02 August 2013

Letter from Haron!

Haron sent me a few new photos and a letter!  What a handsome young man, check them out:


Dear Mr. Thomas Mosier,
I salute you and your highly respected friends. It is my sincere hope and belief that you are all doing well and in good health. I have not written to you for quite some time but I always keep you in my mind and heart because you mean much to me.
I am fine too and am continuing well with my learning.
I am greatly pleased and humbled at the same time as I write to you especially when I look back and see the strong and firm foundation you have laid in my life. You squeeze your tight budget and devote your scarce resources, only to brighten my future. I must say that you are doing an exceptional, noble task and your kindness is quite overwhelming. In regard to this, I always remember you in my prayers and do ask God to shower you with his blessings, peace of mind and serenity of soul as you partake in your endeavors. I also wish to thank K.E.F staff, for the tremendous work they are doing, in ensuring all the necessities are provided in good time.
Currently I am in my 2nd year, 2nd Semester, and am joining 3rd Year the coming September. It is my pleasure to inform you that I am doing perfectly well in my class work and other activities outside classroom.
In class work I have experienced a notable increase in the amount of work and content depth as I go up the ladder, especially in literature class which calls for both intensive and extensive reading and analysis of the creative works. For instance this semester I am working on thirteen texts (play and prose).
This work is not easy for an individual; it therefore calls us to gang up together with the classmates so as to handle the task in group discussions. This provides an opportunity and ground to learn from each other. Personally I have found it useful because the skills and knowledge I acquire are key in my teaching career.
Outside class work, I do engage in various activities such as participation in clubs and small group in Christian union. Currently I am a member of University a Christian union choir; I lead a small group of ten members in University Karate club.
On academic progress up to date it is important to let you know that I have sat all my examinations from the start to this far. I sincerely do apologize for the delayed results submission. It is not my fault because we have not been issued with the transcripts. If anything, I have been more than willing to send you the results transcripts for the update. The examination department has caused the inconveniences because the policy states the results should be availed to the student after every academic year. However this delay may have been caused by the transition period which the University has been undergoing since last year to early this year. It was in the process of being elevated from being a university college to a full pledged university, thus becoming the 9th public university in the republic of Kenya.
The examination department has issued me with a provisional transcript for my 1st year though incomplete. I thought it wise to send it, as I await the official complete script. Some of the courses have not been entered thus affecting my grade (attached transcript) once I receive the official complete script I will not hesitate sending it to you.
My mind is fully focused and set to utilize this opportunity  well because I am certain my  future will be a reflection of today and the ultimate goal of becoming a useful and reliable individual in the family and society will be realized by today’s work Through this precious opportunity, I am looking forward to correcting the situation which my family has been mired in by providing a bridge through which my younger sisters will get the other side of the river reiterate that the living standard, especially of my mother will be improved. Needless to say, I cannot refrain from thinking of those brilliant minds in the society, whose future is barred by darkness simply because of poverty in their families.
I am looking forward to time when I will revive someone hope by enabling at least one access education. Besides how can I be of use in the family and community if I do not see its problems as mine?
I am proud of Kenyan government because in its budget a lot of money has been channeled to education sector and this will enable children who otherwise could not afford to go to school access education. The president also has promised to issue laptops to primary school children.


11 September 2012

Haron forwarded me some photos!

I talked to Haron on the phone a few days ago for about an hour.  He just finished up the final exams for his second semester at Chuka University College and has a short break before returning in September.  Per normal, Haron studied vigorously and his tests seemed to go well.  With the extra time that break has afforded him, he shot a few pictures for us. 

The first set is of him doing karate at university.  He started doing Taekwondo when I was teaching at Athiru Gaiti Secondary school, but from the looks of it has evolved quite a bit in his practice (Haron's the one in the middle with the intense expression and really high foot!). 

The photos of Haron by himself were shot in front of the Chuka University College's main entrance - I remember passing that particular backdrop when I was traveling between Nairobi and Meru. 

