Our program featured Past District Governor Janet Kolepp, who shared some of the adventures her Women of Action group have experienced through their work in Kenya. Even with all her Rotary background she never imagined having the opportunity to travel to Africa on a Rotary project. Personal relationships steered the group to the Isiolo region of Kenya. 20 years ago, a bead artist named Wendy Ellsworth used a $5,000 grant to travel to Kenya. There she met a woman named Nakaochum and they became friends. Nakaochum would name her daughter after Wendy. Nakaochum lost her home in a fire in late 2020. Bethlehem Rotarians Ray and Donna Holton helped out by establishing a GoFundMe account.
The Rotarians decided they could do more good by leveraging Rotary Foundation money. An Isiolo community assessment revealed a need for health care. A new Rotary Club emerged in Isiolo. A Rotarian group including Janet, Holly Sachdev, and Wendy (now a Rotarian in North Carolina) arrived in Kenya in November 2022. They found the Manyatta Zebra Community who were undergoing a gradual cultural change away from their pastoral nomadic lifestyle. They were in need of education, healthcare, and sustainable income.
The Bethlehem Morning Star Club partnered with the newly formed Isiolo Club on an $85,000 Global Grant that will improve maternal and child health by training health care workers and modernizing the Ngaremara Health Dispensary in Isiolo County, Kenya. Components of the project include: an electric fence to keep out elephants and other animals, solar power, computers for record keeping, new latrines. The team found time to visit a local school where they purchased desks and painted blackboards. They visited the Hope Center orphanage where they purchased a large water tank and food.
Little Wendy is attending a private Catholic boarding school thanks to Rotarian generosity. Little Wendy’s kid sister Christine was saved through Rotary connections from a child marriage when she was fourteen and is now attending school. The group had a driver and protector for their trip who introduced them to another school with significant needs. This led to the creation of a $15,000 Rotary project that includes: a new roof, new electric in all rooms, power by solar panels, new foundations, glass in the windows, tile floors in all the classrooms to replace the dirt floors, painting the exterior to improve façade and pride in the school.
The group is returning to Kenya on January 28, 2024 and there are four openings left for interested Rotarians.