Finished Product!

Hello all,

We have been anxiously waiting photos of the library and here they are!

The students look comfortable in the space full of natural light studying for their exams!!



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“The People with the Least Always Give You the Most”

It has been exactly a month since we got back from Kenya. Adjusting to life in Middlebury has been difficult — I already miss the hustle of Nairobi city and the cheerful play of children in Huruma.

The 12 Middlebury students who undertook this project to build a library, in Huruma slum, were greatly transformed by the experience. We have a better understanding of slum culture in general, and have now stopped using words like “poor”, in particular because we found children who were bright, ambitious, and happy. Our experience can simply be captured by the words of my friend and brother, Bobby Joe Smith ’10, who, during a ceremony organized by New Dawn to honor us, whispered in my ear: “it is funny that the people with the least always give you the most.”

We feel grateful and indebted to many wonderful people who made this trip possible because without their help and guidance we would not have been able to make the trip a reality. These individuals made “Build a Library” project a resounding success.

First, we have Elizabeth Robinson (Director of MCSE) who helped us come up with a blue print for fundraising. She has been with us from day one, especially with us when we thought we could never meet our fundraising goals—she went above and beyond in mentoring our team. Second, we have Peggy Burns (Director EIA) who tirelessly worked on redrawing our budget and re-thinking fundraising ideas with us. Third, we have Heather Neuwirth (CSE) who made us realize that being a social entrepreneur not only requires obsession, but also a great deal of meticulous planning. Fourth, we have Carl Roesch, manager of 51 main, who enabled us to throw a successful fundraising dinner in J-term. Lastly, we want to thank the president of the college, Ron Liebowitz, for awarding us with the Presidential Project for Peace Award 2012.

Special thanks to Maya Neria’s, Caroline Joyner’s, Helen Goelet’s, Bobby Joe’s and Otis Pitney’s families, and the rest of the families that helped out at crucial moments.

As I get ready for life after Middlebury, it is going to be hard to leave my newly found home. Thank you to all the great people who dared to dream and believe in dreams!


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Q & A

Questions commented after blog post from Day 15 by Deb Colbert:

Please explain Form 1-5 kids. Are these equivalent to grades? Also, what is the “KCSE” test/exam? Is this the exam in order to graduate…continue on to higher education? Equivalent to our SAT’s?
Who gets to go to this school? How much does it cost for each student to go to school here? Not free? Do families in the slum have the money to send their children to school? Where are all the students from?
When the library is finished will outsiders be able to use it?

Lastly, can you put together a little/short biography on each of you?
Name, hometown, year of grad., major, thoughts of trip, future ambitions….
(maybe on flight home….I just want to get to know you all better…I am so very impressed in what you have done and accomplished).


Hey MOM! Sorry this response is a little delayed….

1) The “form” numbers are relevant to high school grades. Form 1 is freshman, 2-sophomore, 3-junior, 4-senior. Many students are not the traditional age groups for classes due to inability to pay school fees until a certain age or repeating forms. Some students were already 20, 21, and Joel (one of my favorites) was 25. Here’s a picture of all the students (from all forms) sitting in the new assembly hall on our second to last day in Huruma (Thursday, June 28):

2) KCSE Exam=Kenya Certificate Secondary Education

This exam is a universal exam for all Kenyan high school students. It is similar to the SAT, except they are also tested on geography, business, chemistry, etc. For grading, candidates must take all the three compulsory subjects(Mathematics, English and Kiswahili), at least two sciences, one humanities(Geography, History, Christian Religious Education…etc) and at least one practical or technical subject exams( Computer Studies, Agriculture etc.) These exams determine first if the student can go to the university, and then which university they would go to.

3) The New Dawn Educational Center chooses students through an application process based on academic performance and socio-economic status. When students take the national Primary exams, they choose high schools they’d like to go to after. I.E. 3 national schools, 3 provincial schools, 3 county schools, and 3 district schools. When the results come out, the principals of all the schools look at the applicants’ performance. New Dawn is under district school. It is not free to go to New Dawn. It costs about 12,000 Kenyan Shillings=about $200. The school has a few options for those who cannot pay the entire amount. They have a sponsor program where sponsors can volunteer to pay for student’s tuition, are developing a work-study program where students can work at the school in exchange for tuition, and there are government payment programs they can apply for and get grants.

The majority of the students do not come from Huruma, which surprised me when I heard this. Actually, probably only 60/200 students are actually from the slum because they cannot afford it. That said, the rest of the kids do come from areas pretty similar to Huruma, socio-economically speaking. Allan and Phillip walked through Runda with me when the bunch of us walked to Village Market, and they have to walk an hour and 15 minutes to get home.

4) When the library is finished, it will not be open to the public, only to New Dawn students. This is a hard thing to accept because the school and now 3 story building looms over the slum, yet is inaccessible to the community. As you can see in the picture below, which is taken from the river that cuts between Huruma and the Karura Forest, the school and library are much taller than the rest of the houses in the slum. The school literally looms over the community:

Similar picture, though this time taken from the third floor library of the new structure:

Maybe if we keep this project sustainable with Middlebury, we can do more for the community itself and not make deep divisions and animosity between these groups.

Love to all,

Please feel free to ask more questions even though we are all heading home tonight-we will be checking the blog!!

Look forward to biographies and personal reflections by group members in the next week or so.

Michaela, Caroline, Maya, and Harry 🙂


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July 1, 2012 · 12:59 pm

Last day at New Dawn!!

As we previously wrote, our last day was extremely emotional. The faculty/staff at New Dawn presented us with gifts and lots of love and prayers. The girls were given hand-made purses and small wallets/change holders and the guys were given t-shirts with Wangari Maathai quotes as well as leather/beaded bracelets. All of these were really beautiful and thoughtful and everyone was so happy. Mama Irene presented us with the presents while Maxwell, one of the teachers at New Dawn, acted like paparazzi! Again, our warmest thanks goes out to everyone at New Dawn for making our trip so memorable, beautiful, and love-filled. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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The Team! (Minus A Few…)


Above: Helen, Bobby Joe, Michaela, Mugo, Maya, Marty, Fif, Caroline, and Shivs pose infront of New Dawn Educational Centre. Not pictured: Charlie, Otis, Yasmina, and Harry.

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July 1, 2012 · 12:58 pm



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July 1, 2012 · 12:37 pm