THIS IS OUR STORY.
The Harambee Foundation began when UCCS and Michigan cross country athletes and coaches Adam Kern, Rob Scrivner, David Marino, Luke Dakin, Nick Kern, and Mark Misch visited an orphanage in Kenya in the winter of 2012/2013. We were welcomed with open arms by everyone at the orphanage and in the Kaptagat community. Our group was very moved by the experience and wanted to give back to the community in any way we could.
It all began when we purchased Harambee for the orphanage. Harambee is a cow. To most Americans this may seem like a relatively unimportant contribution. However, we argue that this is one of the most important contributions we have ever made. A cow in Kenya is one of the biggest gifts you can give because it keeps giving long after you are gone. For the children at the orphanage and in the surrounding areas, milk is one of the main sources of nutrition. Therefore, by giving someone a young cow you are giving him or her ten years worth of nutrition. Harambee also gave birth to a calf (which the orphanage named Mark Misch in honor of the UCCS cross country coach) in August 2013. A high school cross country team in Missouri then purchased 5k the cow for the orphanage as well. As the herd continues to grow the orphanage will be able to sell the milk and livestock to get on the path towards self-sufficiency.
Upon arriving home, we decided that we wanted to raise money to give back to the community that had inspired us. We decided to host a Kenyan Dinner Night where we would cook Kenyan food for all of our friends and family and donate the proceeds from the event to Cheptigit Primary School. Thanks to the generosity of our friends and family, we raised over $4,600 in one night!
At the Kenyan Dinner Night, Alex Colvin came to us with a plan to gather shoes for the runners in Kenya. Many of the runners wear their shoes until they are extremely worn down and we witnessed many runners running bare foot. Some runners told us that they must stop training for a week to work long hours so that they can afford new shoes. Since we are all runners at the Harambee Foundation we know that American runners only wear their running shoes for 2 or 3 months before they buy new shoes. Our old shoes tend to stack up in our garages and closets. Alex had the great idea of asking all of our runner friends to donate their old but usable running shoes to send over to the young runners of Kenya.
Alex, Madi Neher, and Chris Myers led the charge to collect as many shoes as possible to send to Kenya. They collected HUNDREDS of shoes. Our garages and balconies are loaded with shoes. Not only did they collect running shoes but we have also received everything from kid’s shoes to men’s dress shoes to shape-ups. All of which will be much appreciated and put to good use in Kenya. We sent our first shipment to the runners of Chepkero Athletic Club in April of 2013. We have since sent hundreds of pairs of shoes to those in need, while also sending hundreds of books and bibles to children in Kenya.
Our experience in Kenya really had a profound effect on all of us. We were able to see how much we had taken from the experience but also how much we were capable of giving. The longer we had to think about this, the more we began to wonder if others would want to have the same experience. We asked our friends if they would be interested in going on a similar trip and we received a lot of positive feedback. As a result we led our first trip to Kenya in January of 2014 with 6 college student-athletes. While in Kenya we were able to work at the orphanage, deliver donations, and further our charitable programs. In December of 2014 we are leading another group of 9 student-athletes to Kenya.
As our organization continued to grow from the overwhelming support that we received, we decided to continue to find new ways to be useful to the children in Kenya. Many children in Kenya only stay in school through 8th grade because school is only free up until 8th grade. High school is very expensive and many children who graduate from Cheptigit cannot afford to go on to high school. Even the moderately expensive schools in Kenya cost $625 per year.
Our child sponsorship program gives 8th graders who cannot afford high school, the opportunity to attend high school and pursue their dreams. In 2014 we have sponsored 27 students who are now in high school.
We look forward to the opportunities that are in front of us but we would be remised to forget all of those who gave so much to bring us to where we are today. Thank you to all of the donors who have made this possible. Thank you to all of the volunteers who have helped us at our fundraisers. Thank you to our corporate sponsors; Coalfire Systems, Janji, Runners Roost, and Get Lifted. We appreciate all of your support.