Sat12202014

Spiritual Life

Local nonprofit brings schools, health care, technology to rural Kenya


Courtesy of the Kilgoris Project
The Kilgoris Project raised funds for the first school built in an area of southwest Kenya, enabling children to receive a formal education.

Lulululululu! That celebratory sound still rings in my ears even after the three weeks since I returned from my most recent trip to rural, southwest Kenya.

Usually I return with good travel stories – this journey is no exception. The Kilgoris Project team and I marked the opening of a new school building in a community that had been forgotten by government and development agencies because of chronic intertribal fighting. A newly brokered peace offered the opportunity to build the area’s first school.

We marked the occasion at a community-hosted event, similar to a huge wedding reception – a revel of Maasai color and ululating enthusiasm.

I witnessed our nonprofit’s progress in this small corner of the globe, celebrating milestones, like the building opening, with Kenyan friends and colleagues.

My husband, Jon, and I founded The Kilgoris Project after a chance encounter in 1999 with Kilgoris villager Willie Lemiso at a safari camp where Willie worked as a waiter. We quickly bonded over our shared Christian faith and struck up a friendship that a few years later blossomed into the organization.

Today, with the generous support of donors and partners from around the world, The Kilgoris Project continues to educate and provide health care for more than 800 students and foster economic development in the community.

Through successive steps of faith (and numerous stumbles), we learned about community-supported development. Now The Kilgoris Project operates six schools for pre- and primary-school students and provides technology, such as Kindles and digital cameras, not easily available in rural Kenya.

Sharing these great stories unites my work and my journey as a Christ-follower. While living in God’s big story, I’m able to share the smaller stories of my moments with my Kenyan partners.

“The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a meaningful story, it won’t make a meaningful life either,” Donald Miller wrote in “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story” (Thomas Nelson, 2009).

I couldn’t agree with him more.

Our annual Marketplace will be open at 234 First St. in downtown Los Altos (between the European Cobblery and The Dailey Method) through Sunday. On the outside, the Marketplace is a pop-up boutique offering handmade gifts from Africa, the U.S. and around the world. On the inside, the Marketplace is much more. It’s a place to learn more about The Kilgoris Project’s work and to hear some great stories – mine included.

Proceeds benefit The Kilgoris Project’s education, health and economic development efforts.

The Kilgoris Project Marketplace is slated to be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Los Altos resident Caren McNelly McCormack is president and co-founder of The Kilgoris Project. For more information, visit kilgoris.org.

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