Simbolei Community Assistance Association

Archive for the ‘Iowa’ Category

Topophilia: Why “I Love This Place” Matters

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

Currently, the Kaitany family is surrounded by a chaos of boxes, piles of books, piles of items to be donated or given to friends, etc.  Even though our final departure date is not until July, with a house to sell, pets to resettle in new homes, and six people’s accumulated belongings to organize, it’s quite a process.

Our current home decor.

When the chaos threatens to unnerve me, I find it helpful to visualize the end product, arriving in Kenya and settling into our new home, hiring and training teachers, organizing facilities and finally, welcoming students.

I have also done some reading about the moving process and discovered that feeling love and attachment to a particular place has a scientific name, “topophilia” or the “love of place.”  As a person who has always felt strongly rooted to the natural environment, I am not surprised to learn that tophophilia can ease one’s feeling of confusion or the sense of being “lost” that often goes along with moving.

The farm in Iowa where I grew up, probably about 1980.

I grew up in rural Iowa, a beautiful place where people care for the land and the seasons and weather are fully integrated into the rhythms of daily life. When I visited rural Kenya, I immediately felt a sense of connection and homecoming as well. Farmers and rural folks in Kenya likewise are closely connected to place and the natural environment in a way that must be shared by farmers around the world.

My friend, Ellen, on the edge of the Rift on a misty evening.

Iten, Kenya, where Simbolei Academy is located, sits near the equator at an altitude of 8000 feet, so it has the benefits of equatorial sun, 12 hour days and nights, and a climate with few extremes, while its high altitude mean the warm air is dry and not overly hot. Looking out over the Great Rift Valley into vast, mild blue sky is probably the most restful experience one can have. My topophilia for my new home is strong. I hope you will consider a visit to Iten as we finish and open the school to experience the beauty for yourself.

Looking out over the Rift, a place that inspires topophilia.

As for me, it’s time to get back to the endless to-do list that comes with wrapping up my last semester of teaching in the US and preparing for the relocation.

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.

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