Simbolei Community Assistance Association

Archive for the ‘Fundraising events’ Category

The Roof is On

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Here it is, folks, the last day of roofing!  At the end of February, we finished the entire roof of the main building. The next construction step will be to begin finishing the walls, doors and windows on the northwest wing, which is at the far right in this picture. These will be the first classrooms for students who will be entering in January 2020.

In the meantime, we will continue to use the “soccer field” to grow maize to help fund construction.

Here in the U.S., volunteers continue to clean, catalog and pack more than 6000 books for the Simbolei Community Library. Also, March 25-31 is our annual Schuler Book Days for Simbolei fundraiser. You can join the fun by shopping at Schuler Books in Okemos, Michigan and saying “Simbolei” at check out. 20% of your purchase price will be donated to Simbolei by Schuler Books. Or, online, you can shop at and enter “KENYA” in the coupon box to donate 20% of your purchase to Simbolei.

Every day we appreciate all you do to help make the dream of Simbolei Academy a reality. Things are happening fast now and Andrea and Richard and family are busy preparing for relocation to Kenya. Let us know if you would like to volunteer or learn more about Simbolei by emailing

Join Us for Riffs for the Rift, October 21

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Kenyan food, live music, pictures, stories, crafts and fun. We’re preparing for Riffs for the Rift Benefit Night, October 21 from 6-8:30 at Presbyterian Church of Okemos, 2258 Bennett Road, Okemos, Michigan. Admission is a free will donation and all the proceeds support our building project and summer literacy outreach programs. Last year we ran short of some favorite food items, but we’re making more this year, so you won’t leave hungry.

On the menu:

Curried cabbage with carrots and onions

Sukuma Wiki (Collard Greens fried with onions and tomatoes)

Coconut Chicken

Mokimo (Kenyan mashed potatoes with corn and peas)

Curried Rice

Spicy Beans

Spiced Stewed Beef

Pumpkin coconut pudding

Elgeiyo/Marakwet Peace Corp Chocolate Cake

Hope to see you all there as we prepare to send Richard Kaitany off to winter construction.

Shipping the Books: Spring is on the Way! Come To Schuler Book Days for Simbolei!

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

It’s that wonderful time of year again when we prepare to ship hundreds of new and gently used picture books to Kenya. These books will be donated to the primary schools that take part in our literacy outreach program. As I’ve mentioned before, Kenyan primary school texts are small black and white books. While they contain the information necessary to study for the national year end exams, these books do little to foster a love of reading in students.

Every year, Simbolei brings colorful, carefully selected picture books to the students that they can keep in the school and read over and over again. For many schools, our donations are their only source of high quality picture books. For many students, the books we read and share with them are the only picture books they have ever seen.

Andrea delivers some of the books we donate to Kiptingo Primary 

Jack reads one of the books we will donate to the students.

While shipping the books is very expensive, we have found few bookstores in Kenya that carry high quality children’s books and the selections, even in Nairobi, are very limited.

For the past three years, Schuler Books and Music has partnered with us to sponsor Schuler Book Days for Simbolei in Okemos and East Lansing Michigan. If you live in the area, simply shop at Schuler Books in Okemos or East Lansing March 20-26 and mention Simbolei Book Days when you check out. Schuler Books and Music will donate 20% of your purchase price to Simbolei!

If you would like to help with our literacy program but do not live in the area, there are other ways you can help.

1. Donate to Simbolei through our paypal. You can send us an email message designating your donation for our literacy outreach.

2. Donate new or gently used children’s books to Simbolei and we will use them for our program. You can even collect books from friends and relatives to share! Books that do not meet the needs of Kenyan students are exchanged for credit with Schuler Books so that we can use your donation to benefit kids in Kenya by buying new books for them. Email us at for information about how and where to ship your books.

3. Travel to Kenya with us, July 2-10 to help in person!  We need volunteers to read stories, distribute books and help with art activities at our cooperating schools.

Thank you so much for all you do to help Simbolei enrich the lives of children and young adults in Kenya. Let’s get more beautiful books into the hands of children who will love them.


Support Simbolei: Read Books

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Spring is finally here and with spring comes planning for our Literacy Outreach and the next phases of construction. Currently we are cutting rough stone into building block in preparation for putting up the walls of the first floor. Also, I am preparing to travel to Kenya in June with our volunteer Zach W., to conduct Literacy Outreach workshops at primary schools around the Kamariny area.

To support our upcoming efforts, Simbolei has organized two activities around books that will help our projects keep moving ahead.

