiar with city we hope will be home to our (first) school, and are keeping our fingers crossed that the IRS doesn’t need any additional information so we can earn our 501(c)(3) status in January rather than April or May.  Send lots of good thoughts our way, please!

We are also starting to plan our big 2019 trip to Kenya, where we hope to continue our work through delivering more shoes that grow AND work with teachers at Kosogo and Oldonyonyokie primary schools to deliver high quality, focused lessons to students in English, Math, and Science.  We are SO excited about these partnerships and so very grateful for the relationships that got us here and allowed us to make these connections.  

Look for at least one more post before the end of our inaugural year – and visit our photo gallery after we return so you can see some of Brandon’s amazing photos from our December visit.  In the meantime, stay healthy and happy and we look forward to seeing some of you on the race course in April!

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Happy New Year!

2018 was a wonderful year with many milestones for our fledgling non-profit, and we hope that 2019 will be even better. Thanks to all the great members of our team on the U.S. AND the Kenya side; we surely wouldn’t be nearly as far along without all of you!

This is a short and sweet one…but it’s important to acknowledge new beginnings, continuations of wonderful things, and new challenges to be faced and overcome. We have made great strides, indeed, but now it’s time to double down and work through the Kenyan legal system to ensure we are able to make this dream a reality.

Join us on our journey…on IG and LinkedIn (msomiacademy), or just check back periodically to see updated photos and read the blog. We look forward to meeting you in 2019 and hope you’ll join us in our quest to provide opportunity through education for girls in Kisii, Kenya.

Happiest of New Years to you all and here’s to an even better 2019!

A beautiful family in Kisii that we were able to talk to. I’m captivated by their faces!
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In honor of Friday the 13th

For many superstitious folks, today is the day to worry about strange goings-on.  For me, however, Friday the 13th has always been a good day; I used to say that 13 was my lucky number.  It is a fun day no matter how you slice it, so in honor of that, I thought I’d remind everyone that EVERY day should be a good one – at least in terms of learning.

When my team and I were in Oldonyonyokie primary school in the Rift Valley of Kenya and in the heart of Maasai country, we talked with teenage girls who had dreams to become pilots, physicians, and lawyers.  Many of these girls believe, for the first time in their ethnic cultural history, that this is possible.  Why?  Because they have been visited and mentored by a young woman who became the first female from Oldonyonyokie primary to graduate from medical school.  You can see a video about her, and the school, here:

Every school in Kenya has its own colors and unique school uniforms, and for the Msomi team, these dark pink and white checked uniforms will be dear to us forever; the girls were funny, bright, warm, and so excited to have visitors spend time with them.  We played games, delivered bed nets, and taught the grade 4 through 8 students about malaria and how to prevent it.  It was our first human-centric outing in our most recent visit, and a wonderful way to introduce us to the diversity in Kenya.

We hope you’ll continue to join us as you see just how much power education of girls and young women can wield.  As I told the ladies at Nyakach – women can change the world!

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International Day of the Girl Child

The Girl Child: A Poem by Naomi

The lives of innocent children have been shattered.

Come look my brethren,

Mighty dreams have been thwarted.

My sister is a commodity of trade,

Only reaching to the third grade,

She found herself under a share,

She became property of an exchange,

Having no say over anything.

I have been longing for revenge,

Heavy penalty but got nothing,

Feel the life of my innocent sister.

 

This is a public outcry.

I insist on stiff measures,

Both in oceans and in dry,

It is a grievance from all creatures,

The inhuman act of RAPE.

Four humiliating offenses,

To my sister who lacks defenses,

Feel the same of my innocent sister.

 

My sister is depressed,

No second for deep rest,

In marriage she is oppressed,

Her property lives in her chest,

Financially she is pressed,

Me beast of burdens is hard-pressed,

No matter how she tries her best,

Her efforts are all compressed,

Restricted from searching her light to the west,

Look! She is denied of her life’s zest,

Why her alone and not the rest?

 

A women has the right to rest,

If allowed she is able to invest,

In enabled she will pass any test,

This is a true word not spoken in jest,

Instilled in me in order to teach the rest,

Feel the discomfort of my innocent sister.

