Msomi Academy for Girls Katherine Fogelberg

Uncategorized

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!

Uncategorized

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.

Uncategorized

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!

Uncategorized

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!
Uncategorized

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!

Uncategorized

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!

Uncategorized

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!

Uncategorized

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!

Uncategorized

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

 

Uncategorized

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!