11 April 2018
Jeff Gibson describes the community initiative he created to provide much-needed sports gear and school supplies to a local school, while executing geosurveys in Northern Kenya.
Most people in this Northern Kenyan region are nomadic pastoralists, moving to temporary houses (Manyatta) throughout the year to raise their animals and to find water. Since the arrival of Tullow, a UK-based oil company, several communities have been established that include newly built schools and improved access to medical facilities and bore water for people and their animals. Now, many communities are visible from the main road near Lokichar.
Tullow works with communities near its operation sites to identify and create opportunities for local community members. However, some of these opportunities are sporadic and unpredictable because they are dependent on Tullow’s field activities; people may only work for a few weeks to a month each year. A particularly enduring community focus is education. There is a slow-burning cultural shift occurring as younger generations are increasingly encouraged to attend school, though the idea still gets mixed reviews. Many elders still believe that children are needed to raise livestock, seeing little value in formal education, while others see its potential benefit.
Evans, a local community member, believes that education serves the larger community. He volunteered in the evenings at the nearby school and agreed to take me there. This was instrumental in allowing our team to gain first-hand knowledge and perspective on the educational system and its role in the local community. Perhaps more importantly, we learned that short-term investments in education can have valuable, long-term impacts. After spending time at the school with students and community members (the primary school currently has 300 children), I decided that the very least I could do was try and raise funds to purchase school supplies and sports equipment. With a target of $1,000, I reached out to friends, family, and work colleagues. The response was incredible. All told, we raised $7,606, which included donations from the UK, Canada, the US, Spain, Thailand, and Australia.
Below is the breakdown of donation distribution:
Sports equipment ($2,261)
- Assembly and installation of 2 soccer goals + nets
- Assembly and installation of 1 volleyball set + net
- 48 soccer uniform kits (3 teams x 16 players): yellow, blue and green
- 2 x soccer gloves
- 10 soccer balls and volleyballs with pump, ball net, corner flags, marking cones and referee whistles
- 2 x basketball hoops with nets
- 1 x large storage bag for soccer kits
School supplies ($792)
- 300 pens, 300 pencils, 300 rulers
- 8 classroom pencil sharpeners
- 300 composition books
- 300 colored pencils and 300 crayons
Teachers equipment ($615)
- 8 teachers’ desks and chairs
- 1 year diploma course in early childhood education (certifications to become a primary school teacher)
- 1 year of accommodation, school supplies, transport and food
Nakukulas – Maize Garden ($132)
- 2 x 40 m hose pipes for irrigation
- 1 shovel and 1 jembe for digging
George – Driver ($287)
- 20 bags of cement and 1 ton of ballast cement to build him and his wife a toilet and water tank
It is difficult to express how impactful the items are for these community members. For just $130, hose pipes now deliver necessary water to a garden that often languished due to drought. Georges and his wife no longer need to share the neighbor’s toilet, and his wife no longer needs to walk 30 minutes into town with 20 liter jerry cans to get water for cooking, washing clothes, and bathing. All of this was made possible for just under $300. Evans will become a primary school teacher, hopefully changing not only his life, but that of his extended family and of the children he will teach in the future.
Other adult community members expressed gratitude for having a funded education, not only because they could teach the children, but because they could instill in them the value of helping others. None of this could have been achieved without the generosity of people from all around the world. I am truly grateful to and humbled by everyone who donated and sent kind words of support. In particular, I would like to thank Karina Andrus (Vancouver), Diane Pinto (Toronto), and Dan Parker (Calgary). Without the help of these three individuals, the initiative would not have been anywhere near as successful.
If you would like to see photos from the community and primary school, or get more information on the initiative please contact Jeff Gibson, or visit: https://jeffreygibson.wixsite.com/children-of-turkana