 

Before my heart was burning hot,

But now I am grateful a lot,

Finally I have reached my lot,

I wish to halt on this spot,

Make a change as small as a dot,

To relieve my sister from the pot,

Because there is strength in everything I’ve got,

There is ability in my innocent sister.

 

Now that our 501(c)(3) is filed, we’ve started the journey of searching for grant funding to get our school off the ground, which essentially means devoting hours to navigating the tunnels of the internet. That is how I came to discover today is the International Day of the Girl Child, with a theme for 2018 of “With Her: A Skilled Girl Force.”

This falls in line with Msomi’s mission perfectly. Yes, we want to provide education to girls, but beyond that, we want to stand behind our students as they acquire skills they will take into the workforce and use to support themselves. Before they even graduate from primary school, our girls will have the experience of planting, growing, harvesting, and selling their own produce. Nothing boosts belief in oneself quite like doing, and with girls already believing by age 6 that boys are more suited than girls to “really, really smart” activities, we need to help girls see their own strength as soon as possible and to believe in themselves as fiercely as possible.  #dayofthegirl #GenUnlimited

To learn more, visit the following:

http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/girl-child

Links to some poems about International Day of the Girl Child

“U Have to Struggle More”

https://humanrightswarrior.com/2013/10/11/u-have-to-struggle-more-a-poem-for-international-day-of-the-girl/

Untitled

https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/lisbeth-salifu/posts/88918

Thank you to Sarah, our current intern, for coming across this celebration and writing this post!

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It’s been a bit too long

Life has a way of making you crazy sometimes, but I am trying to get back to this on more regular basis.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best!

I would like to say that today has been a good day.  My class this morning was fun and interesting (the topic; the students are always that) and my lunch time talk went over really well – it was about Msomi, which definitely helped.  But the thing I think helped me the most was finally owning that my vulnerability is important.  I need to be better about sharing my life so that people really understand where I’m coming from and why I’m trying to go where I want to go.  Of course it’s not all about me, but it has to start somewhere, so that somehwere might as well be the genuine me that’s been trying to burst out in one way or another for a pretty long time.

It’s nice to know that you’re going to be well-received and that people out there are going to see the real you – flaws and all – and not turn away.  Msomi is all about providing those moments for Kenyan girls; moments that allow all the facades to fade away, all the faces and shrouds, and letting the world see them for who they are in their strength and rawness, their joy and fear, their courage and sadness.  It’s about helping girls – no matter their age – learn that they don’t have to live in the shadows of others, be afraid of crying in public, or think they are “less than” because they don’t have x, y, or z.  It was school that did this for me, and I am hoping it is school that can do that for them – even if it’s just one.

It’s taken me over 40 years to finally embrace who I am and where I come from.  To find a way to use my story for good rather than, well, not so good.  I don’t want to manipulate, I want to inspire.  I don’t want to accept, I want to challenge.  Msomi enables me to do all these things and to live in a way the hopefully does that for others.  So what’s your story?  Why do you want to help?  What inspires you?  Tell me – and perhaps you’ll find it in one of these blogs do that you, too, can inspire, challenge, and grow.  I hope to hear from you!

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Making friends with kids who have parents…

I’ve been to three countries in sub-Saharan Africa now: South Africa, Uganda, and Kenya, and in two I’ve been lucky enough to really connect with a little one.  In Kenya, it was Celestine’s youngest child, Desmond, a darling little boy who bonded with me over a game of hide and seek (the more you travel, the more you appreciate the differences and similarities of people everywhere).  He also fell in love with my hat, to be fair, so it might not have been all me, but he trustingly took my hand as we walked around his home and out to the vehicle that was to take us away from Kisumu for the night. 

