Across the Globe

From Kenya to Iowa and Back: Mwalimu's Dream

September 11, 2014
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During his time in the US, Mwalimu (YES '12) from Kenya realized that access to clean water was vastly different across countries. In particular, the bright young scholarship student was struck by the number of water fountains in the US—where the water is fresh and clean—compared his Kenyan village’s man-made dam, riddled with diseases like malaria, in which people walked miles every day to gather water. Mwalimu knew he wanted to bring fresh water to his coastal Kenyan community.

Since returning to Kenya, YES program alumnus Mwalimu William Karisa ('12) has become an adovocate for positive change on several development service projects in his home community.

While on the YES program, Mwalimu lived with a host family and attended high school in Blue Grass, Iowa, where he learned about American society and values, developed leadership skills, and helped educate Americans about his country and culture.

During his time in the US, he began "looking at the differences that we have," and realized that access to clean water was vastly different across countries. In particular, Mwalimu was struck by the number of water fountains in the US where the water is fresh and clean compared his Kenyan village's man-made dam, riddled with diseases like malaria, in which people walked miles every day to gather water. Mwalimu knew he wanted to bring fresh water to his coastal Kenyan community.

Mwalimu first shared his dream with his US host family and local coordinator. Quickly thereafter, the word spread amongst his fellow exchange students, classmates, teachers, church community, and finally the larger community of the Quad-Cities region of Iowa. Once people understand more about the conditions people in his village routinely face not to mention heard Mwalimu speak passionately about his dream they were eager to help.

With the generosity of his community in the US, Mwalimu was able to raise over $23,000 USD. toward digging a well in the Mariango village of Bamba Division of Kilifi County of Kenya.

Completed in July 2012, the well has had a remarkable impact on the coastal community. Villagers no longer need to trek miles to collect water. Instead, the village has a permanent and reliable source of clean water. The well not only provides access to clean drinking water, but is used for irrigation and crops. The villagers now grow more vegetables to complement their diets, ultimately reducing cases of malnutrition-related diseases.

In addition to his well water project, Mwalimu has been hard at work to develop a dispensary where people in his village may access health services, medications, and medical supplies. The project is expected to serve at least 12,000, with many people no longer having to walk long distances (up to 40 miles back and forth) to access healthcare. Mwalimu is working with his US host parents and the Kenyan Pastor of Fishers of Men Ministries based in Davenport, Iowa on the project, which is currently awaiting funding from the Government of Kenya's Ministry of Health, which plans to take over operations.

As far as Mwalimu is concerned, "I won't get tired of serving my community and country, because that's where I belong. I think it is important to give back to the community because we make the community." Mwalimu is currently back in the US to attend Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa this fall on a partial scholarship for the next four years. He plans to major in Actuarial Science and International Business.

Like and follow Mwalimu's project on Facebook. Learn more about students like Mwalimu from AC's International Student Support Team.

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