Simbolei Community Assistance Association

Archive for the ‘mentoring’ Category

Sustainability and Mentoring the Community

Friday, March 15th, 2019

My husband, Richard, has been a driving force behind Simbolei Academy from the beginning. But, as we transition from construction to curriculum planning and soon, to actual school operations, Richard will have fewer responsibilities at the school and will be able to begin pursuing some of this other interests in community development.

Richard’s background is in agriculture. He grew up on a family farm near Iten and studied plant pathology, the science of diagnosing and treating diseases of crops, at Iowa State University and at Michigan State University. Recently he retired from the Department of Agriculture with the State of Michigan. So, now that the construction is beginning to wind up, Richard is excited to have time to begin working on agricultural projects and mentoring local farmers using the knowledge he has gained over decades of work in agriculture in the lab and the regulatory office.

First on his agenda will be providing food for the school. 320 teenagers will consume a large amount of food every day and the most cost effective and healthy way to provide it will be to raise it ourselves. In addition, Richard and I can implement some of our ideas for sustainable animal husbandry and land stewardship through our projects.

We have already developed a small dairy herd, pictured here hanging out with Richard. Right now they use several small paddocks sandwiched in near the construction site, but we are preparing pastures and dairy facilities so our cows don’t graze on the soccer fields once the students are using them!

Second, we will be growing maize (corn) and vegetables for the school cafeteria on Richard’s family farm a few miles from Simbolei. In order to prepare for this, Richard was able to fulfill a childhood dream of buying a tractor. Most farmers in the area rent a tractor during the growing season, which saves money but also leads to planting delays and a fair amount of frustration and desperation as every farmer in the area competes to get one of the few tractors into their field.  Richard sent me video of his new tractor plowing the field where we will grow food for Simbolei students.

Richard will be back in Michigan in a few days to help me make final preparations for our move. But, I think he is leaving a big part of his heart in Kenya with our cows and his tractor!

We expect to be relocating to Iten in July and will be opening Simbolei Girls’ Academy in January 2020. We always welcome volunteers and other contributions and are always happy to provide more information about Simbolei Academy. Please contact us to find out more.


Sharon’s Story: The Why and How of Education for Kenyan Girls

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Today we welcome our second guest blogger, Sharon Kotut.

Our guest blogger, Sharon Kotut.

 Sharon is a Senior Level Professional in Human Resource Management and Administration. She holds a Bachelors of Education (BED, Maths & Accounting) degree from the University of Nairobi, and a Masters of Business Administration from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. She is currently in Senior Management as the Deputy Human Resource Manager at Corn Products Kenya Limited an American multinational.

Sharon also works as a mentor conducting  one to one sessions with  young people, young professionals, university students and church youth groups. Her passion for people is seen in the glow in her face every time you interact with her.

If you ask Sharon to tell you about herself, however, she emphasizes family. “My son Shammah makes me tick. He is my life, my breathe, my everything. My siblings make it for me. They are the best people on earth, cheerful givers and out there to be of help to everyone. They are selfless people and i am so proud of them.”

I met Sharon online where I discovered that her father was a high school classmate of my husband Richard at St. Patrick’s High School in Iten.  This is the first of a three part series Sharon is writing concerning education in Kenya and especially in the Rift Valley area.

Education: That Which Makes Us Equal

For a young girl growing up in the village like I did a few years ago, education is the key that makes people equal.

Educational facilities, training material, text books, exercise books, writing materials, school uniforms, shoes and other accessories that are essential for efficient and effective learning are very hard to come by. The motivation, the exposure and the horizon that we refer to in saying ” look beyond the horizon” are nonexistent.

During my days in Primary School in the early Nineties, we could walk to school barefoot, do without text books, school uniforms and other accessories because most rural folks cannot afford to provide such resources. Children go home over lunch hour but most children get home and there is no food or their parents are so intoxicated with the local brew that they forgot that lunch was to be done. Some children even go to school without food. Don’t forget that we have not touched on personal items that a girl needs day to day.

Young girls grow up with the knowledge that as soon as they turn 15 or 16, they will be ripe for marriage and they therefore learn from their mothers house chores performed by wives. Girls start learning how to smear houses with cow dung mixed with ash, how to fetch firewood and water from the river; fend for younger siblings, and other household chores. If you grow up in a family where illegal traditional brews are made then you probably learn the skill from your mother.  Luckily for girls in our area, female genital mutilation (FGM) is not practised anymore in most Kalenjin tribes. Otherwise usually after initiation, one would be married off to an old man for a few cows.

How can we then help these young girls to know that there is a life beyond their villages? That one can work hard, do well in Primary School, go to High School, College, get a job and live a better live than their ? What can we do as people who are privileged and have had the opportunity to experience life out here so as to give the same opportunity to these young girls?

A few weeks ago, I visited a village near my town and I found young boys, school going age drinking busaa (local brew) with old men. The women had had a few too many too. Their parents are oblivious to the harm they are causing these children. To them, this is the life, to these young boys; there is no other life. They have probably never gone beyond 20 Kilometres of their radius. How will these young people know that there are subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Home Science, Geography and History? How will they know that there are professions such as Law, Accounting, Teaching, Purchasing, Engineering, Architecture, etc?


What is our role here?


Sharon, shown here with a group of high school students, provides mentoring and advice to many young people.

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