In Uganda it was Linda, a bald little girl in a bright blue dress, whose family owned and worked in the little electronics shop right next door to the tailor we frequented during our month-long stint in Adjumani.  Linda and Desmond were lucky to have parents who loved them, so me shuttling them away and finding a way to adopt them in the U.S. was just not going to happen.  It’s also helped me form a good mantra:  I can only make friends with kids who have parents.  Of course I say this a little tongue in cheek, but the issue is real.  In Uganda there are “baby markets” where you can literally buy a baby for $50 to $100 USD.  And 300 of the 500 students at Kosogo primary school in Kenya (the school where the kids wore blue and gold uniforms in the gallery page) were orphans, it tugs at me.  I, too, was an orphan.  I was unlucky in many ways, but so lucky in others. 

My child friends in Uganda and Kenya make me smile for a multitude of reasons, mostly because they have parents who love them and are doing their very best to provide good lives for them.  But they also remind me how many are out there who don’t have loving families, or who don’t have families at all, because I was one of them, and it has impacted me for my entire life.  It’s also one of the driving forces behind my desire to create Msomi.  So yes, we will take orphans.  We will take any girl or young woman who wants to get educated; it’s a fundamental right and one we are committed to providing.  Thank you for joining us on our journey!

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Making progress…

We are getting good news every week, it seems – a nice place to be in!  We have a lead on possible land in Kisii, the city we are most interested in establishing our school.  I have a meeting with a wonderful professional photog in about 10 days to discuss how we can facilitate him documenting our process from inception (well, almost) to teaching our first classes of girls.  Most everyone I speak to about this wants to donate, so we are working hard to get the website up and running – especially the donations button, of course! – and will be rotating photos of our most recent trip in and out.  An article about our endeavor is in the works and will be published in the next few weeks by our School of Public Health (SPH) communications director, and there will be photo murals on the wall with museum-like captions somewhere in our school.  Finally, we are planning our second trip to Kenya at the end of this year.  On this trip, we will stay in Kisii and it will be our first foray into getting around without someone there to constantly hold our hands.  I’m glad there will be a group of us, at least!

Often I don’t feel as though I’m doing that much when it comes to the planning processes for Msomi, but then I look back at that first paragraph and realize I’m doing fairly well – especially when I have such a fantastic team of folks who are working just as hard.  Little bit by little bit, we will get through these start up times; I know this beyond the shadow of a doubt.

My next blog will tell a story from our adventures in Kenya the first time around; I do hope you’ll come back to read it.  We learned so much while we were there and I’d love to share as much as possible with as many people as are willing to hear!

Kwaheri for now –

Katherine

 

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Msomi means scholar

It occurs to me that most people don’t know what Msomi means, so I thought I’d solve the riddle.  We chose this word because it means scholar in Swahili, the most commonly understood language in Kenya.  There are 42 distinct ethnic groups in Kenya, each with their own unique language – not dialect – full language.  Some are a bigger (Lu’o, for example) percentage of the population and others are smaller (Maasai, for example).  English is used in schools from Grade 5 on, but Swahili (or kiswahili) is used much more often for inter-ethnic group communication.  I try to learn the language, but it’s a challenge.  Fortunately, we’re usually able to work with Kenyans who are much better with languages than we are!  It’s a truly beautiful country, and I hope you all have a chance to visit some day.

On another note, I had a great conversation with Vincent Forand from period.org; we are working on partnering to help them with the upcoming education launch and looking forward to having their support when we need to provide feminine hygiene products to our girls.  I’ve also reached out TheShoeThatGrows to see about working with them to make sure our girls always have shoes that fit.  Some of these may work out and some may not, but you just never know until you try.

We are working hard to get our name out there and drum up support but are still looking for that one person who’s willing to take the plunge and support us financially.  We’ll likely be starting a public online fundraiser in the near future, so hopefully we’ll at least start the snowball rolling.  Check back for updates and remember how lucky we are to be living as well as we do!

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Mzungus return

We are back in the states after a whirlwind trip to Kenya. Successful – yes! Fun – yes! Rewarding – yes! We checked all the boxes on this quick trip. And it was absolutely lovely. Oh – and “mzungu” means “white person” in Swahili; it’s something we hear all the time when we’re in Kenya, especially from the kids!

