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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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!