Cooperstown Central School graduate Jessy Gill says her experience in Kenya has made her want to do more to help the people living there.
The St. Lawrence University senior said she is very passionate about human rights and environmental issues and was able to study abroad for a semester during the fall of 2009.
After the semester was done, Gill said she decided her journey was not. She stayed for another month with Maurice and Violet Mwanza in the rural community of Khalaba, near Bungoma.
According to Gill, Maurice is one of many well-educated Kenyans who were left unemployed because of the rapid expansion of free secondary and higher education levels without concurrent expansion of the job market. However, Gill said, instead of blaming the government for their disregard of the needs of their citizens, Maurice took it upon himself to create many avenues of community development within Khalaba.
She said some of his programs include the establishment of: a primary school, a vocational sewing school, a community choir, women’s groups, fish farming and brick building.
“My independent study at the end of my semester focused on the effects of drought in Northern Kenya, so, upon entering Khalaba, I was already interested in this lack of resource,” Gill said.
“There are two natural springs continually pouring out pure water; however; there are no structures to contain the water and protect it from bacterial build-up. The water the Khalaba community members are drinking is stagnant and teeming with bacteria. These springs are a high risk situation for preventable waterborne diseases.”
Through word-of-mouth and a website, http://springformaurice.weebly.com/, Gill is taking it upon herself to try and raise money to go toward building a spring protection for the Khalaba community. According to Gill, there are two springs in need of protection, one within Khalaba, and another in a neighboring community.
Gill said she and Maurice have been in contact throughout the past year, and he has been able to find a local contractor who has experience in spring protection.
“This way, the money is not only creating clean water, but is also being introduced into the community to continue further development, by employing local men to help in construction,” Gill said. Gill said the estimate of materials and labor for the spring protection project is $860 for each spring.
“If it is possible, I would like to raise enough for both,” she said.
“This project would protect water for generations,” added Gill.
Gill said it is disturbing to see all the ample water being put to waste in bacteria-filled pools.
“I think that they deserve the right to have this vital source of water protected and would like to think that the benefits of what the money is going towards is enough for people to want to help and give,” she said.
As a way to raise funds, Gill said she will be shaving her head on Feb. 4. She is looking for sponsors. It is part of a project a group of St. Lawrence University students are participating in called Clips for Cancer. Gill said her hair will go toward making wigs for those who are undergoing cancer treatment, and the money will go toward the spring project for the Khalaba community.
To learn more about the project or to donate, visit http://springformaurice. weebly.com/. Checks can be sent to Jessy Gill at 165 Kinney Road, Cooperstown, N.Y. 13326. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.