Unlike our previous experiences, the travel went as smoothly as one could hope for. No major delays, no missed flights (though we had a close call in Atlanta), and no hiccups. Our driver in Nairobi, Lewis, was there early and our driver in Kisii, Victor, was great. The bulk of our costs were for transportation, but it’s worth it to have safe and reliable vehicles and drivers when you’re going to be in a car that long and that often.

I’ll have to break this into a couple of posts, so be sure to come back to read about the fun stuff…this one will focus on the work. We were able, with the help of our friends and colleagues Jared and Jackie, to meet with and survey 19 teachers and over 40 parents; Sarah has the final tally, but we were pleased with the participation. It also meant that all 60 pairs of the shoes were given out and are currently in use. The kids and parents were so excited and grateful, and we are very much looking forward to returning in June with even more shoes to give!

Our last day in Kisii, a city we are thrilled to be connected with and so looking forward to continuing to build relationships in, we met with Abel and his family on his family land. I had no idea before we went that this land has been in his family for generations, and that he had to get all his brothers to agree to sell us the land if we choose to purchase it…it is humbling that this family, who just lost their father in July at the age of 118 years!, is willing to sell the mzungus (white folks/foreigners) some of their rich and fertile land. Abel himself had nothing but a t-shirt until he was 6 years old, when his parents scraped up enough Kenyan shillings to buy his school uniforms. From there, he has never looked back; he is working on his doctoral dissertation, is a Bishop in his church, and has taught regularly in the Bible College he and Deborah are working to bring back to fiscal health. He’s a true inspiration and he knows the power of education – a combination that is utterly transformational. His only desire is to ensure that the land goes to a purpose that serves his community, a desire we truly hope to fulfill if we should go ahead with the purchase.

Kisii is beautifully geographically and the people are kind, generous, and so happy to see new faces. Abel’s house is located about a block away from the Gucha WEEP center, which makes it even more convenient…it seems we have been guided to where we are and how lucky are we to have all these opportunities opening to us? Sometimes when you embark on the “right” path the path seems to pave itself. We certainly still face some hurdles and not all will be smooth sailing, but the big bumps in the road are still relatively small in the big picture of everything. I continue to hope that we get the support we need – both internally and externally – to keep this dream alive and bring our vision into being so that girls in Kisii, Kenya can be transformed by education, just as I have been, just as Abel has been, just as all those who are working with us have been. Education is powerful and empowering, and a trip to Kenya will only help you understand that even more deeply than ever before.

We are thrilled to have finally visited Kisii and look forward to many return trips. Help us make education for girls a reality in a country that contains such great promise and potential. We know our girls will make a big difference in the world – whether at the community or global levels!

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Oh happy day!

Sometimes we forget to be grateful when things happen that we weren’t sure we wanted to happen.  For example, I had taken a fantastic job out of Texas a few months ago, then came crashing down when I ended up having to NOT take that job.  But other positives balanced it out, not the least of which was being able to move forward with Msomi more quickly than we could have had I been in a different state.  The other bonus is finding out that your network of friends and colleagues are genuinely friends and colleagues; people who are willing to support you when you are trying to do something audaciously good.

Staying in Texas has provided me a lot of insight into who I’ve chosen to associate with during my decade-plus of time here, and I’ve been counting the thank yous I owe in droves for awhile.  Yesterday provided Msomi another leap forward – so please welcome Brandon, from snapjudgementphoto, on board.  He’s a professional photographer with a heart for helping people connect, and he has generously offered to help us document our process from inception.  Look up his work at www.snapjudgementphotography.com or follow him on Instagram @snapjudgementphoto; we think you’ll find his work as remarkable as we do.  In fact, many of the photos on these blog posts and throughout our website are courtesy of Brandon and some the work he did in Kenya a couple of years ago.  Thank you, Mags, for the connection and for your generosity and kindness throughout this process.  I appreciate you immensely and am so proud to call you a friend and colleague.  Let’s hope someday I can somehow return the favor!

And Brandon – words cannot express how thrilled we are to have you joining us for the ride.  Memories are precious, but when those memories are translated into pictures by a true artist, it helps personal memories become connections that expand them into shared commitments to making the world a better place. Up, up, and away team!

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One large step forward!

