Sept. 6, 2003 — Several months after they were inspired by an encounter with an exotic visitor from a land far away, students at the Julius Sprauve School have raised $10,000 for a well-digging project in Kenya.
Organizers of the fund-raising drive announced Friday they had met their goal. "These kids worked hard. We did lots of special activities like a hike-a-thon, a hug-a-thon. One class made a mosaic mirror frame that sold at silent auction. Third graders did a talent show to a sell out crowd … there were car washes. Some of the clubs had special activities to raise money. They worked hard, but the true sign of success is, they've all asked me, 'What are we going to do next year for Kakuta's school?" said Christina Kessler.
A writing coach at Sprauve School, Kessler lived in Africa for 28 years. She said while working at Sprauve she discovered an Internet Web site built by a Maasai warrior. That led, by early 2003, to Kakuta Ole Maimai Hamisi visiting St. John.
Kakuta brought a slide show and met students from kindergarten through grade 9. He told them about his years as part of a nomadic tribe of hunters and cattle herders living around the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. He also told them how the tribe sold some of their cattle to pay for his trip to America and his college education and how the modern times had led the Maasai to settle down in a homeland territory. One of the tribe's first objectives, he told the Sprauve School students, was to build a primary school.
When the St. John students heard the Maasai children and their parents had to travel seven miles to bring the school its daily water supply, each class decided to hold its own fundraiser to kelp Kakuta build a well nearby. On Friday, after reaching their goal, ninth graders Nataniel Clarke and Vaughn Registe talked about some of the different class efforts.
"The little children collected pennies. They asked the students to donate money and the FBLA donated $500 dollars," they said.
Kessler said the funds raised by Sprauve School students, their parents and supporters will help start the well project near the Merrueshi Primary School. Kakuta has already received word of the students' success and Kessler said he's getting ready to take the next step.
"He'll be heading back to Kenya on Sept. 21, where he will dig the well, which is going to be a major project. It should take three months, because it's 450 feet deep," she said. By early 2004 Kakuta is expected to return to St. John and give the students a progress report.
According to an article in the University of the Virgin Islands student publication UVision, the Sprauve fund raising "will help with the estimated cost of $38,000 needed to build a water facility in Kakuta's village."
He came to the island this year as a guest of organizers for the annual St. John Arts Festival.
Mario Francis, assistant principal at Sprauve School, said he would like to organize a second fund-raiser to send a group of students to Kenya to see how the money they raised is being used. "I think it's possible, once we have the consent of the parents and the continued support of the community. It's all possible," the assistant principal said.
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