Support from the Rotary Club of Ridgewood (New Jersey, US — D 7490) has allowed a primary school in southern Kenya to expand classes, offer hot lunches and provide clean water, says the club’s past president.
Under the Rotary’s ten-year-long commitment to the Kishermoruak Primary School, “there has been an explosion of applicants for the pre-school and kindergarten classes so we are building two new classrooms to accommodate the students,” said Jerry Kallman, past president of the Rotary Club of Ridgewood and Foundation chairman.
“Ten years ago, the enrolment was 480 students, and today there are 696 students in preschool to eighth grade,” he said.
The relationship with Kishermoruak Primary School began when Kallman was elected Rotary club president in 2008 and was searching for an international project to support.
“My wife Lorraine and I travelled to Kenya with the Maywood Rotary Club to see their efforts at a different school when we stumbled upon this little school in Kishermoruak,” said Kallman.
“It took a lot of convincing to get the head teacher to believe we were sincere about helping the school.”
The duo came up with a “to do list” of projects which have spanned a decade to complete, including building a pump house and purchasing a diesel generator to provide clean well water, refurbishing original classroom floors and windows, providing hot lunches, constructing new classrooms and building protective fencing.
“There are wild animals in the area and the fencing keeps the children safe,” said Kallman.
“Students occasionally sleep at the school when they are studying by candlelight to take the national exam to qualify for a high school education.”
Kallman said the female and male students scoring highest in the exams are financially supported by the Rotary Club of Ridgewood to attend a private high school with boarding facility.
The needs of the student’s parents are also being taken into consideration.
For the past three years, Rotary has contracted with “Bees Abroad” to teach women the art of beekeeping.
“The school is located on the Maasai Mara Reserve where the men are cattle and goat herders, and the women do most of the hard work,” Kallman said.
“The families rely on bartering, but now the mothers selling their honey at the 12 safari camps nearby and from a roadside stand empowers them with independence and provides them with cash.”
A sewing project is also under consideration. “We are trying to locate pedal-powered sewing machines since there is no electricity in the community,” he said.
In addition to providing funds to the Kishermoruak Primary School, the Rotary Club of Ridgewood financially supports local organisations such as the Glen Rock Pops Orchestra, the Ho-Ho-Kus Ambulance Corps and the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra.
A Rotarian for 55 years, Kallman says the club motto “service above self” has been the driving force behind his commitment to the organisation.
“I have always looked for ways to give back and working collectively allows you to achieve more,” said Kallman.
”I hope more people would consider joining our organisation.”
Fundraisers include a pancake breakfast in December and the annual beefsteak dinner in May.