Threes are apparently an important number for Msomi….we incorporated on April 23rd and we sent off the 501(c)(3) application on October 3rd, which means April 3, 2019 is the date we will await our letter confirming our official legal status as a fully-fledged non-profit.  It’s definitely a large step forward!  Thanks to Sarah for all her hard work and dedication to this, to Ryan Parrot from Sons of the Flag for referring us to Shelby, a lawyer in Boulder who helped us, pro bono, work through some of the legal-ease that paved the way to significantly reducing the time our attorney had to spend reviewing the application (which also saves us quite a bit of money).  Also, thanks to Deb for providing us the attorney’s name on referral, and to our attorney, Darren, who was so kind and responsive when he was approached.  Clearly, it takes an entire team to get this done and I might be just a LITTLE proud of the team I get to work with in this organization.

With any luck, we’ll have our official IRS stamp of approval before tax-filing day, so those who so generously donate in 2018 can take it as a tax deduction if they wait to file…for those who might be unnerved by waiting until so late in the filing game, we hope you’ll donate again next year and get to write it off in 2020!  As frustrating, tedious, and long as the paperwork preparation felt (mostly by Sarah, who may be regretting her decision to be our intern), I’d like to point out (mostly because I have to remind myself) that we had 27 months from the date of incorporation to file the paperwork and retain non-profit status from the date of incorporation.  Yet here we are, a mere 5 months and 10 days removed from incoporating and our application is already there.  Much like there are a lot of ABDs (all but dissertations) and only a few PhDs, I suspect there are a lot of non-profits who are legally established but never quite get their full status.  So I’d say we’re doing pretty darn well.

It’s been a really hectic couple of months and I don’t see it slowing down any time too soon.  However, I do hope I’ll be able to get back on the wagon with this blog and write a new one at least every 2 weeks.  It fel really important to get this one out there, so it’s a nice to get the ball re-rolling.  Meantime, please share our stories and tell people about us.  Msomi Academy for Girls is moving full steam ahead!

 

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Perpetual forward motion

It’s almost the end of January already and I can’t believe how fast the time is going! Sometimes it feels as though we are standing still and the world around continues to spin, but then I get news and all is well. We hit another small milestone today – I received notice that our trademark application has been “allowed” for registration, meaning no one has disputed its originality and, after a couple more steps and a few more dollars, Msomi’s logo will be legally and exclusively ours. Hip hip hooray! Now if we could just get the government back open so we can learn the fate of our 501c3 status…

We also had our first meeting of the new year, which went very well. We are excited to be moving forward with our 5K in conjunction with period Dallas (you can register here: https://www.roadid.com/a/event-calendar/events/3421-girls-run-red or on our website). If you have any interest in helping us, do let us know! In addition, we have our first board in place and their duties have begun…thank goodness. All these little details that you never knew about until you had to do them. It’s been a great learning process, for sure.

Lastly, our June trip is now officially in the works and we look forward to getting as much work, fun, and work done as possible (yes, I said work twice). Jenesta is heading up our efforts to deliver some teacher training and enhanced lessons for our friends at Kosogo and Oldononyonyokie primary schools and we are all so excited to see our friends there again. Lots of traveling and lots of time to get to know one another, so good times will be had by all.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to you joining us on our journey. Oh, and for those wondering about my title, it alludes to running (appropriately). As an ultra runner (runner who does races longer than the 26.2 marathon), one of the mantras we use is “perpetual forward motion.” Meaning, if you stop, you’re likely to stop for good, so even a slow walk or crawl is better. Suits us at Msomi right now, don’t you agree?

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Sign up. Run. Win.

We are three days away from our inaugural 5K and we are excited to see everyone who has signed up. Thank you to our sponsors and to our participants! There is still time to sign up – and it’s a pretty good deal, if I must say so myself. $30 online or $35 on race day to walk/run/jog 3.1 miles in Fort Worth’s beautiful Trinity Park. You get a t-shirt, a finisher’s medal, and a chance to win one of these beautiful age-group trophies. Seems like a win all around, right?