The third set is him with fellow Christian Union (CU) members.  The CU is probably the largest Christian fellowship organization in Kenyan schools.  He's always enjoyed being an active leader in the group and after finishing his exams went on a week-long regional retreat with other CU members.

The last photo, of him with three younger boys is, I believe, from when he volunteered with other CU members to help a group of orphans.  Haron really does stay busy, especially considering that Kenyan students study far more than their American counterparts.

I'm really encouraged by the contributions the Kenya Education Fund has received on Haron's behalf.  We're close to raising the money for this year, but aren't quite there yet.  If anyone has been thinking about contributing but hasn't, this would be a super time to do so.  If a few of you take up the cause, you could be the ones to top off Haron's educational needs for the upcoming year.  And remember, if more than a few of you take up the cause now, the extra money will rollover to next year, reducing the number of times I send out future entreaties.

Details on how to donate:
Checks should be made out to the "Kenya Education Fund" and in the note section write "referred by Thomas Mosier."  All money with a referral from me (Thomas Mosier) will go to Haron.  Brad was really good last year about sending me periodic updates regarding received donations.  Of course, it helps if you send me a quick email at the time you send a check, simply stating that you are donating, which helps me ensure all donations are properly accounted for.

The Kenya Education Fund's donation address is:

    Kenya Education Fund
    360 East 72nd Street #C3405
    New York, NY 10021

31 July 2012

Harambee for Haron Kimathi's Undergraduate Education

Dear friends and family,

I want to pass along a letter I received from Haron Kimathi (see post preceding this letter), one of my students from Athiru Gaiti Secondary School in Kenya.  Keep in mind, English is Haron's third language: Kimeru is his first (his tribal language or "mother tongue"), Kiswahili his second (spoken throughout East Africa), and finally English.  I'm pretty impressed with the progress in his writing since he graduated from secondary school two years ago, and am sure it will continue to improve throughout his time in college and beyond.

For those of you who haven't heard about Haron before (the email list is always changing… You can go to my Peace Corps blog to see last year's email), he was an exceptional student of mine during the time I taught as a Peace Corps volunteer.  In fact, he received the highest marks in the eight year history of the Athiru Gaiti Secondary School.  There was no way, though, that he would have been able to pay university tuition without outside support because when he was young, his father was beaten to death by an organized gang for refusing to pay the gang's "tax."  In Kenya, women weren't allowed to own land until the country adopted a new constitution in 2011, so all of Haron's father's belongings were divided up and distributed amongst extended family and non-relative villagers.

I don't believe that external aid is uniformly good.  I do, however, believe in promoting education.  Once Haron graduates and gets a job as a teacher, he will be able to provide for not only his future wife and children, but will also be able to help other Kenyans in need of money for their educations.  I'm 100% confident that over the course of his life, Haron will give others more money for school fees than he received because that is the culture of Kenya - most of the Kenyan secondary school teachers I knew were paying the school fees for not only their immediate families but their extended families as well; they would also regularly contribute at fund raising events for talented youth from their village.  In addition, Haron is an exceptionally caring human being who knows the feeling of having talent and a willingness to work, yet not knowing if he will ever have the opportunity to nurture it.

Due to our support last year, Haron has now completed his first year in a program to earn a bachelor's in education, which will qualify him to teach at secondary schools.  The next school year starts in September and at the very least we need to raise another $1,650.  Everything above and beyond this will roll over to the following year.  It would be fantastic if this year we raised the entire $4,950 to fund him through the completion of his program.  If we don't pull together the entire sum now though, I'll continue to pester you with emails in subsequent school years!  The organization handling and distributing the money we collect is the Kenya Education Fund, which is a non-profit with offices in both the U.S. and Kenya, started by Brad Broder, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Kenya from 1999-2001.  They've been a great organization to work with throughout this process and they're obviously fighting the good fight.

