The Kilgoris Story
What started as a brief meeting in 1999 has blossomed into a project that is changing a community. Californians Jon and Caren McCormack met Kilgoris villager Wilfred (Willie) Lemiso while on safari in Kenya’s Maasai Mara game reserve. At Kichwa Tembo safari camp, where Willie works as a waiter, the three struck up a quick friendship. They bonded over their mutual Christian faith. The McCormacks asked Willie about his family and village. He told them about his church and their desire for instruments. The McCormacks parted by exchanging addresses and giving him a small donation.
Through correspondence over the next few years, the McCormacks learned of the church’s desire to help the community by constructing a church building and using it for a preschool during the week. By charging fees on a sliding scale or by giving scholarships, many children would be able to attend school for the first time.
Through a series of donations from the McCormacks, the church began building in May 2001 and completed the structure in late 2003. Congregation members provided much of the labor for the building. Enkijabe Empiris School, meaning Winds of Grace in the Maasai language, opened its doors to two teachers and 75 students in January 2004.
The church brought in American missionary teachers Paul and Donna Tocco of Pennsylvania to assist in the administration and planning. Paul’s skills as a contractor, his job prior to moving to Kenya, helped to keep the project on track. The Toccos live four hours away in Nakuru and run their own pastoral training school. They have a long friendship with the villagers and exchange visits often. The now Toccos serve on The Kilgoris Project Board of Directors, provide safe transfer of funds to the school, as well as in-country oversight for the project.
With the success of the first school/church building, the congregation wanted to offer the same blessing to a neighboring community. They began construction in mid-2005 and opened the Oloowang building to students and worshipers in January 2006. It also boasts two teachers and about 85 students.
Though the churches appreciated the outside investment in their community, they have a desire for self-sufficiency. In May 2006, the McCormacks donated funds for the purchase of a five-acre tea farm. After the initial clearing and planting in Spring 2008, the farm should begin its first harvests in Fall 2010. When the tea plants mature, the monthly income from the farm will offset teacher salaries and expenses for the schools.
After a generous donation of 10 acres from the tribe and the labor of many villagers, the group opened its third school, Ntimigom, in January 2008. It serves more than 100 students. As in the other two schools, the students receive a daily hot meal in addition to their education. In 2009, the Ntimigom community completed a fourth school. This is the project’s first primary school. In its first year, it welcomed a class of 90 and plans to grow by one grade level each year.
Through these four schools, the churches and the tea farm, now known as The Kilgoris Project, the villagers are able to touch their neighbors. Many children are learning for the first time. Parents see hope for the future. And community sees a visible expression of God’s love