On June 11th, three weeks shy of the first anniversary of the incorporation of the Laurenti Mohochi Educational Foundation (LMEF), I boarded a plane at SFO for Kenya. I could hardy believe it had been a year since 11 people met in Building 240 at Stanford University to discuss what was then only an idea in my mind. That was the meeting that gave birth to what is now the LMEF.
Several thousand feet in the sky, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I had time to reflect on the past 12 months of LMEF’s activities. I was so glad to note the achievements we have made as an organization. After several meetings, after countless email exchanges, I felt we had accomplished much in a very short time. To me, three things easily top the list: cultivating a wonderful team spirit among the board (decision making is very easy); awarding, in February 2009, our first high school scholarships to (six) Kuria students; and lastly holding a (very) successful fundraising event at Atherton, California on May 30th. There have been challenges, but overcoming them has served to strengthen our resolve to make LMEF a success.
I was very excited to go back home, as always, but more so this time because of the thought that I was going to meet our scholars for the first time. While I knew the students’ names, and I had seen their photos and read their stories, nothing can take the place of actually meeting and talking to them. The first student I visited was Diana who goes to St. Maria Goreti Girls High School in Rongai, near Nakuru, Kenya. I was lucky to get a ride from Dr. Onyango Ogola, my former teacher and then colleague at Egerton University for the approximately 30 kilometers from Nakuru town. The ride turned out to be very helpful since the road is currently under construction and we had to endure a bumpy and very dusty ride through diversions most of the way. After waiting for a few minutes in the principal’s office a young girl walked in. It was obvious that she was surprised to see us since she did not recognize us but after an introduction she calmed down and we chatted briefly about her experiences in school so far. The principal, Father Peters, described Diana as a “hardworking, very disciplined and prayerful young girl.” Diana was ranked 4th in her class in the first term’s school examinations.
The second school I visited was Tarang’anya Boys High School where we have two students: Richard and Johannes. I was able to talk to the two boys, as well as their deputy Principal. It was very pleasing to hear the Deputy Principal praise the boys, especially with regard to their good performance in class and discipline in school. Richard was placed second out of over 200 freshmen. I then went to see Jane and Anastansia in St. Teresa Girls High School. The Principal, here too, was full of praise for the girls, especially Anastansia who was the best student in her class. Although I went to Isibania High School, I was unable to see Thomas because he had not come back from their short break (called half term in Kenya).
Talking to the students was very rewarding for me. Hearing their stories, and the amount of gratitude they have toward the LMEF for enabling them go to school, made me realize what an impact our efforts here in California are having in Kuria, Kenya. A message that emerged from all of them was that of the need for textbooks. The schools have very few textbooks for the number of students enrolled and they are requesting the foundation to assist them acquire their own copies. I came back feeling very good about what the LMEF has set out to do.
– Sangai Mohochi