I'm donating $100; see the information below for details on how you can donate as well.  Last year I was deeply encouraged by the wide range of people who donated and by the messages tagged to the donations, including one by a friend from Reed: "I'd absolutely be willing to donate more than $100 if it's needed, especially when I reflect on all the mostly useless ways I've spent $100 on myself recently."  While we all like to think of ourselves as judicious keepers of our money, I concur that donating $100 to give someone the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty is infinitely more meaningful than most of the ways I use my resources.  However, everyone's situation is unique and every bit of what you do give is deeply appreciated.  Another great way to help is to expand the network by forwarding this message on to a few of your close friends or family members with a personal note included.

Attached to this letter are three pictures from when my girlfriend, Whitney, went to Maua to visit Haron, his mother, siblings, and extended family in September 2011.  As an example of Haron's generosity, he chopped down a tree, combined it with scrap wood, and built an additional room for her to sleep in!

Details on how to donate:
Checks should be made out to the "Kenya Education Fund" and in the note section write "referred by Thomas Mosier."  All money with a referral from me (Thomas Mosier) will go to Haron.  Brad was really good last year about sending me periodic updates regarding received donations.  Of course, it helps if you send me a quick email at the time you send a check, simply stating that you are donating, which helps me ensure all donations are properly accounted for.  Your donations are tax deductible provided that you do both of the following: (1) include your name and return address and (2) DO NOT write Haron's name directly on the check.  If you do both of those, the Kenya Education Fund will send you a thank you letter serving as a receipt of your tax-deductible donation.

The Kenya Education Fund's donation address is:

Kenya Education Fund
360 East 72nd Street #C3405
New York, NY 10021

Thank you for reading this email.  I hope the cause is as meaningful to you as it is to me and I hope to hear from many of you soon.  If you want to read this or last year's letter from me, head to my Peace Corps blog, Hunter Douglas of the Fiery Oven.  Make sure to read Haron's letter too!  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

I wish you all the best,
Thomas Mosier

Letter From Haron (May 2012)

Beginning with the 2011 academic year, a group of my friends and family began sponsoring one of my former students (Haron Kimathi) from when I was a teacher at Athiru Gaiti Secondary school in Kenya.  The following is a letter he wrote us in appreciation for our help and to inform us about life at Chuka University College.

Chuka University College,
P.O Box 109 (60400),
May 29, 2012.

Hello! How are you doing? How are your friends and family? It’s my hope that all
is well. I’m doing well too here at the university and more to that, my studies are
going on well.

The main reason of this letter is to let you and your friends know that you
have played a very important role in changing my life. In fact when I met you
at Athiru Gaiti secondary school as a Peace Corps volunteer, I had lost hope in
life, particularly in academics. I couldn’t believe whether my academics dreams
and ambitions could one day come true. Not until I met you that you revived
my academic dreams. It’s my pleasure therefore to take this opportunity to
thank you and other sponsors (present and future) for this great golden chance
you have offered me. It’s through your support that I’ve been able to join the
university. It’s true that you are straining your pockets to raise my fees which
require large sum of money. You are also denying yourselves a lot of things only
to help me.

My family and I always remember you in prayers and we pray for God’s
grace, peace, happiness and prosperity in everything you do. May God also grant
you long healthy life. In my studies I promise to work hard and smart and above
all uphold high level of discipline as I have always been so as not to let you

At the university I’ve been introduced to various new topics of study.
Some are so much interesting while others are a bit challenging. For instance
in my first semester I had nine (9) units of study for example psychology,
communication skill, literary criticism and many others. Psychology is so much
interesting and very important as it tries to identify and provide solution to the
problems that teachers encounter as they teach and interact with the students.
It also explains the behavior of children at different stages of their growth and
development. This has been of great help to me as a teacher in handling my
students irrespective of their character, behavior and abilities while teaching.