Of course, we could never accomplish all this without a LOT of help…primarily from our race director, Ms. Sarah Matthes, intern and person extraordinaire. We also have lots of volunteers who have lent a helping hand – people we know and people we don’t, and we are SO grateful to each and every one of you.

We still have lots of space for you to join us – so take the plunge and get in on the fun. Sunday April 7th at 7:30am (arrive a little early). Go to https://www.roadid.com/a/event-calendar/events/3421-girls-run-red to register, or sign up at RunOn Fort Worth (2600 W. 7th Street in the Montgomery Plaza center). Look forward to seeing you all there!

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Some collisions are good collisions

When I signed up for the AVMA conference this year it was because I had the funds and I needed some CE to ensure my veterinary licenses remain in good standing.  Afterwards, I discovered the keynote speaker was Shiza Shahid, founding CEO of the Malala Fund and current head of NOW Ventures, very short shrift to her list of amazing accomplishments.  But really, the important thing here is her dedication to ensuring girls around the world have access to education.  Sound familiar?

Sometimes you go into these things hoping for the best and ending up disappointed; not so for this one.  Shiza is a phenomenal public speaker, which is perhaps not surprising given her vast experience over the past decade or so.  What makes her so good, though, is the passion and conviction with which she speaks.  It also helps, of course, that her passion echoes my own, but let’s not take do anything to take away the gift she has in this arena.  We already follow Malala on Instagram (malalafund – so you can, too), and I’ve reached out to Shiza to see if she’s willing to open a conversation between us and her.  But even if she never gets back to me or isn’t interested, if you ever have the chance to hear her speak, DO IT.  You won’t regret it – it may even inspire you to do something you never thought possible.

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Strong girls make strong women

In honor of International Women’s Day it seemed appropriate to post for the first time in a long time. We are working hard but slowing a bit in our progress, as always happens with a new program. We are still working though, and that is the important part!

Our first big event is coming up in exactly 30 days, so please join us for our first Girls Run Red 5K in Fort Worth, TX! You can get to the registration link on the “activities” tab of this website or by clicking the hyperlink: https://www.roadid.com/a/event-calendar/events/3421-girls-run-red

You can walk, run, bring a pooch, or just come out and volunteer – we hope to see you!

International Women’s Day 2019 is an interesting moment in history. As the U.S. seems to want to push women and other marginalized groups’ rights back to the dark ages, we are seeing women around the world step and raise their voices to combat inequity and inequality in all things – pay, treatment, law, policy, and every day living. We applaud the bravery of these strong women and support them in their efforts. We also hope that Msomi will add to their ranks, providing opportunities for strong girls to become strong women who will tear down those glass walls and ceilings and bring forward the half of humanity that is currently not as privileged.

Stay strong and beautiful, fellow ladies! And never forget that we all deserve to be seen, heard, and valued. Happy International Women’s Day!

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The elusive 501c3

It has been a good learning experience, for sure, to be working on 501c3 status and seeing what is good and bad out there in the world of law and business.  Shopping around and relying on connections has proven to be a very good strategy.

I’ve found a lawyer that we can afford and will get our paperwork filed fairly rapidly, though I am on my way to a consultation with another lawyer who may be able to do it even less expensively with a bit longer timeline.  Either way, the finish line in terms of getting the paperwork filed is very near.  Thank goodness!  With any luck, my post next week will be good news on this front, so please keep your fingers crossed for us.  However, the hurdle won’t be completely cleared, as getting over this one means we get to start working on the Kenyan side of things, and that will be a whole different set of challenges and fun. 

On a nice note, the story published last week has gotten some views and, as a result, I have had several UNTHSC alumni reach out to me to offer to help.  It’s nice to know that those stories have some reach (#1), and that there are so many good folks out there with great skills who are willing to invest their time in our organization.  As “Mama” Vickie said several times during our trip, development breeds development, and I would say commitment and passion breeds commitment and passion.  So thanks to all of you read the story, have emailed or talked to me in person since it came out, and encouraged us to continue our march forward.  The 501c3 shall not stop us; I know it’s less elusive than the heffalump, so success will be ours!

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We did it!