Schuler Books and Music Simbolei Book Days: Schuler Books and Music in Okemos and Lansing, Michigan is holding a Book Days to benefit Simbolei from March 23 to March 29. On those days, make a purchase at either Schuler store and tell the cashier you support Simbolei. 20% of your total purchase will be donated to Simbolei. It’s that easy!  If you’re not book shopping right now, Schuler also offers gift cards, stationery supplies and gift items including toys, candles and more. So, shop for those spring and summer graduations, weddings and social events and help Simbolei at the same time.

Buy Books through Alibris for our Outreach Workshop:One of the highlights of our yearly Literacy Outreach Workshops is distributing new picture books to each cooperating primary school. Most of the children have no picture books at home and no access to a public library. In addition, most of the schools do not have a school library. Through SCAA’s contributions, however, the children have come to love reading picture books. Each year, we try to take at least ten high quality books to each school.

Simbolei Primary students examine new books at the Literacy Outreach.

This year, we’ve compiled a great list of beautiful, fun books for the kids and made them available for you to look at on After you’ve looked through the selections, we invite you to select a book or two or three from our wish list and purchase it for Simbolei. You can order the book right through the website and it will be mailed to us. We will personally put it into the hands of an eager young reader in Kenya. Through Alibris, we are able to select high quality used books, and thus, we can purchase hard cover books that the kids can enjoy for years for the same price as we would normally pay for paperbacks.

Please consider taking part in Schuler Book Days and/or purchasing books for the Literacy Outreach program through our wishlist on Alibris. Summer is coming and we all know that’s prime reading time!  Stay tuned for more updates on our upcoming spring and summer adventures.

Simbolei Partners with Schuler Books and Music

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Now you can enjoy great new books while supporting Simbolei.  Schuler Books and Music, our local independent bookstore is now partnering with us as an affiliate on our page. Schuler Books and Music offers a huge selection of books through their online ordering system. Every time you follow the link from our website to the Schuler Books and Music website and place an order, Simbolei Academy receives a percentage of the sale.

You get the books you want through Schuler Books and Music’s convenient website and support two great causes at the same time. You not only support Simbolei’s literacy outreach and education programs, but you also help support a family owned independent bookstore. We hope you will give the new system a try. Remember that each of us can make a difference in sharing the joy of reading and the power of literacy.


From the Heartland: or Fun with Food and Simbolei

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Today I just wanted to remind everyone of our wonderful East African cookbook, From the Heartland to the Heart of the Rift. It’s got all kinds of East African recipes from soups to breads, to meats and vegetables, including vegetarian main dishes.  In addition to good food, our cookbook includes stories about Simbolei and also about the recipes themselves and full color photos of the construction of Simbolei Academy, East African culture, and of course, food.

On April 30, the Kaitany family will be at the Allen Street Market in Lansing, Michigan to teach people about East African food and to prepare and serve up some Kenyan style comfort food.  In the meantime, we are planning a special giveaway for cookbook users through Facebook.

Every cookbook sold puts the full purchase price to work for Simbolei construction and literacy activities. If you don’t own a copy, you can order it here. Just look for the “buy” button on the lower right side of this page. If you already own a copy, dust it off, because in order to be entered for the drawing, you have to get cooking!  And check out the wonderful food Kellie cooked up that is featured on our Facebook page. We’re going to be looking for your photos soon so test out those recipes and mark your favorites!

Our cookbook, available through the “buy” button on the right side of this page.

Schuler Book Days is Coming!

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

If there’s one thing that has always been emblematic of Simbolei, it’s books. We love to read books, give books, talk about books, you name it.  So, as we prepare for our Summer Literacy Outreach 2014 in Kenya, we are pleased to announce that Schuler Books and Music in Lansing and Okemos, Michigan is holding a Book Days event to support Simbolei!

How it works: If you live in or visit the Lansing area between March 23 and March 29, 2014, make a purchase and tell the cashier at checkout, “I want to support Simbolei Bookdays.”  20% of your purchase price will go directly to Simbolei.  It’s really that easy!

I have worked at Schuler Books and Music for 15 years and they are a first class organization, supportive of their community and bringing together readers and books in all sorts of innovative ways. Many of our Lansing area supporters are also longtime customers of Schuler, so the combination is a natural fit for us. Take a little time to shop for your spring and summer reading at Schuler Books in Okemos or Lansing from March 23 to March 29 and help us buy books for the kids in Kenya. It’s a win-win.

Schuler Books and Music, Okemos, Andrea’s second home for many years and site for our first Bookdays!

