The Miracle of the Land
The dream of building a school for girls rescued from early marriage began over a year ago. Noel, our project manager in Kenya, mentioned that the Narok county government often received tips of girls being married underage. Despite Kenyan laws prohibiting marriage under the age of 18 it is still a common occurrence in remote villages. Girls are often betrothed at the age of 5 and married once they start menstruating. Once married these girls are then expected to drop out of school, construct a home, and start having children.
When the County Children’s Office of the local government receives these tips they will try to rescue the girl from the situation. The homes previously accepting these girls are at capacity or lack the resources to care for them. Learning about the reality of this situation broke my heart. Noel and I discussed the possibilities of renting a house or even building one. The more we talked, the more clear it became that our hope for these girls was much bigger. The idea of building a girls’ boarding school was born.
Over the next few months we developed a plan for the school. We researched possible sustainability projects and considered how to incorporate a skill-based curriculum. As Katie and I were preparing for our trip to Kenya, Noel began searching for potential land to purchase for the school. She was able to find three options for us to look at while we were in Kenya. One property stood out due to the location and title deed being clear. We drove out to the property. It was located a few kilometers from the main road. The only signs of life were a primary school in the distance and a small line of trees following a stream on a neighboring property. The wind blew quickly over the dry land. As I stood there, I tried to envision classrooms, a farm, girls smiling and laughing as they walked from the dining hall to their dormitory. I imagined trees surrounding the property, reducing the harsh wind. What I saw was a lot of work ahead of us.
Upon arriving home, Katie and I described the property to the board and discussed its pros and cons. The board determined that a hydro-geographical survey was necessary before moving ahead to purchase the land. In order for the land to produce crops and for the school to survive, we needed to confirm the presence of sufficient, accessible water. We hired a local company to come to the land to assess the depth of the underground water source. They provided a detailed report that included everything from the types of rock the drill would need to go through to the expected water quality and anticipated daily output. The aquifer was deeper than we had hoped but the expected output would be more than sufficient for the school and to farm the land.
The land owners, Samuel* and his brother, had agreed to wait until the survey was complete before entertaining other buyer’s offers. After receiving the great news about the water, we gave a verbal confirmation that we wanted to purchase the land. Unfortunately, there were a few delays in securing a date for the signing of the official paperwork. In that short time, Samuel’s brother disregarded our agreement and sold the land to another buyer. To say we were devastated was an understatement. We were absolutely heartbroken.
Thankfully, this was not the end of the story. Samuel was also disappointed by the actions of his brother and wanted to make it right. His wife owned some land in the nearby village of Ololii, about two kilometers away. It was not on the market at the time. Samuel asked her if she would be willing to sell some of her land so we could build a girls’ secondary school. She agreed and Samuel contacted the hydro-geographical company to come to the new property to complete a survey. Realizing we had already invested money to survey the other land, Samuel compelled his brother to pay for the survey of the new property.
Once the survey was complete, Samuel reached out to Noel and told her about the arrangements he made for us to be able to purchase 12 acres in Ololli if we were interested. The new property was in a much more desirable location and the expected output of water exceeded that of the first location. This would give us the opportunity to provide water for the community in addition to the school and the farm. The property was also closer to the local market which would benefit our sustainability projects. Additionally, Samuel’s wife agreed to sell us this superior property for the same price of the previous property we wanted to purchase. Once these details were relayed to the board, we all excitedly and enthusiastically agreed to purchase the property in Ololii.
As we learned more about this property, it was obvious that a miracle had taken place. What we thought would be the land for this girls’ secondary school was merely a stepping stone on the path to a much better location. We are so grateful for Samuel’s integrity and for his wife's generosity. We are forever grateful for Noel and her dedication that is turning this dream into a reality.
Since purchasing the property, the community of Ololii has already shown their support of our mission to build a school. Young men in the village volunteered to help clear the land. Our neighbors have encouraged girls to not run away, but instead come to this school. In order for this school to be truly successful, it needs community support and investment. We can already see this transpiring in Ololii.