Our first annual Girls Run Red 5K run/walk was a success – thanks to our race director Sarah and all the volunteers, as well as the racers, of course! We had 76 people signed up to run and about 70 there on race day in spite of the heat and humidity (but thankfully no rain). Wind and Roots, owned by Sally Henton, did an amazing job on the trophies and Omair’s students from the mosque put together the medals AND volunteered on race day. The trophies and medals were a huge hit! And some of my students volunteered, too. Emily, of course, helped Sarah tremendously. Sola did an awesome job as the emcee, and many others helped woman the water stop and guide runners along the path. It was truly a team effort and we were glad to work with perioddallas as they came to town to see what Fort Worth is all about. Most importantly, we all had FUN.

We’re taking a breather right now from planning, but we’ll start again in a couple weeks as we hope to make this a recurring event. With a year to plan this time and knowing how we can budget it out – especially with additional help from Demery Cox at Cox Racing Services – it’ll be even bigger next year. Consider joining us on Sunday, April 5th. You won’t regret it!

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We did it! (Take 2)

It’s been a banner Friday and I needed to share. We did it (take 2) is even better than the first…as we found out today that Msomi Academy for Girls has officially been recognized as a public charity! We are a legitimate 501(c)(3) now, which means all donations are fully tax deductible AND we can start writing grants, signing up for other donation platforms, and various other things we weren’t able to do until we received this VIN – very important news.

It’s a big hurdle we’ve now cleared, thanks to the big-time help of Sarah, our departing intern (but hopefully still a big part of our organization), as well as the support of the entire Msomi team. Big shout out to all who have helped us to this point THANK YOU! And now we begin figuring out how to navigate the Kenyan legal system, so we can be officially recognized there and ensure we are doing everything the right way…in other words, we’ll revel in this moment for a moment, then put our heads back down and start moving forward again.

But for now, let’s all enjoy this incredible success, as it’s the first really big stepping stone we’ve laid on our way too bringing our vision to life. Please join us on our journey – whether you choose to donate, show up at an event, or just check our website once in awhile, we’ll be glad you’re here.

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We have shoes!

It’s been a bit since my last blog – that happens when a new semester begins, I suppose. But it doesn’t mean we haven’t been continuing to inch forward.

Our partnership with theshoethatgrows.org has been fruitful and we are now in possession of 80 pairs of shoes that grow. Brandon, Sarah, and I will be taking 60 of those with us to Kenya in December to distribute to children, teens, and adults in need free of charge. John and I both tried a pair on and they’re remarkably comfy, so we are excited to be able to help out in some small way.

Our partnership with period.org is also moving ahead; we are meeting with the leadership team of the Dallas chapter in early October to begin planning our first big fundraising event – a 5K fun run! We are shooting for late winter/early spring of 2019, so be looking for that on our website.

And last, but definitely NOT least, we are making great progress on our 501c3 filing. Next week I have a meeting with our fabulous lawyer who has been donating her time and expertise to us, and from there we’ll pass it on to the expert in the field for review and filing. So, fingers crossed, our paperwork will be in before the end of September. A couple months later than we were shooting for, but still in time to provide a write off for those who choose to donate to us and file in April.

Please keep checking back for opportunities to support us – whether you donate time or money, we are happy to have your help. And if you have questions, reach out! We always love to hear from folks. In the meantime, enjoy the cooler weather and don’t forget to stop and appreciate the beauty of the coming autumn – my absolute favorite season. Cheers!

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We need love!

We are officially just TWO WEEKS away from our inaugural Girls Run Red 5K and we need your help! We would love to see you out there walking, jogging, or running to win a trophy…regardless, all who finish will earn a beautiful handmade “medal,” kindly put together by my friend Omair’s high school students that he teaches at a local mosque, pictured here in the act. Omair said they had a wonderful time making these medals, and in light of the recent horrific mosque shooting in New Zealand, it provided some joy in an otherwise frightening, confusing, and extraordinarily sad time for these lovely teens.

