In June, history teacher Quint Clarke traveled with a group of Blair students to Lagonia, Kenya, on an annual two-week community service trip, which to date, has delivered 5,000 pounds of clothes, shoes, computers and medical supplies to the country. The program has also raised more than $13,000 toward educational programs and established an initiative to bring small-scale windmills that would provide personal electricity to those who currently have none.
Among the highlights of this summer’s trip: visiting President Obama’s grandmother; distributing medication to sick villagers and coordinating the treatment of more than 200 Kenyans by an emergency-room doctor; connecting the local high school to electricity for the first time; moving bricks to facilitate the rebuilding of a school; donating a solar panel to Kelvin Serem ‘13’s family so that they now have light in their house for the first time ever; fishing for farmed tilapia; and spending time with local kids, many of whom became attached to the Blair students over the course of their visit.
“Mostly, what we did was bring smiles to the faces of those who may feel that the world has forgotten them,” said Mr. Clarke, who graduated from Blair in 1987. “There really isn't an equivalent to the ‘American Dream’ in Kenya, and many young people feel destined for a life of poverty and struggle. I will never forget the interaction between our Blair students and the local kids and how positive this was for everyone. A few years back, a girl from the village told me, ‘When you come here all the way from America, it shows that we matter to the rest of the world and it makes us feel like we have a chance to succeed. Thank you.’ The love that our group showed can go a long way toward inspiring these kids.”
Just this year alone, the group brought 500 pounds of medical supplies to Kenya. Dr. Jane Ferry, MD, FACEP, MMM, chief medical officer at Grandview Hospital in Sellersville, Pa., accompanied the students, treating more than 200 people—110 of whom she saw in a single day—during the trip.
The students also brought 750 pounds of shoes that they distributed to needy people in the community.
“Through contributions from family and friends, we also began construction of our school, ‘Blair in Kenya,’” said Mr. Clarke. “The first bricks were delivered while we were there and the plans are in place for a three-room school to be built by Christmas. Each year, we’d like to expand on it until it is a Kenyan Primary School, which is the equivalent of an American elementary and middle school.”
Blair is sponsoring 40 Kenyan students in Lagonia, providing them with school fees, books, pens, paper, shoes, school uniforms and daily lunch. Each year, the School gives four scholarships to the highest achieving eighth-graders in the area—ultimately paying for the top two boys and the top two girls to go to high school, which they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.
“We were also able to add a bit to our microfinance business, which now has more than $5,000 and serves over 100 small businesses in the country,” said Mr. Clarke. “Repayment rates have been extremely high and the program is a success.”
Looking forward, Mr. Clarke and his students plan to bring old computers to the various schools in the area. Last year, they donated four computers, a printer and a DVD player to the local high school. Blair also will continue to sponsor one young woman’s college tuition as she enters her junior year.