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Building A Dream
Jessica Griffiths
May/June 2004
Denver, CO

Six hours west of Nairobi, Kenya, there's a tiny village where you can run forever on the dirt roads, past miles of green fields bursting with tea leaves. But although Kapsabet, Kenya is a runner's paradise, the village is extremely poor. With an average income of $100 a month, large families live in tiny homes with dirt floors, no windows, no plumbing and no electricity. There also aren't any telephones, refrigerators, washing machines, ovens or any of the basic appliances that most Americans can't imagine living without.

"You immediately see the overwhelming need," said Creigh Kelley who recently visited the town, "You can taste the need and see that with small amounts of money, you can make a major change."

Kapsabet, Kenya is the birthplace of one of Colorado's fastest 5K and 10K runners. Peter Tanui grew up in the village and graduated from the town's Kipture Primary School more than a decade ago. "In Kenya, the rich are really rich and the poor are really poor," Tanui noted. Tanui left Kenya for America when he was awarded a running scholarship to Lubbock Christian University in 1994. After four years at the school, he became a 12-time All American and the Kipture School's first college graduate. Tanui now lives and trains in Colorado, but he hasn't forgotten his hometown or the tiny school with inadequate space and supplies.

Just a few months ago, Tanui started the Kipture Primary School Fund to help rebuild the crumbling school. So far the foundation has raised a few thousand dollars, enough funds for the library walls, the floor and the roofing materials. More than 400 pounds of school supplies and books were donated by Sandburg Elementary School in Littleton. But there's still so much to be done. Tanui's goal is to raise a total of $65,000 to build a kitchen, to complete the library, to provide better sanitation and outhouses, to bring electricity to the school and to eventually endow a scholarship so that the village's children can become more educated. The school was originally built by the British in 1942, but because of insufficient funds, there wasn't enough money to complete it. Still, more than sixty years later, the school is the only source of education for more than 400 students from kindergarten to eighth grade.

Tanui first had the idea of raising money to help the school while in college. He felt fortunate to be able to attend college in America and wanted to help others. "It's always been my dream to give back to the school if I could succeed in America, but when I finished college, I had nothing. I didn't know where to even start."

When Creigh and Annie Kelley traveled to Kenya last year with Tanui, they were shocked at the conditions. Yet they were amazed at how intelligent and hardworking the children were. When the students first saw the couple, they swarmed around them shouting "Mzungu! Mzungu!" which means 'white person' because they had never seen white people before. They were fascinated with Annie's red nail polish and thrilled when she gave each child a stick of chewing gum (she bought 600 pieces for just $2.50).

"They're extremely bright, they just don't have any money," Creigh remembers. "And because the school doesn't have a kitchen, many of the children had to run for several miles just to get home for lunch." It's hard to imagine many American kids running to school and back several times a day, only to have to gather firewood or fetch water when they got home at night.

After spending a few days in Kapsabet, the Kelley's decided that something could be done to improve the children's education. They had seen that the children read from school books that were decades old and they didn't have many school supplies to use. The parent's committee also made a plea for help to Creigh and Annie. "I've decided that this is going to be a labor of love," Creigh said, "And it won't take huge amounts of money to make an enormous difference." Tanui said that the Kelley's inspired him to make his dream come true, "I was surprised and delighted that they wanted to help. Creigh told me that we could do this. He gave me hope."

Tanui knows why people should help rebuild his former school. "For me, the best way to help other human beings is to give them an education. You can buy them better clothes and buy them food, but with an education, you are helping them become self sufficient and get out of poverty."

You can help Tanui by sending a donation to "Kipture Primary School Fund" at BKB Ltd., PO Box 4184, Englewood, CO 80155. The foundation is a nonprofit organization run entirely by volunteers. After the project's completion, Parthenia Jones, president of the Potts Trotters running club, plans to travel to Kapsabet to dedicate the new buildings in memory of Steve Muniz, who was a friend of Tanui and a Potts Trotter.

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