“Communication skills” is a unit that deals with how to access information
from different sources and how to effectively deliver such information to different
social classes and those of concern, with great efficiency. It has helped me
learn how to socialize and interact with students in and out of the class as well
as to the general public. Literature as well has helped me build my vocabulary.
It requires a lot of reading. Every semester one has to read, interpret and
analyze at least two books; a play and a novel. In general this has equipped me
with knowledge and skills in interpreting, analyzing and criticizing the work of
arts. “English language” is also not left out in the group. It involves phonetics
and phonology.

Studying language and linguistics has made me knowledgeable in English
language. This will help me deliver quality services to my students.

Over the weekdays, I usually start my day at 05:00 hr by attending
morning prayers and retire to bed at approximately 21:00 hr when I’m done with
my day’s activities. Morning prayers take one hour after which I get to my room
to prepare for the lectures of the day. Most of my lectures start at 07:00 hrs. The
number of lectures that I attend varies each day and the units also vary in their
credit factor. Most of the time when I’m not having any lecture, I spend my time
in the library trying to read more and do assignments as well as carry out other
co-curricular activities. Most of my classmates and course-mates are serious
people, who are working very hard academically. I am a karateka (shotokan
karate style) and a footballer too. I’m an interim chair of the shotokan karate
club of Chuka University College and a member of the Christian Union choir.
These activities help me remain spiritually and physically fit.

Chuka University College is a public institution established on 27 th Sep
2004 by Egerton university council. It’s situated approximately 186 Km from
Nairobi along Nairobi-Meru highway. The establishment of the college has
a prophetic history i.e. foretold by a famous philanthropist; Jerusha kanyua
who said “A mountain would come up at Ndagani”, the actual location of the
University. The university was developed 58 years later hence her vision came

Finally, having been offered an opportunity to realize my academic
dreams and ambitions by you and your friends, I’ll try all my best to be
successful and change the living standards of my family and the community
according to my ability. I’ll ensure that all those behind me get access to
education through ensuring that all the requirements are available. Secondly, I

will make proper use of the knowledge and skills I’ve gained to provide quality
services to my students and above all, join hands with other well wishers
in changing the lives of less fortunate children in the society. Doing this,
will be the only way of expressing my gratitude to you for transforming my life.
May you live long to extend your great help, not only to me but also to others
with similar and/or related problems as mine.


Yours faithfully,

Haron kimathi

08 July 2011

Help Send an Exceptionally Worthy Kenyan Student to University!

Dear friends and family,

What is a "harambee?" I learned about the culture of "coming together" while living in Kenya as a Peace Corps volunteer and learning Swahili. Many of my students struggled to pay their school fees, but one student in particular stood out to me as being exceptionally dedicated to learning, amazingly kind, and utterly in need of outside financial assistance to fulfill his goal of attending university and becoming a high school teacher. When I met Haron Kimathi he was the school captain at Athiru Gaiti Secondary school - the school I taught at. "Captain" is a position not found in American high schools, but is somewhat akin to a student body president, except with at least three times the number of responsibilities.

To attain the position of captain Haron had to be seen by the teachers as a paragon of model student character and be respected by his peers (who were in the position of both nominating and obeying him). I lived in the school compound and, for a period of time, started my days at 5am, at which hour, even over school holidays, Haron would already be in his classroom studying by a kerosene lamp. With this devotion he earned the highest marks in the secondary school's history, qualifying him to go to university.

Unfortunately, Haron's father was murdered when Haron was a boy. Haron has many siblings and out of them he was the only one to finish secondary school. He was able to do this because he touched the principal of Athiru Gaiti Secondary school, who was willing to make special arrangements so that Haron could have basic amenities (such as kerosene to study by), and because he touched my friends and family who paid his secondary school fees. Haron has shown his ability to succeed academically, and yet an even bigger financial challenge looms in front of him, one which requires me to broaden the scope of those I reach out to.