I find it fitting that moments like these can help – I had no idea when we started this whole thing (Msomi AND Girls Run Red) the lessons I – and hopefully my team – would learn. Perhaps learn is not the right word when it comes to matters of the heart, however; affirm may be much better. I’ve personally never understand why the color of my skin, whom I choose to love, or what I choose to worship should be cause for concern to anyone else. If I am living my life joyfully, with love and compassion, and doing my best to be a decent human being, in the end isn’t that all that really matters? No, I’m not always successful. But I sure do learn from my mistakes, I hope. And when it comes to people, the more you travel and the more open you are, the more you realize that “we are more alike, my friends, than unalike” (the great Maya Angelou’s words).

So please, come celebrate with us on April 7th – for a number of reasons. Because you are able to walk when others aren’t; because you live in a country where you have the right to speak your thoughts without fear of governmental retribution; because it’s April in Texas and it’s likely to be raining or sunny – and warm regardless; because in the end, we’ve worked hard to bring you a race to help some who don’t have the means to help themselves and along the way we’ve made new friends and found new joys. Come share the love with us, get some exercise, and remember that it’s all going to a two amazing causes!

https://www.roadid.com/a/event-calendar/events/3421-girls-run-red

 

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We’re working hard!

It’s been an exciting week for us!  Thanks to our team member Deborah, we have a lead on land in Kisii that we’ll get to look at when we make our trek back across the water in December.  We’ve connected with theshoethatgrows.org to get 60 pairs of shoes to deliver to those in need when we arrive in Kisii, and we are working hard to find a lawyer who can help us file our 501c3 paperwork so that we can get our status and begin applying for grants and asking for larger donations.  We’ve also officially begun our partnership with period.org, so we’ll be supporting their educational efforts and potentially working with them to put on a 5k fun run to raise funds for both organizations.

Our website is continually being refined and updated, thanks to the mad IT skills of our CTO, Sumner.  He’s changed our donations page to make it more engaging and meaningful (with a few tweaks still to come) and will hopefully have a chance to create a “get involved” page as well.  You’ll also notice that Brandon’s wonderful head shots have been posted for many of our team members, so now you can put faces to names.  Thanks to all for your contributions!

Lastly, we are starting to get a little bit of press!  See the nice story written about MSoMI by the UNTHSC SPH communications guru, Sally Crocker. 

Professor demonstrates how educated women can change the world

We are on the SPH home page and the Facebook page, and hope to be posted to the UNTHSC home page at some point.  So yeah, we’ve been working hard, but it’s been good and fruitful labor.  We are all so excited to be continuing our growth and feeling like this is all really happening.  Here’s hoping you all feel the same and thanks for reading!

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Welcome to Msomi Academy for Girls!

Jambo!  We are thrilled that you’re spending a few moments of your time with us.  Please look through our photo gallery to see pictures of the team in action and to view some of the beautiful faces and places we were honored to get to know and visit on our inaugural trip to Kenya.  And if you have any questions or would like more information, connect with us through our “contact us” section or follow us on IG, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  We’d love for you to join us on our journey!

Msomi Academy for Girls is a non-profit registered with the state of Texas in the United States.  We are in the process of applying for our 501(c)3 status, which will make us tax exempt and, better yet, give anyone who chooses to donate a tax deduction.  Check back for updates as we move forward with this – we are looking to file our official paperwork by the beginning of August, so wish us luck.

Currently we are self-funding.  All donations will go directly to the non-profit as we collect funds and supplies to purchase land in Kenya, contract labor and supplies, and begin building our school.  We are determined to build an all girls primary school (grades 1 through 8) in a rural city in Kenya, so that we can provide high quality applied sciences focused education to girls who might not otherwise have access.  Our plan is to recruit, hire, and train excellent educators from Kenya, and to ensure the program is self-sustaining within the country.  It’s a big goal, but our team is committed, passionate, hard-working, and brilliant, so we feel good about our chances.

That’s it for the first post.  Keep visiting us to learn more about our organization, our people, our progress, and our adventures.  We look forward to sharing our journey with you and welcome your inquiries!  Kwaheri, my friends.

Katherine

Katherine Fogelberg, DVM, PhD

Founder/CEO

Msomi Academy for Girls, Inc.