Spaghetti, Music and Packing Up

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

On June 14th we held our last fundraising event before I head out to Kenya for our summer construction and literacy programs.  United Presbyterian Church in Denison, Iowa held a Spaghetti Dinner for Simbolei that featured live music and a silent auction.

As you can see, we had a great time and raised over $1000 for Simbolei. We hope to do more community events like this as they are lots of fun and really help involve people in our programs.

This week, I am preparing to leave for Kenya. The books we have purchased in the US for primary school kids in Kenya are packed. I will buy more in Nairobi as shipping costs from the US are high and Nairobi has several good bookstores. Then, I will head out to the Rift Valley to visit all our friends at Kiptingo Primary, Kamariny Primary, Chelingwa Primary and Simbolei Primary. I will also be supervising the environmental assessment of our project to date and getting official permissions to proceed to the next stage of construction. Finally, the building crew will be pouring a concrete slab for the industrial stone saw which will be used to dress stone for the walls of the school.  I plan to share lots of Kenya pictures and stories along the way, so stay tuned!

Planning the Next Steps

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Tonight the Simbolei Community Assistance Association board will meet to review the final cost estimates for finishing the main classroom/ administration building!  Bear in mind that knowing the final costs and having the money in hand to meet those costs are two different things.  However, we are happy to be at the point where we can make realistic estimates.  We will  have a clear view of the path ahead.

Richard Kaitany at the construction site in January.










Here in the U.S., our major role at this point is to continue fundraising and offering advice, oversight and support to the building committee and local community in Kenya.  Last year, SCAA supporters in the U.S. contributed more than $10,000 toward building costs.  Truly, this proves what a small, determined group of people can accomplish!  This year, we would like to continue or even increase that support.  To do this, the SCAA board is planning several special events and ongoing activities.  We hope you will participate actively this year as we entire the final phases of construction and as we continue our literacy workshops.  Take a look at what’s coming up.

Joey and Laura make plans for the “Riffs for the Rift” Concert.

Riffs for the Rift Benefit Concert: Volunteers Laura and Joey are spearheading this event.  Scheduled for May 18th in Lansing, Michigan, this folk/Indie concert will feature popular Michigan bands Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, Lights and Caves and The Dockside Fever, as well as singer/songwriter Chelsie Holmes.  Tickets will go on sale April 18th.

Spaghetti and Simbolei: The congregation of United Presbyterian Church in Denison, Iowa will be cooking up spaghetti and fun for supporters in Denison, Iowa on June 14th.  Lots of good food and entertainment, door prizes and music.

Kenyan Community Night: In August, Andrea and Richard will team up with The Avenue Cafe in Lansing to host a special family event focused on Kenyan culture, music and fellowship.  Everyone is welcome to come out and bring friends and family for a laid back evening before the school year begins.

If you would like to help out with one of the planned events, or if  you would like help in organizing an activity for your friends or community, please let us know.  We have lots of fun ideas for ways to involve your community organization or group of friends in supporting Simbolei.

Inch by Inch and Row by Row: Growing Patience

Friday, February 1st, 2013

There is a saying that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” A corollary might be that a journey of a thousand miles is made up of many, many little steps. Building Simbolei sometimes seems like that kind of journey, so many little steps to take.  But, the many little steps add up. Richard and I are always working on ways to take the next steps. This year, one step involved agriculture.

Behind the construction site lies the area that will one day be soccer fields and field hockey areas for our students.  When we bought the property, this area was being used to graze sheep.  We decided to plant maize (corn) on the fields to see if we could raise funds for construction from the site itself.  Our construction committee in Kenya supervised planting last spring.  In July, Jelimo and I admired the growing crop.

Jelimo poses with our maize.

Then, in January, the maize was ready to harvest.  Richard and the crew harvested the maize, shelled it into bags and mowed down the remaining stocks.  The building committee will sell the maize so we can use the proceeds to purchase metal rebar and cement to help build the columns for the second floor.

The harvest of maize is gathered in. 

Shelling the maize using the tractor to power the maize sheller.

Maize shellers at work.

Mowing down the maize stocks.

A few bags of maize will not build the school, but we have made great progress already and each step brings our opening day closer!  We are so thankful for those in the U.S. and in Kenya and around the world who are taking the steps with us.  It’s a great journey.



The Great Rift Valley is part of a huge tectonic rift in the earth's crust that also created the Red Sea and the valley of the Jordan River.

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Simbolei Girls Secondary School, Kenya