Out of the many degree programs he could take, some of them paying more than others, he desires to be a secondary school teacher because he recognizes the profound positive impact they can have on their students' lives. In Kenya I met teachers who would work 10 or 12 hour days consistently but I also met far too many teachers that did not have sufficient internal motivation to show up more than 50% of the time. I can say without hesitation that Haron will be in the former group and will be an immense asset to his students. Not only will he be the type of secondary school teacher Kenya needs to inspire its youth, but supporting him at this juncture will ensure he gets a job as a salaried government teacher, which will help break the cycle of poverty for him and his family.

Haron has been admitted to Chuka University College for the fall term, which begins towards the end of this August. There is a non-governmental organization in Kenya (begun by a former Peace Corps Volunteer) called the Kenya Education Fund, which is willing to perform the logistics of handling the donations and dulling them out to Chuka University College each semester. Additionally, they will send a receipt of donation to each individual who donates to them, meaning your donation will be tax deductible. Per year (two combined semesters) the cost for Haron to attend school will be 143,500 Kenya Shillings, which is approximately $1,793.75 (the approximate conversion rate is 80 KSH to 1 USD). The non-profit only requires an 8 percent overhead charge for their services, which is 11,480 KSH or $143.50. Therefore, the four years cost for us to put Haron through school will be $7,749.

I know many individuals have had to tighten their pockets the past couple of years. I certainly do not have very deep pockets considering I just returned from the Peace Corps; however, I believe deeply in this cause and am going to donate $100. I am going to do this because I know the money will have a bigger impact on the course of Haron's life than it will on mine.

Additionally, I would greatly appreciate your assistance in passing along this message to people you know who may be willing to contribute. The goal is to raise all of the $7,749 now, so that the organization is assured they wont let Haron down in agreeing to sponsor him. Also, that way you don't have to hear from me on a yearly basis.

Checks should be made out to the "Kenya Education Fund" and in the note section write "referred by Thomas Mosier." It certainly would not hurt to also attach a small separate note affirming that you were "referred by Thomas Mosier" and, of course, include your return address so they are able to send a tax exemption receipt. Their New York office's address is:

Kenya Education Fund
360 E. 72nd St. #3405
New York, NY 10021

It would be helpful if you are also willing to send me a quick email when you contribute so I can track how close we are to achieving our goal and to provide me a means of checking to ensure your money goes into the correct KEF fund.

Remember, since Haron is starting university at the end of August, we only have about one month to raise this money, so please act at your earliest convenience.

I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to read this lengthy email. I hope to hear from all of you!

All the Best,
Thomas Mosier

P.S. - The picture at the top features Haron (on the right in the suit jacket) with a few other students who all helped me to build a brick pizza oven (shown in their midst). The picture below is of Haron (left), me, and Elijah (who was by far my best physics student) in front of a patch of arrow roots we planted at Ahirtu Gaiti Sec school.

Upon Arriving in Washington D.C.

I wrote a few notes about initial impressions of America after so long away:

Customs officials with canines, the officers jumping, hollering, and some some sniffing themselves in hopes of finding clandestine deposits.

I manually bound myself up 60 stairs, receiving looks of disbelief from the mass of otherwise stoic escalator passengers.

Near the top, but before my eyes see what lies over the escalator's horizon, I smell a familiar yet foreign smell: chips - as I know them in Kenya - but this poignant aroma cannot be derivable from deep friend potatoes and salt alone, the way they were prepared in Kenya. After two years of passing densely packed chips shops in Nairobi and the smaller towns I am an expert, and these tasty American morsels are frauds.

I have arrived in the land of intention, where all systems are refined & paradise lost.

Mt. Kenya Fading

I wrote this haiku when I was in the plane flying over Mt. Kenya on my journey home, no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer but unsure of what I was to become:

Mt. Kenya fading,
plane climbs; setting Sun glows red.
Life changes again.

And an alternative version:

Sun setting, plane climbs.
I see my old home below.
Then everything fades.